Saturday, April 28, 2012

Climbing course in Sicily

In order to get better at climbing, we wanted to do a week-long course. Our first attempt was in southern France last September, as part of our big vacation, but since that course was cancelled we tried again in Sicily.

The trip down to Palermo on Saturday was an all day affair since there are effectively no direct flights from Basel or Zurich. So we started early, took a train to Bellinzona, switched to a bus to Milan's Malpensa airport (where we had to meet up with another course participant to transfer a couple ropes to our luggage), flew to Palermo (where we met the other course participants in the airport), and then drove as a group to San Vito lo Capo and the house we were staying in. It was an all-day affair.

The area around San Vito has a long stretch of cliffs close to the beach that have had lots of routes bolted, so it's a great place to spend a week learning.

[Editorial aside: this log is going to be spotty because we didn't take pictures of the relevant pages in the topo book and the info online is out of date] 

Sunday morning the climbing begins. We start with a quick brush up on lead-climbing technique and then do some easy stuff in the grotto of the Sector Campeggio: the very cool "Way of Light" (3b) which is easy and tops out through a hole into the sun; and another one right next to it that starts out 4 something and then ends in a 5c bit that neither of us was able do (of course), but we at least got good practice catching a fall in top rope. :-)

Andrea in "Way of Light"
After lunch at the wall we continue in the Sector Campeggio on the right of the quarry hole in the wall. We both top-rope and lead-climb some short (8m) routes in the 3-4 range (Dozy, Dopy, and Sneezy) and get halfway up the 5c "Bashful". On the way back through town we stop for a coffee and gelato, do some shopping, and then head back to the house to rest and eat.

Monday morning: Sector Campeggio, left of the quarry hole. Some routes into a cave of sorts that we both lead climbed: one 4a and "Just for Fun" (4c, 20m). Andrea top-roped "Burning Fat" (5b, 24m). 
Not quite sure which route this is
After a siesta back at the house and quick dip in the Mediterranean, we walk around the point to the area called "Zoo". Both of use lead climb "Marmot" (4a) and another 4c route ("My Little Pony"?). Andrea lead climbs "Sheep" (4a).

Tuesday we head to a spot on the coast east of San Vito to do "deep water solos". After some yoga exercises to warm up/stretch and a quick warm-up traverse on the rocks, the more experienced members of the group do some free climbing on the cliffs directly over the water. The route is too difficult for us, but we have some fun doing a bit of traverse and then falling into the water and swimming. A bit of walking along the shore, some watching the better climbers play on the rocks, and then we head back to town for coffee and gelato. We wrap up the useful rest day with a nice bbq in the garden of our house.
Andrea does a deep water solo
Wednesday morning: Sector Scomparto di Rifiuta. We both start by lead-climbing "Red Corner" (4c, 16m) and then move onto some training exercises using that route: 1) climbing with two express  hooking our feet together; 2) climbing it with one express hooking our feet together; 3) climbing with express hanging off our heels to make us focus on keeping our heels low. We then move onto Samuel (4b), which we do half of as an exercise where we have to agree on a pre-defined set of steps and grips and ascend the route twice using those.

Wednesday afternoon after a siesta: walk again to the northern end of the wall, a bit past the Zoo. We start with a "project" on the route "Elisa", a more difficult route (5c) that includes an overhang. We each do the whole thing once in top rope and then focus on the most difficult part while top roped. Andrea lead-climbs the whole thing, but Greg is tired of it by then and stops after the difficult part. We're both pretty sure we did more than this, but can't remember exactly what. We end up walking back in the dark.

Thursday morning: same sector as Wednesday afternoon. We start with some stretching and then another training exercise: follow a short predefined traverse close to the ground. Repeat only using one hand. Repeat using only a stick to keep balance. Repeat using no hands. Greg doesn't manage this last bit, but we both get a lot out of the exercise. Greg top-ropes a 5c and then lead-climbs the first half again; he also does some other simpler stuff. Andrea's tired and mainly takes a nap. At the end we practice falling and catching falls while belaying.

Thursday afternoon after a siesta:  Sector Moretti, at the southern end of the wall with lots of flowers, other plants, and cacti. We're both energetic and lead climb "Original Route" (3c) and "Arete Route" (5a). Andrea climbs "Waiting for Moretti" (5b), Greg leads a longer 5a. Back home we have another bbq.
Part of the "Original Route"
Friday morning: after cleaning out the house we start at the Zoo. Greg tries to start the day by lead climbing "Performing Seals" (4c), but fails at the overhang... bad place to start. We go back and both lead climb "Marmot" (4a) to warm up, then go back to the Seals. Andrea lead climbs it this time, but Greg is frustrated and bails on it. We both lead-climb "Beautiful Hamster" (5a) and then watch Mattu and Silvan do much more difficult stuff around the cave entrance (highlight is "Robin", which includes the tip "jump as far as you can") while we're eating lunch. After lunch we head back into town for coffee and gelato.

Friday afternoon we head straight from town to the Cattedral del Deserto. This is mainly more difficult routes, but Silvan puts a lot of time into coaching us. Andrea does the first bit of a 6a or 6b+ (not sure which) that requires stemming. Greg top ropes that one. We both top rope a longer 5c and then Silvan manages to taunt Greg into lead climbing the 6a. With a lot of coaching (and the psychological win of knowing Silvan is doing the belay), Greg manages to complete this. After a posed picture session we head back through town.
Greg: "It's a long way between express's up here"  Silvan: "No problem, it's easy!"
The last night is in a really nice B&B. We have a great dinner in the adjacent restaurant and then get an early start back to Palermo and the Plane-Bus-Train-Train-Tram odyssey home.

It was a great week and we both learned a ton.

It is a beautiful place

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Konstanz and Kreuzlingen

Quick visit to see Norman and family in Kreuzlingen.