This year the ski season started a bit later in the Alps then last year. While waiting for the off-piste sharks to get buried deep down in the powder we scout central Europe for rock climbing destinations in December. We found our last week of T-shirt free rock climbing in Finale Ligure, close to Genoa in Italy.
Temperatures were perfect for climbing in the sun as well as in the shade this week, but normally this time of the year a sunny and low-wind weather forecast is obligatory. Jonas and Jimmy, successfully escaped the dark in Göteborg, Sweden, joining us by taking a quick flight to Milano. For 6 days we were climbing with the sun warming our bare backs from around 10 am to 4 pm.
The quantity and quality of rock in Finale have attracted climbers for the last 40 years and still the local climbers are motivated to put up new routes and expand to new sectors. On top of the 2000 routes in the Finale 007 guide book there is a separate guide book for the newer crags in the surrounding valleys; Oltrefinale #2 containing another 1200 routes. So even though we often go to Finale, just 3 hours drive from Chamonix, we continue to explore new sectors as well as revisiting our favorite ones.
About 20 min drive west of Finale you enter Val Pennavaire from the Albenga highway exit. This valley alone, with possibilities for every taste and level of climbing, justifies the publication of the Oltrefinale guide book. The exploring of Val Pennavaire started in the early 90th and the crags have been developed by the new generation of sport climbers, in contradiction to the many old-school Finalese crags discovered by alpinists decades ago.
Our absolute favorite, and the biggest crag in Val Pennavaire, is Terminal. It has 60 routes, mainly in the grades 6 and 7, on slightly overhanging walls of optimum grey red limestone with tufas and crimps that favour stamina climbing. Most routes are beautifully homogenous, like the classics Tolmachevo (7a) and Chiang Kai Chek (7a+) as well as the 4 lines of 6a-b routes on the vertical, white wall. Terminal gets sun from 9 am to 2 pm in December.
Other crags in Val Pennavaire that are good for winter climbing is Euscal, Colosseo, Roca di Basura and Red Up, located higher up on the south facing slopes of the valley. They get sun from 10 am til 4 pm in December.
Second week in December the Christmas holidays have already started in Finale Ligure and Finalborgo and the restaurants and bars are full with celebrating people. With the sun setting early there is plenty of time to socialize, have ice cream, beer, pizza, pasta… always a great finish of the climbing day!
While the sun is up, even swimming in the sea is possible (for Swedish people at least), but in the evening we walk the charming little streets of Finale in our down jackets. We end the days by the camp fire up on the Monte Cucco camping, where we have our tents close to the foot of another classic Finalese crag.
Of course we spend some time climbing the white limestone on Monte Cucco, full of small pockets and holes. The last day we climb at Silenzio, a sector similar in style to Monte Cucco. Completely sheltered from the chilly winter wind it is almost too hot to climb in the sun there. The routes are hard-core on tiny droplet holds and very sharp pockets. Then it is time to go home to Chamonix, rest the fingers and ski some powder!
– The two Finale guidebooks you can buy in the RockStore on the plaza in Finalborgo.
– Photos in our Facebook gallery Rock Climbing Finale Ligure.
– See our rock climbing courses for more info on climbing courses and holidays in Finale and elsewhere.
– Scan our rock climbing blog category for more top-class climbing trip destinations.
– Updates of new crags and re-bolting in Oltrofinale you can buy in the Cofee Shop in Cesano, Val Pennavaire.
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