‘Wow! A lifetime would not be enough to climb all the rock in this place!!’ – that was my thought when I first arrived in Asturias, a region in the North-West of Spain, in June this year. I have now just come back from a second trip, and I want more already!!!
My love affair with Asturias dates back to a day in mid-May when I was googling somewhere cheap to fly to in Spain at relatively short notice, to climb, of course. I stumbled upon Asturias on skyscanner.com. The flights were cheap! Even for the May bank holiday weekend, the return tickets were barely over £100. ‘I wonder if there is any climbing there?’ I thought to myself, so I looked around and came upon this article on UKC…and I knew straight away I had found something pretty damn special!
I did not expect to find myself in Berlin at the weekend, nor did I think I would still be here at the time of writing, having originally booked my tickets to fly back early Monday morning.
I came to visit my cousin to help her recover after an appendicitis operation, but this week had other things in store for us. Just two weeks after the op, she ended up having another one. Of course, I couldn’t leave as early as I had planned and ended up extending my stay, because there is nothing worse than leaving someone you care about alone in a hospital after such a stressful period.
Undoubtedly, this has been a stressful experience for me too, as anyone who has watched a loved one in pain can imagine, but apart from worrying about Eva I have had all the comforts I need – her (huge) flat to stay in for free, internet in the hospital for work, and her travel ticket so I don’t have to spend money on going back and forth from home to hospital. The only thing frustrating me in my day-to-day life here was that I couldn’t climb.
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…
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.
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!