The bell-tower of Oresine from Ciusa, with endless Finalese limestone beyond.
Imagine thousands of routes on perfect rock hidden among coastal Mediterranean hills; then add great food, a vibrant climbing scene and fantastic Italian ice-cream. If you're intrigued then read on - the rock climbing around Italy’s Finale Ligure might just be the thing for you.
I first heard of climbing around the town of Finale Ligure in 2000 when a new guidebook emerged, penned by formidable local activist Andrea Gallo. The book ran to hundreds of pages and showed crag after crag of perfect blue and grey limestone. I was inspired by the beauty of the surroundings and the perfect rock shown in the photographs, but somehow I never actually got round to going.
Warming up on Dulles (6a+) at sector Terminal
Years passed and the trips to France and Spain continued, but still no visit to Liguria. The Finale Y2K guide was put out of date by the unrelenting development of the surrounding areas by the keen locals and in March of 2008 a new book appeared, again from Mister Gallo. Titled Finale 007 the current guidebook runs to over 400 pages in length. The vastness of such an area, the perfect looking rock and the presence of another world-class valley nearby meant that I could ignore it no longer. Plans were hatched and a trip organized. So what was it like?
Well in short it was everything I could have wished for and more. Slabs, walls, caves and tufas of the finest quality limestone offering thousands of sport routes as good as any I had climbed anywhere in the world and all within a thirty-minute drive of Finale Ligure town. Hundreds of crags exist, so many in fact that the local climbers have published a second guidebook, Oltrafinale 2. This book itself runs to 360 pages and includes crags that in my opinion are the finest in Liguria, particularly the magnificent walls of the Val Pennavaire, an area close to the pretty coastal town of Albenga. This valley is actually a major venue on its own despite most Brits having never heard of the place. It offers walls that are more in the modern style (although by this I don’t necessarily mean hard grades) with grey and orange rock and some fabulous, frozen tufa formations.
Lubna (7b) - one of hundreds of classic Finalese face-routes in F7's.
A closer view of the complex, technical climbing on Lubna
The Finale 007 Crags
The crags found in the 007 guidebook are all reached within a short drive of Finale Ligure and offer both single and multi-pitch climbs on vertical grey walls of impeccable rock with a few steeper, more modern additions. Good technique will most definitely be an ally here as will some faith in friction (or lack of it!) We visited the popular crags of Rocca Di Perti and Monte Sordo both of which offer vast numbers of routes to suit every taste and standard.
Local climber on CarboniSest Gei Cantasa (8b) in the impressive cave of Il Grotto
Try the the wonderfully pocketed walls of Monte Sordo’s Settore Central or the atmospheric Grotta Dell’Edera with its amazing stamina-style routes up beautifully stained water runnels and tufa systems. The latter is a really unique experience, climbing in a big hole in the ground (no, it’s not a quarry!) with a cave squeeze approach to boot! Grades here run from F6a+ to F7c+ and although some of the routes felt tough, all were of the very highest quality. A short distance from the Grotta you can also find the Parete Dimenticata, which offers a nice selection of routes in the F5/6 grades.
Logan (F5c) with Erboristeria in the background
Recommended Routes (crag name in brackets)
- Smanie Del Ghiro F5c Long corner and crack system (Alveare-Placca Di Miu)
- Potopa F6a+ Groovy runnel (Grotta Dell’Edera)
- Per Uscire Dalle Tenebre F6c+ Steep tufa and roof (Grotta Dell’Edera)
- Trumeau F7a Lovely testing fluting (Il Grotto)
- Camera Con Vista F7a Powerful cranking in the window (Grotta Dell’Edera)
- Lubna F7b Sustained, tenuous and amazing all the way (Grotta Dell’Edera)
- Rustegu F7c+ Testing tufa and scoop system (Il Grotto)
Steep pocket pulling on Magnesia (7b) at Ciusa
The Val Pennavaire (found in Oltrafinale 2) is home to around thirty excellent crags and would almost justify a guidebook all by itself. All styles, grades and angles are catered for and the valley offers both north and south facing sectors. The climbs are generally vertical to slightly overhanging and will test your stamina reserves to the limit. From my limited experience I would say that this valley could quite easily be the “next big destination” as it has so much quality and it doesn’t appear to be anywhere near worked out just yet!
We visited Sectors Terminal and Ciusa but this really only just scratched the surface. Terminal is a south-facing wall offering fantastic sustained, technical wall climbs up to 35 metres in length on a mixture of tufas crimps and pockets. Grades range from F5 to F8a+. Ciusa offers slightly shorter routes on a north-facing wall from F5 to F7b.
Remember Me As A Friend (6a+) at Ciusa
- Logan F5 Technical slabby wall (Terminal)
- Sentimento Nuevo F5 Scoops to a technical exit (Ciusa)
- Arlanda F6a+ Vertical wall to a thought provoking tufa finish (Terminal)
- Templehof F6b Tufa pipe (Terminal)
- Mani Di Burro F6b+ A technician’s delight (Ciusa)
- Charles De Gaulle F6b+ Looking for some big air?(Terminal)
- Tolmachevo F7a Awesome athletic tufa (Terminal)
- Magnesia F7b Power endurance sprint (Ciusa)
- Nino Aquino F7b+ Pumpy first half, steep roof, crimpy crux at the top (Terminal)
- Lester Person F7c Pumpy jugs to a frantic finale (Terminal)
Typical Finalese wall climbing at Monte Sordo
Finale 007 (2008) and Oltrafinale 2 (2007) are the main guides, both written by Andrea Gallo. They are available from the Rockstore in the main square at Finalborgo as well as on-line from www.cordee.co.uk
A 70 metre rope and 12 quick-draws should be adequate for most of the routes.
Aspect and When To Go
The best time to visit is from October to March. Summer is likely to be too hot although north-facing crags do exist.
We flew from Stansted to Genoa with Ryanair. Flying to Nice and Turin would also be good options. Easyjet and Ryanair fly to both of these destinations from a range of UK airports.
A car is definitely needed to make the most of your trip. Check www.travelsupermarket.com for a choice of good deals.
From Genoa an easy motorway journey west (forty minutes or so) leads to Finale Ligure with Albenga being another fifteen minutes further on. Allow one and a half hours from Nice and two hours from Turin.
Mediterranean street life in Finale Ligure
Accommodation and Supplies
We stayed in Finale Ligure, which offers a wide range of accommodation options ranging from self-catering apartments to five star hotels. Check with the local tourist office (www.inforiviera.it/inglese/iat.cfm) The inexpensive Hotel San Guiseppe that we stayed in (www.hotelsanguiseppe.com), provides excellent rooms, great breakfasts and friendly advice. The area also has camping (www.terrerossecamping.it) and a number of “agriturismi” options (dormitory/hostel type accommodation) such as this one (www.ilamoi.it)
If you only plan to climb in the Val Pennavaire then Albenga may be a more convenient place to stay as you won’t have to contend with the thirty minute drive (each way) from Finale Ligure each day. Again numerous options are available here from camping right through to swanky hotels. Get in touch with the local tourist office (www.inforiviera.it/inglese/iat.cfm) for more advice and to check availability.
Both Finale Ligure and Albenga offer everything you would expect of a large town Supermarkets, cafés, restaurants and bars are available in abundance. Eating out proved to be cheap and of the highest quality with a pizza in one of the restaurants on the seafront in Finale coming in at only five Euros. They were of course, enormous! Seafood is also particularly good.
The Rockstore in Finale Ligure: an institution of Italian sport climbing!
There is an excellent and highly knowledgeable climbing shop (www.rockstore.it) situated in the picturesque square at Finalborgo. It stocks both guidebooks as well as a wide range of climbing hardware, chalk, shoes and clothing. The Bar Centrale opposite the Rockstore is a popular pre and post-climb meeting place and serves excellent coffee, beer and ice-creams.
As well rock climbing the area also offers wonderfully scenic walks, fantastic architecture and what is now highly regarded as some of the best single track mountain biking in Europe. In fact, during our stay we saw more cyclists than climbers! What this means is that Finale may be the perfect multi-activity destination. Check out www.finalefreeride.com and www.outdoorriviera.it for more details.