Climbing in Italy: The fear returns

Italy view

I tie into one end of our purple 60 metre rope, check my harness, put on my climbing shoes and walk up to the limestone wall towering 20 metres above me. I touch real rock for the first time in months, searching with my fingers for the best handhold, inspecting the rock for footholds below. And then the familiar fear comes.

For Easter this year, my climbing partner Valentina and I went to climb in Italy, in a region called Marche. Not very well known to climbers outside Italy, and not even frequented by the locals that much by the looks of it, this area has a huge selection of sport climbing crags and a wide range of routes of various levels of difficulty. We spent the first two days at a crag called Rosara, close to a town called Ascoli Piceno, which offers more than a 100 routes, ranging from an easy 4a to 8a.  But as expected, my return to the outdoor climbing season wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked it to be…

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Italy: A hidden sport climbing paradise

Italy view

My favourite thing about late afternoons in Italy is the aperitivo. From around 5pm until often as late as 10pm, Italian bars serve unlimited ‘nibbles’ with each drink you buy. These include anything from crisps, nuts and slices of pizza, to a whole table bursting with a selection of tasty snacks (see photo below).

A mere €5 gets you two glasses of Italian wine and enough snacks to keep you going until dinner, or even to replace it. This is Marche – a region of Italy that is known to very few, but offers some of the best sport climbing (and scenery) in all of Europe, and the best value après-climbing, as I like to call it.

My hands already feel sore after our first day of climbing as I pick up the well-deserved glass of red and relax back into my chair. My climbing partner Valentina and I are in a bar called Tuxedo, in her home town of Communanza, about half an hour’s drive from the climbing crag where we spent our first day. I have just discovered this wonderful Italian tradition and I absolutely love it! Especially after a day of climbing, this feels like a welcome reward for all the hard work we put into the day. 

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Frankenjura: Hardcore German climbing worth training for

Indoor climbing in Germany is really hard work, and now I know why. The last time I went to a bouldering gym in Germany – Boulder Habitat in Bonn – I was in pain for days. It felt like I had never climbed before, despite training three times a week for over a year. But after climbing in Frankenjura, in northern Bavaria, I now realise why…If that is what they have to train for, no wonder all the indoor routes are overhanging and pumpy!

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How we hiked up Mount Toubkal without a map

“Did anyone bring a torch?” I heard Kristina saying, although I could barely make out her features in the surrounding dusk. It was around 8pm, and the sun had well and truly set by this point, so we were trudging along in the dark. We had almost got to the end of the rocky mountain path, but we still needed to trek across the plateau at the foot of the path leading to the village, and we could barely see a few feet in front of our noses. It turned out that between seven of us, we only had two torches that were strong enough to make any difference…

This was of course not the only rookie error we made on the two day trek up and down Mount Toubkal – at 4,167 metres the highest peak in the Moroccan Atlas mountains, and all of North Africa, for that matter.

We also didn’t bring a map, apart from a printout of a blog post I found online (which I thought gave pretty clear directions to the top!). And we didn’t even consider hiring a guide with a mule to carry our stuff or lead the way. I don’t think anyone had a compass, either.

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