Weekend Warm-Up: If You Only Watch One Climbing Movie Ever, ‘Barefoot Charles’ Should Be It

Did you not know how weird Charles Albert is? Actually, let me restate that: You need to treat yourself to learning how much sense Charles Albert makes.

Various comments about “Barefoot Charles” that leap to mind:

American boulderer Chris Schulte, on Niall Grimes’ Jam Crack Podcast (paraphrased): “He’s this French ‘child of the forest’ or whatever, and what I don’t get is, like, people think he’s coming to your ‘Bleau project and sweating beer through his feet all over the holds. That ain’t really it.”

Social media satirist Dylan Taylor, aka Climberisms: (intractable French accent) “He is the spirit of bouuuulder-ing!”

One Fontainebleau comrade: “His approach to bouldering? The hardest thing a human is capable of doing.”

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Barefoot Charles clamps down.


A real caveman

Albert himself: “The idea of living in a cave — I just like to do that. It’s closer to the boulders, so I don’t need a car.”

Yep, Albert is an actual caveman. The young climber lives in the Forêt de Fontainebleau, often forages for food, runs around on naked feet, and boulders 8C+/V16.

Can’t make this up, man: Truth is stranger than fiction. In an age where hyper-specialized technicians like Shawn Raboutou and Drew Ruana train like Ivan Drago, file down their shoe rubber, and carefully apply isopropyl alcohol to climbing holds as a drying agent, all to climb V17, Albert stays hot on their heels without a food budget — let alone rock climbing shoes.

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Albert on the seemingly endless boulders of Fontainebleau.


And you know what? If he spends his beatific life in a state less idyllic than blissed-out wonderment, it’s hard for me to tell.

Why do you need a car? An apartment? A training regimen? Climbing equipment? Ask Albert, and you’ll probably get a simplistic truism.

Appraising his life in Reel Rock 8, episode 2, Barefoot Charles, he’s comically glib.

“I don’t need to work, either,” he says, shrugging. Then he bursts into a playful, beaming grin. “So I can just climb whenever I want and do whatever I want.”

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Barefoot Charles giving the grand tour of his cave.


Living the life

Let’s get it straight: For most of us, the thought of living as a penniless hermit is anywhere from partially to utterly miserable. The toll of isolation that real dirtbagging can wreak on a person’s life — especially a vibrant, clearly intelligent, young one like Albert — can be traumatizing.

But in Albert’s case (at least as far as we can tell, he appears to be living the life he wants.

It’s very hard to stop watching Albert…do whatever it is that he’s doing. Sure, part of it is that you don’t usually get to observe a human who’s this close to being feral. But overall, I have to chalk up Albert’s uncanny magnetism to what I can only conclude is a true inner joy. Throughout his half-hour Reel Rock spot, the dude oozes contentment no matter what he’s doing.

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On “Off The Wagon,” 8B+/8C+.


Showing off his kitchen, which is a pile of rocks and a natural chimney? Modest. Ricocheting off razor blade crimps? “I’m good.” Visiting the Gite Arbonne hotel for some socializing? He’s gracious and peaceable.

It’s not hard to notice that he’s preternaturally good-looking, but it is tougher to determine whether that quality comes more from his physical features or his attitude.

Albert smiling

Albert smiles a lot.


I’m not one to advise anybody to trade it all for the life of a grape-stomping caveman. But I cannot say I have ever seen anyone make the exchange look so enticing.

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson takes any writing assignments he can talk his way into while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas — er, adventure. He parlayed a decade of roving trade work into a life of fair-weather rock climbing and truck dwelling before (to his parents’ evident relief) finding a way to put his BA in English to use. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments and a good story.