The next Kalymnos? – Sicily, Italy
Living in Europe has been both a blessing and a curse to my fantasy world as a career climber. As winter rears its ugly head on comfortable sending temps and ridiculously high humidity levels make the rock resemble a weeping slip-and-slide; I find myself either obsessively prowling through the RyanAir website, a discount European airline, for inexpensive winter rock climbing destinations or impatiently awaiting the arrival of ice cascades to sink my picks into. With the latter showing no real sign of fruition in Europe this winter, let’s just say I’ve had the opportunity to explore some of the less publicized winter rock climbing spots in Europe.
We have all seen pictures of or even visited the famous limestone oasis of Kalymnos or the media hyped Catalan masterpieces of Margalef and Siurana, but climbing in Sicily? Rumors of the “next Kalymnos” boasting “unpolished limestone” on that island off the boot, otherwise known as Sicily and Italy respectively, reached my burning ears and a quick RyanAir hop later I was on the ground investigating said rumors.
Oogles of googling helped me formulate a base camp for my week in Sicily, San Vito Lo Capo. San Vito Lo Capo is the epicenter of climbing in Sicily. It is where a now annual climbing festival is held and there is no question as to why – upon your airliner descent you cannot help taking notice of the expansive limestone cliffs abutting the sea, begging you to get your pump on. Everything is based around Camping El-Bahira, a well-equipped European style campground, where you can now find a climbing store on its premises selling everything you could possibly need as a climber in a state of panic. After a week in Sicily with only one forced rest day due to a tropical storm, I touched a lot of rock, sent a few routes and fell in love with the variable styles available. The highlights – grottos located a stone throw from the sea with other worldly style climbing and of course, the ridiculously overstuffed Cannolis.
The Sea Caves (Grottas)
Park at N 38.18307, E 12.72586 then follow the well worn dirt path. 10 mins to Grotta Calamancina and 15 mins to Grotta del Cavallo.
- Grotta del Cavallo
- Melchiorre (6b) – tufa fun with a quick crux
- Baldassarre (6b+) – tufa and concretions
- Bue (6c) – sharp but super sexy
- Gaspare (7a) cool, calm and collected along cave flowstone which then sends you up an overhanging sequence on tufas until you hit the crux.
- Grotta Calamancina
- Canna Biologica (6a+) – one of the raddest at this grade in todo el mundo!
- Cristo (8a) – very aesthetic, wind direction might make the crux a lil slippery.
Crown of Aragon
- La Crema Canela (6a+) – stemmy jug haul
- Trainig Segreto (6c+) – reachy but steller holds
- Tropo Duci (7a) – three cruxes (?), all fun.
- Mega Dave (8a) – Ultra endurance, possibly easier IF dry
- All Cats are Black at Night (7b) – juggy, endurance push with distinct crux
- Scamone (7a) – the most obvious line on the wall littered with tufas with a short, powerful crux.
Never Sleeping Wall
Park at 38.096389, 12.670278. Follow obvious trail to base of wall.
- Silent Sleep (6a+) – tufas, pumpy
- Long Sleep (6b+) – tufa pulling for 30m, save some oomph for the anchors
- Bela Susana (7a) – more tufas with a finish somewhat uncharacteristic of the route
- Enoteca Randazzo (7b) – fun moves up concretions, final few bolts were a little less enjoyable
- Tears of Freedom (7a+) – the most aesthetic line up the wall and arguably the best 7a+ in the world.
- Ede (7a+) – aka humble quadra-mantle-opolis.
- Superman (7c+/8a) – superman that wall, get it back on the tufas and get your Clark Kent on up some crimps.
- Soundgarden (8a) – bouldery start to some super fun tufas, then another traversing boulder problem. Stellar! Also has an 8b extension.
- Il Mino Tauro (7b) – far more overhanging than it lets on. One of the best climbs in the area.
- Menage a’ trois (7a+) – clear a roof leaning off a tufa, milk a knee bar and attempt the crux with whatever juice is left in the tank.
Quick Reference Guide
Location: San Vito Lo Capo
Discount airlines fly from major European cities to Palermo – Trapani which is approximately one hour by car from San Vito Lo Capo.
Best time to climb:
San Vito Lo Capo offers the opportunity to climb year round; however, October to March-ish is the best time to go. It gets unmanageably hot during the summer months meaning fall – spring is your best bet, though it is worth noting that it is subject to the Mediterranean spurts of rain and “chilly” weather in the winter months. The limestone composition of the rock means one hour of dry time before it’s climbable after a storm, worst case scenario you get a forced rest day to checkout one of the local Cantinas for some wine tasting.
El Bahira campsite is the most hassle free way to go, especially if you are sans car as there is access to hundreds of routes within walking distance. They offer a variety of accommodations including bungalows, mobile homes, and straight up camping. The campsite’s climbing shop is open year round and in our 2013 visit, the cafe and bar were open over the christmas and new years holidays.
Besides El Bahira, San Vito Lo Capo, is a mere 10-minute drive from the bulk of climbing and offers restaurants and groceries to fulfill every need. For accommodations in San Vito Lo Capo, check out their website at sanvitolocapoweb.co.uk/where-to-stay/.
- Di Roccia di Sole, Versante Sud
- Sicily Rock – San Vito Sport Climbing
Rest Day Tips:
- Marsala – an hour away, go wine tasting at one of the Cantinas
- Erice – check out the castle with some spectacular views of the coastline