Italy's Grand Finale

Climbing

ON THE ROCKS: One of Finale Ligure's 2,000 bolted routes     Photo: Ashton Keiditsch

Climbing
WITHIN A 12-MILE RADIUS of Finalborgo, rock walls and outcroppings offer 36 linear miles of sport climbing. With 20 main crags, the area has 2,000 bolted routes ranging in difficulty from 5.5 to 5.14b (4 to 8c according to the French system climbers use in northern Italy). The majority of routes fall between 5.9 and 5.11, but there are also a number of beginner climbs. With only four days to play, I barely have time to scratch the surface.
At eight sharp on my first morning, a tatty VW bus pulls up to the door of Hotel Florenz, near Finalborgo. It's inhumanely early, considering last night's midnight pasta-and-valpolicella binge. The door slides open and I squeeze into the middle bench seat between a bag of gear and Lorenzo Cavanna, a mountaineering guide with BluMountain, Finale's sole climbing and canyoneering outfitter. The scene reminds me of trips to Joshua Tree—the van, the gear, the token dog, climbers packed in like sardines. The notable difference is that we're passing neolithic cave dwellings on our drive to the routes.

We arrive at a crag called Monte Sordo, a local favorite, with 79 bolted routes. The rock is pietra del Finale, a soft, whitish limestone that changes color with the position of the sun. After a 20-minute hike through an olive grove, I'm nose to nose with a fish fossil embedded in the calcareous base of Introspezione Elettrostatica ("Electrostatic Introspection"), a tricky 5.10c face climb. Because of the pores in the rock, everything looks like a hold. But most of the plentiful features prove worthless and I'm forced into a creative scramble. Dangling 100 feet above the ground, I sit back in my harness and soak up the bird's-eye view of the Ligurian Sea. Other standout crags include Capo Noli, a seaside site east of the beach at Varigotti, where climbers can traverse a 1,300-foot horizontal route 20 feet above the sea spray. There's also a worthwhile series of inverted strength climbs at Grotta dell'Edera, an impressive cave that's within walking distance of Monte Sordo.
For local info, pop into Rockstore (011-39-019-6902-08, www.rockstore.it), in Finalborgo's piazza, where you can hook up with a guide from BluMountain (www.blumountain.it) or check the message board to find climbing partners. Full-day guided excursions are $184 to $205 per person.

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