I spent the month of September in northern Italy climbing in the Alps on big walls, boulders, and sport climbs. Paige Claassen and I posted up in the small Lake Como town of Dervio to work with CAMP Italy, climb in Val Masino, and tour Italy as part of Lead Now. This was my first extended stay in Italy and we were extremely excited to check out the granite walls in the Alps! I put together a little photo tour of our time there and all imagery is courtesy of Rich Crowder (www.richcrowder.com)
We spent a few days in the small town of Esino, climbing at a cool limestone sport climbing area right up the hill from our place called Esino Crag.
Our friend Luca on a sweet 5.13b. This crag, like most crags in Europe, was packed with 5.13s and was a perfect training spot.
Nearly all of the driving to and from the crags each day was spent in elaborate tunnels. The 30 minute drive from our house in Dervio to the city of Lecco was 75% tunnels. Pretty cool at first but it gets old FAST.
I was working on a commercial series for CAMP USA while we were in town and we spent a good amount of time in the town of Premana, working with CAMP Italy on the video series. CAMP is about to have their 120 year anniversary, making them the oldest climbing brand in the world and after spending a couple weeks with the guys at CAMP, let me assure you, they know a great deal about climbing gear. We got to visit a friends “alpeggio” or mountain house above Premana and spend the night drinking grappa and cooking polenta.
The narrow streets of Premana, Italy.
The town of Premana. The CAMP office is just out of frame on the far left.
Narrow passageways are the only way to navigate this old town.
My favorite part of working with CAMP was getting to see production from start to finish of some of the most iconic pieces of climbing equipment that are made today. Hand crafted from start to finish and almost entirely created in Premana we got to check out how crampons, ice axes, tri-cams, and via ferrata gear was made. Here Paige checks out the heat treatment of crampons in a small family operated facility in Premana. Around every corner in the busy town, you would hear the families working on climbing gear, cow bells, scissors, and knives.
The town of Dervio on Lake Como was our home for nearly a month.
The main objective in Italy was to climb in Val Masino at the incredible Sasso Remeno area. We spent a few days working on a really nice 8b/+ at the Strombix Crag called “Solitary Men” and both Paige and I were able to tick it without too much epicing. The rock here was very similar to that of Boulder Canyon and this particular line climbed incredible edges out a 30 degree overhanging prow.
The view from Strombix down into the town of San Martino with the Alps looming overhead.
Only a 15 minute hike from the parking lot, the Strombix crag puts you up in the clouds and removes you from the insanity of tourists and cars down in the valley. People refer to this area as the “Yosemite Vally” of Italy, which is kind of true. Cars and busses all over the place, tourists gawking all day long and TONS of climbers.
The belay hang at Strombix.
I also projected a beautiful line called “Super Porco Baleno” (8a+) that climbs a “Predator” style arete at Strombix.
Our workstation in our Dervio Apartment.
4 Euro pizza every day just a block from our place.
Paige sending “Solitary Men” (8b/+)
Scoping out lines at the Sasso Remeno boulder. I was shocked by the amount of manufacturing going on in Val Masino. On this one boulder there were likely only 2 natural lines out of maybe 50 climbs. Some routes only had one or two drilled or chipped holds but most were fully manufactured from bottom to top on gym style grips out steep overhanging granite.
At first I was appalled by the amount of manufacturing but over time, after seeing hundreds of people frequent this roadside “gym”, I understand the motivation behind the effort. This place is a training ground for hard sport climbing and the walls were blank before the holds were added making it into a destination for climbers around the world. The two main boulders right on the road had over a hundred climbs from 5.1 to 5.14d and I would guess that over half of the established lines were harder then 5.13b.
Paige and I would run laps on this 5.13c for fitness when conditions were poor. Essentially entirely manufactured but done perfectly and climbs like a well set gym route.
I only spent a couple days trying to boulder in the heat and humidity of Italy in September but I did a handful of great lines on immaculate granite. Val di Mello is famous for the bouldering festival each year and for good reason. There are thousands of boulders as far as the eye can see and nearly all of them are less then 5 minutes from the car. This climb is called “Tarzan” and is a perfect 7c with easy campus moves to finish out the 18 foot tall block.
The town of San Martino is a climbers paradise. Climber owned coffee shops, gear stores, and great food line the small downtown sector. Rest days, lunch breaks, and morning coffee were spent in San Martino and it was only 3 minutes up the road from Sasso Remeno and Paige’s project.
Paige’s objective while in Italy was to climb this insane 8c slab called “Art Attack” that hadn’t seen a repeat in 10 years. Check out Paige’s blog for a full run down on the miracle send that happened on our last day in Italy.
We spent a day shooting multi-pitch adventuring in Switzerland on a brilliant line called “La Fiamma”. Imagine this: 10 minute cable car ride to a 5 minute hike to the base of a 1500 foot granite wall. 20 minutes to hike back to the cable car at the end of the day. It reminded me a lot of the first Flat Iron in Boulder only a little more technical and capped with a single pitch spire overlooking the Swiss and Italian Alps.
Paige stood on top of this crazy tower thing and we made a movie about it…
We had an amazing time in Italy but I must warn climbers traveling to Val Masino, Val di Mello, and the surrounding areas that the weather there is heinous. It was nearly 80 degrees every day were were there and the humidity was around 90%. It would have been great for adventuring in the mountains on easier terrain but for hard sport climbing or bouldering you want to be there in late October for the best conditions. I would also highly recommend visiting Val di Mello during the festival in May, everyone says it’s an amazing time.
Paige and I are currently living in Japan for stop 4 of the Lead Now Tour. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for our feature length video on our time in Italy.