Hot! I Scalo

These past weeks I have corrected an almost unthinkable error. After more than a month in Finale, I finally made it out for a climb. Actually, I’ve jumped right in, climbing six out of 10 days. In those days, I’ve been in some of Finale’s less-visited sectors, classic walls, and even road tripped to the other side of the Ligurian region.

In true climber fashion, I found myself paired with a friend of a friend. The only thing we knew about each other was that we both loved to climb, and that he spoke no English. While I do believe there is a universal language of climbing – a spirit and understanding that comes from the passion for the sport – there is no denying that normal communication is key. Things like “give me more rope,” “take the rope,” “lower me,” and “wait,” are all basics. Pier and I went through the words we would use. The rest was just instinct.

He took me to the Caprazoppa sector and we walked through the picture postcard village of Verezzi on the approach. It was a longer approach then most in Finale as we hiked back around the rock towards FinalBorgo, but this western side of the valleys looking down on Pietra Ligure was a view I didn’t typically get from my perspective three hills over.

We started with two short pitches to the main wall of mixed levels. I hadn’t climbed all year! While the moves came back quickly, my strength needed work. Our first long climb – an arête called Corner of the Sky – required big moves to start. I had to detour to the left to avoid the pulls. The remaining routes were steady and perfect not just for warming up, but for learning each others’ climbing styles.

After a full afternoon, we returned to the car and found another universal language in common: beer. We finished the day at Tia Pepa in FinalBorgo trying some of the artiginale local brews.

The next morning, I joined Pier and his friend Davide for a trek to The Other Finale. He warned me this area had much longer and more difficult routes. I might be outmatched, but I was excited to see an area so large it deserved its own guide book: OltreFinale #2. These regions outside the immediate valleys of Finale are a testament to just how much rock is in this little corner of Italy. Some of the hardest routes in the region are here.

Our approach required a short hop on the Autostrada to Albenga then a pleasant Sunday drive through villages and agritouristicas. Once we parked, Davide warned me there was a 20 minute hike. All things are relative. Within 40 minutes from leaving FinalBorgo we were at Bauso and La Fontana – a long time by Finale standards of 10 or 15 minutes – but in my world, oh so close!

We spent the day nearly alone at La Fontana and there was no doubt that these routes are harder. As the day went on, the rock above the trees got hot and my arms tired out. My feet kept slipping on the last route and I knew I was done. Pier finished his last route as well and called it a day. We helped Davide as he worked his project – a 7 (5.12) called Tomohaq – until we ran out of daylight.

At the end of my first climbing weekend, we stopped for pizza and I shared a little American climbing tip with my new Italian friends: demonstrating how good a cold glass of beer feels on worn, pink fingertips.

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