Getting high in Arco

This year my climbing has come in fits and starts – I began the year with a small tear in my right trapezius muscle, which put me out of action for the better part of three months. In June, when I had just about fully recovered and started to make progress with my climbing again, I was involved in a quad bike accident and sprained my wrist, and once I’d gotten over the wrist injury I took a gnarly fall whilst deep water soloing (on my first day out post quad bike accident!). Queue another eight weeks of recovery. Recover I did, and just in time for the annual Autumn climbing trip.

Kyle and I, being men of few commitments, decided to extend our annual trip by adding a weekend of multipitch climbing in Arco to our nine days in Slovenia with James. Miriam managed to make some time in her busy schedule to join us for our weekend in Arco, all that was left was to figure out the logistics of getting to Arco from Venice airport. Here the wonderful world of the international climbing community came into play, pulling so many loose ends together: Claudio, an Italian from Veneto who recently moved to Malta, loaned us his guide books so that we’d have an idea about where to go and what to climb. Silvia, an old acquaintance, offered to host us and climb with us in Arco, all we had to do was get down to Padua to meet her. Accommodation: sorted. Local with insider knowledge: sorted. Climbing tag teams: sorted!

What follows is a selection of photos from this trip leg of the trip – not too many though, as I was busy climbing!

Ai Falconi, Ceredo (Single pitch crag)

Despite taking an early flight out, we wouldn’t have had time to climb a multipitch on Friday. Silvia strongly recommended avoiding the single pitch climbs at Arco because they are so polished from all the traffic they see. Instead she took us to a recently developed crag, Ceredo Ai Falconi, which is about half way between Padua and Arco. Situated a five minute walk from the bar in the village of Ceredo, the crag sits on the upper edge of a forested valley. There are some breathtaking vistas to glimpse in between the trees. The rock is limestone and has a pleasant mix of technical as well as physical climbing, mostly on vertical or near vertical rock, with a few roofs thrown in for good measure on the harder climbs.

Beautiful limestone walls

Beautiful limestone walls

The crag had a beautiful setting

The crag had a beautiful setting

Miriam on the best route we tried at the crag - Le 9 Primavere di Ale (6b), an intense corner crack climbed layback style, with lots of side switching and long reaches

Miriam on the best route we tried at the crag – Le 9 Primavere di Ale (6b), an intense corner crack climbed layback style, with lots of side switching and long reaches

Although I climb on limestone for most of the year the rock at Ceredo held a few surprises for me: the technical climbs required a lot of precise smearing on holds that I’d never dream of relying on in Malta, however the friction was amazing and the boots did stick! The best route I climbed at the crag had to be the corner / layback Le 9 Primavere di Ale (6b), a long, demanding layback climb with a lot of swapping of sides and big reaches.

For more information about Ai Falconi, visit the crag developer’s blog

Ape Maia (6b / A0)

Our first multipitch experience in Arco came on the highly recommended Ape Maia, a 200m, 7 pitch route with grades ranging from 5c to 6b. The climbing was a very pleasant mix of technical climbing on slabs and straightforward pulling on jugs in corners. The crux pitch is very well protected, some of the bolts are even equipped with cordelette to help you aid through the pitch should you need to! Silvia and I made very good time on the route, topping out after around three hours.

View from the very comfortable belay ledge at the start of P3

View from the very comfortable belay ledge at the start of P3

When in Rome, do as the Romans! First time using a Kong GiGi. It works just like a reverso ;)

When in Rome, do as the Romans! First time using a Kong GiGi. It works just like a reverso 😉

Silvia doing well on one of the 5c corners - not her favourite climbing style!

Silvia doing well on one of the 5c corners – not her favourite climbing style!

Tree belays gave me flashbacks to our trip in Verdon in 2014

Tree belays gave me flashbacks to our trip in Verdon in 2014

Getting close to the top of the route - Silvia on a very loose 5c corner

Getting close to the top of the route – Silvia on a very loose 5c corner

Kyle topping out Ape Maia, around 200m above the pizzeria where we left our car

Kyle topping out Ape Maia, around 200m above the pizzeria where we left our car

Via La Cengia Rossa 

On our last day in Arco we opted for an “easy” multipitch, Via La Cengia Rossa, which in our guide was graded 5b. This time we’d be climbing in a team of three with a relative beginner with us, hence the choice of an easier route. Kyle and Miriam would be climbing the route Caldo Inverno to our right – the plan was to top out more or less at the same time (we had a bit of a head start since there was no team ahead of us).

When it was my turn to lead I must say that I felt the grades at Arco were pretty stiff… the slab I led felt like the hardest 5b I’d ever experienced! It was only when we had all finished and made our way back to the bar that we decided to check online to find a more recent topo of the route. Clearly, I hadn’t learned my lesson in Verdon: never trust a single source for route information! The latest online topos gave the route a grade of 6a / A0… well within my leading limits but quite a shock to Chiara, who had never climbed anything harder than 5c. So a big round of applause to her for battling through 😉

This was another pleasant route, despite the misinformation. Very good bolting, and mostly comfortable stances. Some of the hanging stances were a bit awkward with three on a team, but that wasn’t such a big issue as we didn’t hang around for very long.

Chiara on the beautiful exit traverse (5b) of the route. Big jugs, big air beneath your feet!

Chiara on the beautiful exit traverse (5b) of the route. Big jugs, big air beneath your feet!

Arco impressions

All in all Arco has left me with a very good impression: the routes are top quality, very well protected. There is some polish, but if you’re climbing within your comfort limit the polish isn’t such an issue. I’ve been told that at the higher end of the grade scale polish isn’t so evident. The south facing routes probably make for awesome winter climbing, but even at the start of autumn when we were there it wasn’t too hot to climb. Certainly a lot more bearable than climbing in the autumn sun in Malta!

The town of Arco itself is a bit of a climbers’ paradise: climbing shops alternate with ice cream shops and bars; and everything is at a very reasonable price! Our visit to the town started with a stop for Hugos. The Hugo is a refreshing blend of elderflower syrup, prosecco, mint and sparkling water. Just what you need after a few hours of climbing in the autumn sun and an hour’s slog downhill to the car. This gave us just the right amount of spring in our step to waltz through the town’s climbing shops. I was sorely tempted to bring home a present for my buddy Inigo, the serial chalk addict, but I’m afraid even Air Malta’s generous luggage allowance wouldn’t have coped with the size of this chalk bucket:

Enough chalk for you Inigo?

Enough chalk for you Inigo?

I look forward to another visit to Arco, possibly with a trad rack for some alpine fun, or more likely making early starts to try some of the longer (350m+) routes.

Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post from James about our crazy nine day trip through the Slovenian Karst landscape

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