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Finale Ligure

photo: Anne Arran

Peace (7a+) Rocco do Corno

Eat it up Italian-style

With the snow level at 1000m and falling, storms brewed over the Swiss massif and rain lashed down outside the window. We were in Bern and had dreamed of heading for an ‘Eiger style’ mountain adventure which now seemed distinctly cold, harsh and unattractive. My Swiss alpine guide friend Bruno had an escape plan. ‘Finale is by the sea, has lots of new routes, you can climb there even in December!’

Finale rose to popularity with the English in the 70s and 80s, slipping out of vogue as Southern Spanish crags were adopted as home from home in the 90s. In recent years there has been much development and within a twelve mile radius of Finalborgo, rock walls and outcrops offer acres of incredibly diverse sport climbing of great character. From a distance some cliffs fail to impose, largely because steep wooded hillsides lead to their base. However I was struck by the immense variety of climbing styles packed into each route with the opportunity to mix it up on golden honeycomb pockets, petite edges, winding cracks and funky features - all in the same climb!

New crags slightly further inland do not feature in the most recent Y2K guidebook, waiting to be revealed to the world by local activists, and there is also a fair amount of sea cliff exploring to be done. With over 2,000 bolted routes ranging in difficulty from Fr4 to 8c and Genova airport only half an hour's drive away it is well worth considering, particularly in the cooler months or as an escape from higher, more weather-prone crags.

An hour's drive away lies fiercely overhanging tufa climbing at Tende and Andonno, which is home to Italy's first 8c+, Noia, repeated by Josune Bereciartu two years ago. Both are captivating crags in their own right and well worth a visit if you have plenty of time or a hunger for pull-and-go forearm explosion on consistently steep ground.

photo: Anne Arran

Anne Arran on pitch 5 (above) and pitch 7 (below) of Grimonett

photo: Anne Arran

The nearest town, Finale Ligure, was heavily inhabited in both prehistoric and Roman times. Bought by the Republic of Genoa in 1713, many of the architectural traces of the town's history are in the old Finale borgo, with a fine castle and a wonderful view over the Mediterranean sea. Finale's charm lies in its atmosphere; narrow cobbled alleyways flanked by tall leaning houses twist into grand open courtyards with bars, bakeries and art shops. The Bar Centrale in the main courtyard attracts many climbers, serves local fresh olives with every drink, and even in October you can sit out in the evening wearing just a t-shirt.

Recommended Crags

Bric Pianarella, Settore del Paratone (Big Wall)

This crag is a multi-pitch delight and the most imposing structure of Finale. Developed in the mid 70s and early 80s, Bric Pianarella's Settore del Paratone has just over thirty routes ranging from one to nine pitches in the Fr4+ to 7b range and is largely bolted. One of the six sectors, Paratone, is fifteen minutes walk uphill from the car.

Recommended climb - Grimonett 240m 5+, 5, 5, 5, 5+, 6b, 6a, 6b, 4+ ***

Bruno was standing at the foot of Settore del Paratone. ‘We don't need to take water, we go fast.’ Smiling at his ‘Swissness’ I agreed, pleased and psyched for a fast ascent. With three teams ahead on our wall it felt reminiscent of a school cross country race starting at the back of the pack. The tree-capped summit of Grimonett lay nine meandering pitches away. Moving in leaps and bounds, the rope and my feet slithered just behind up the white, worn bottom pitch. Roadrunner style, though inelegant, worked well to melt away the warm croissants and chewy hot chocolate of our Bar Centrale breakfast. Carrying a few extra slings for trees proved useful to avoid exploratory shuffles along leafy ledges. The top of the white band signified a change in style from varied and absorbing vertical or slabby cracks and pockets. Magnificent open brown limestone lay above, spectacularly steep with exotically carved runnels and pleasingly large handholds, opportunities for body-wedging and many places to rest. Our topo was in the car and somehow that made it more interesting. Following this steep 6b terrain the crux awaited, a sharp pull through a small bulge led to easier ground and the summit. In just over three hours one of the 14 long routes on this sector was completed with a descent on foot facing left away from the crag.

Capo Noli: A sunny sea adventure

photo: Anne Arran

Anne Arran climbing at Capo Noli

Capo Noli is a beautiful seaside crag east of the beach at Varigotti and is extremely hot in the full sun. Climbers can attempt a 400m traverse about six metres above the Ligurian Sea. The white, smooth and slopey rock requires a slow, considered style and in places there is an undercut wave-washed bulge above which most of the routes start. The guidebook mentions a number of easy climbs and many more have been developed since. It could be a great venue for low level deep water soloing. Most of the routes are in the Fr4-6 range and a simple topo is available at Descent can be made by abseil from the top of the routes.

Rocca di Corno (Horn Fortress) Settore Ovest: Sport climbing at its best

We climbed Peace, which involved steep pocket-pulling on a delightful orange wall, followed by a lunge requiring determination leading to small holds to reach the chain. Rombo di Vento is a stamina fest with rests and some quite hard moves in a splendid position, being a contender for the best 6c anywhere. Mug and Open Your Mind are also superb. Trainee guides, mainly from the Aosta valley, had gathered there to attempt to onsight 7a as part of their guides assessment, which created a jolly and encouraging atmosphere.

photo: Anne Arran

Rombo di Vento (6c) Rocca di Corno, Settore Ovest

Climbs are described from left to right facing the sector:

1. Mug 6a+ 30 m side wall **
2. Open your mind 6c 25 m ***
3. Branco 6b+ 25 m corner **
4. Peace 7a+ 25 m back wall ***
5. Realtà capovolta 7b+ 10 m (variante di 'Hambre') **
6. Hambre 7c 30 m ***
7. War 7c 25 m **
8. Rombo di vento 6c 35 m ****
9. Rock Stupid 6c,7a+ 25 m, 20 m **
10. Rock Rapid 6c 20 m *

Walking left there were many easy climbs in the Fr4-6 range. To the left of the Muro Crepitante slab there is a bird ban and to the right there are many easy routes including the pleasant pocket climb Bettabel 5+, 5 (60m), and Enfant Terrible (40m), which is steep and powerful on huge holds.

Monto Sordo (Deaf Mountain)

Monte Sordo has over 80 bolted routes and as it avoids the north winds it is possible to climb there in a t-shirt in winter. A 20-minute walk up through an olive grove leads to the four sectors. Many different cliffs, the best being Alveare (bee-hive) and lo Specchio (the mirror), give fine climbs, the steepest of which remain weather-proof.

Recommended routes at Lo Specchio (mirror) include Schizzechea (7a, 30m), which follows fine tufas to a spectacular fin mounted with difficulty before enjoyable technical climbing with tenuous balancey moves to overcome the top bulge. Game Over (7a+, 20m) and Vivere di Rabbia (7b, 25m) are also fine routes. Free-tto misto (6c+, 30m) is a little tricky in places and Free Nelson Mandela (6b+, 20m) follows a superb, obvious and steep left to right traverse line. Cosi la Va (6a, 35m) on the right is an excellent warm up for the other routes, with fine pocketed wall climbing and a surprise layback crack and tree to overcome.

Getting there

RyanAir flights from London Stanstead to Genova can be amazingly cheap, leaving just a 30 minute drive to Finale from the airport. RyanAair also flies between London Stansted and Turin which is perfect for Andonno, which is one hour away from the airport with Finale one hour further.

From Central Switzerland or the Alps it is a 5-hour drive south to get fairly guaranteed weather, the safest bet being climbing at Finale. Flying to Nice and travelling east along the coast is also an option for a combination of French and Italian crags.

Where to stay and rest days

Free camping exists at Monte Cucco and there are numerous hotels and pensions to stay in, both at Finale Borgo and on the coast, starting at around £15 a night per person. Local fish, pizza and pasta restaurants provide tasty evening meals at reasonable prices. We stayed at Vecchie Mura (Via Delle Mura 019/69.12.68 Finale Ligure). To book hotel accommodation in advance try

For lazy days eating gelato (traditional Italian ice cream) and drinking cappuccino on the sea front seems idyllic and provides an ideal spot from which to plot a sea cliff trad adventure or the next day's sport. The town has a local castle, several small art galleries, two climbing shops, a pharmacy, bakeries and supermarkets.

Capo Noli has a dive centre with resident marine biologists, operated from Hotel Capo Noli and featured on Peluffo Sport in Finale Ligure also operates PADI diving courses.


Finale Y2K by Andrea Gallo (published by Idee Verticali 2001 and distributed by Cordee at £19.95) is the most up to date and can also be found in Rockstore, Finale Borgo ( Another guidebook to the surrounding area, incorporating Andonno and Tende, is also stocked in the same shop. is planning to offer a Finale topo due out in 2004.

This article, by Anne Arran, first appeared in the March 2004 issue of High Mountain magazine.