Climbing in Salerno has not been the motivating introduction to our trip that we had hoped for. It has been cold, wet, and the crag has spat us off routes that seemed perfectly achievable from the ground. However, there have been some highlights, although these were mostly in the form of some new found 4 legged companions.
Day 1 – The first day dawned with overcast skies and the possibility of the odd patch of sunshine, so we layered on the clothes and headed up to Monte San Liberatore. The crag itself is visible from Salerno, high on the hill overlooking the town. Three sections of clean limestone with a surprising variety of structure to the rock. The approach was fairly straight forward. After driving along some narrow wiggly roads, we parked in the small hamlet of Alessia, and walked up to the crag from there. Along the way we were joined by two hairy locals who were insistent on accompanying us and stayed with us all day. I have to admit they were very friendly and incredibly well behaved most of the time, and it was nice to have some canine companionship.
We started off in Settore Centrale, the most extensive of the areas with the most moderately graded routes. The base of the crag was cold in the shade of the trees, but as we climbed up the sun started popping out from the clouds and the climbing conditions were really pleasant, despite it only being 10 degrees. The first two route we did were very nice, predictable climbing on solid rock with no nasty surprises. In fact what looked like an awkward groove up a 6a (Atto Gratuito) turned out to have really good holds and an enjoyable flowing sequence. I logged my first 2 leads of the trip on the first 2 routes, getting through that mental hurdle quickly. We then got on something a bit harder – Soho, a 6c taking a nice line but through a tough looking bulge. Jon led it with a couple of powerful moves through the bulge, that always makes me worry, if he finds it powerful I know I will struggle. Sure enough I got the the bulge, got my feet sorted and prepared for a long move to catch a rounded hold high up with my right hand. I committed, went for it, and somewhat surprisingly caught and held it! I was so shocked at sticking the move that my feet pinged off the tiny edges and I swung out into the air dangling off one hand. This was a whole new experience for me, to hold a fall with one hand, so I dangled for a second or two relishing in the fact that I was still in contact with the rock but dangling in space! Getting back on the rock was somewhat more problematic and by that time my arm was pumped so the rope came to my rescue. I did however get up the rest of the route, and although it wasn’t clean or elegant I am pleased that I did all the moves on a steep route which is at the limit of what I can climb.
On Day 2 we went back to the same crag to do some routes in the Settore Destro area. This was a whole different experience from start to finish. We started off on what looked like a straight forward 5c (Massima Protezione), but after the first move on lead I quickly discovered that nothing was as good as I thought it was going to be. The holds were slopey, or at the wrong angle, or worse non existent! I bailed out at the crux and stepped left onto some much easier ground to finish a very unsatisfactory route. The next route, (Nome in Codice: Oranzo, 6a) again threw me off at the first bulge. I could see what to do, but I got my hand in the wrong place to unclip the bolt and then couldn’t get back down under the bulge to go in the other direction, grrrrr! Jon then decided to tackle a section of steep wall, up a series of tufa’s and pockets (Luna, 6c+). He made short work of it and seemed more relaxed on that route than on either of the previous ones. And then I chose a 6b. I should never chose routes. We both know that I am hopeless at picking a good line. This particular 6b (L’Ugola E il Fagiuolo) was a vertical wall consisting of that very spiky limestone which has loads of little things but nothing particularly effective to hold on to. In addition, the footholds run out at the crux, and the wall steepens ever so slightly. Unfortunately, Jon went the wrong way at the crux and ended up trying to make a hideous move to get back on line, and was summarily pinged off. I went the correct way at the crux and was equally pinged off. We both made it to the top, but after quite a physical and mental fight, neither of us were particularly satisfied with the outcome.
Day 3 was raining, so we had a rest from climbing and went north to explore Herculaneum. This is well worth a visit, and I will write a separate blog about it later.
On Day 4 the forecast was for rain in the morning and for the sun to come out in the afternoon. In the morning everything was still damp from overnight rain, but no more precipitation fell, so we headed out just before midday to climb at Capo D’Orso, slightly further along the Amalfi coast. After winding our way along the coast road for 20 minutes we arrived at the parking spot almost directly under the crag. We looked up at the crag and saw the dark clouds sitting above it. Glancing out to sea we could see a massive downpour happening about 0.5km off the coast. Within 30 seconds it started to rain so we decided to have lunch in the car and see if the rain passed. It didn’t. It got heavier, much heavier! The thunder got louder, the raindrops were bigger and more frequent, and everything got soaked. Being “ordinary climbers” there was no point in trekking up the hill in the rain to play on the 8a routes in the cave, I would certainly just be cold and wet. So we drove back along the very wiggly road passing some very miserable looking cyclists, and retreated to our apartment. I spent the afternoon drinking hot chocolate and writing this blog instead!
Tomorrow the forecast is for more rain. I don’t think our climbing is going to improve any time soon.