Sport climbing in Portland

Blacknor crag

This post is a little late – my trip to Portland was over the first bank holiday in May, but better late than never!

Both my knees are bruised and scratched, my hands look like I’ve had a fight with a tiger, and it really hurts to walk…a sign of a good outdoor climbing trip! Or rather, a sign that I have experienced a number of moments of desperation, and fell quite a few metres to smash my body into some rock. 

The first days of May mean only one thing to a climber – the start of the outdoor season. So we forget indoor gyms, where we climb on colour-coded plastic in the winter, and migrate to real rock.

On the first bank holiday in May I went to Portland for some sport climbing – a rare luxury in England, where most climbing is trad. Despite a shoddy weather forecast for the bank holiday weekend, we managed to get in two days of good climbing in the (occasional) sunshine. Well, mostly in the sunshine, actually!

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Breaking down on the way back from Wye Valley…again!

One minute we were cruising along the M4 on the way back form a day of climbing in the Wye Valley, talking about where to find the best pizza in East London. The next the car suddenly lost power and a putrid smell filled the salon. We only just managed to make it over to the hard shoulder. So much for an early return back home to London!

My climbing trips are always a (mis)adventure of some sort, which I’m sure regular readers of this post are more than aware of, but this one I’m not going to forget in a hurry. I’ve experienced my fair share of breakdowns (once even also on the way back from a climbing in the Wye Valley), but it has never previously amounted to five hours of waiting by the side of the road and a night spent in a hotel. In Gloucester, of all places.

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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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