John Codling's Diary

Eurocamp Active - Climbing

Planning, preparation and travel

We'd timed our visit in May/June; after this it gets a bit hot for the best climbing. We usually plan to visit with other couples. This time it was with a couple (Simon and Doranne) from Malta with their son and another couple. Five of the seven of us climb. Simon had arranged for some other climbers to join us for part of the week too.

Main issue here is getting the climbing kit weight just down to Ryanair's constraints. It is a major failure if you do not use every kg of your allowance. A 70m rope, harness, chalk, quickdraws and climbing shoes go in. Some of the multi-pitch routes might need some nuts and slings as well. Oh, I suppose we'd better take some clothes and undies too! One case only - so it's all in a rucksack.

The Ryanair flight arrived on time; so we had to suffer the annoying jingle on landing.

Trapani airport is about an hour's drive away from San Vito (provided you do not go into Trapani itself). As usual, we hire the smallest car in the range. Four up and luggage gets even more cramped when we add about 6 shopping bags at the supermarket half way there.

Arrival - 31st May

We arrived at the site mid-afternoon. The El Bahira site is ideal for climbing as a 2km long 30-50m high cliff starts only 30m behind the campsite. There are probably 400 routes within 10 minutes walk of the site and more than that again a short drive away.

Climbing guidebooks can be bought from the reception at El Bahira campsite. I bought the latest version of the local guide. It had 170 new climbs in which I'd be keen to explore (about 700 in total).

Climbers could be seen on the cliffs in the afternoon sun. We were tempted (sort of) to get on the rock straight away. I've been climbing for over 40 years so we could wait until the morning when it would be shady (if I was younger I wouldn’t have waited!). Instead, our favourite restaurant awaited…

Eurocamp Active - Climbing

Saturday 1st June

A windy, cloudy day - ideal (but not for my wife Wendy). We met at the campsite café for coffee and croissants at 9am. A nice tradition. John & Andrea had already gone to the “Bunker” climbing sector and would not return until 3:30pm.

Simon and I checked the guide book for an area to climb in where there were some good quality climbs at the right grade for us which we had not done before. The difficulty of the climb is established by consensus within a grading system which goes 3a, 3b, 3c, 4a, 4b etc upto 9b for the hardest route in the world today. The higher quality climbs have a strawberry symbol next to the listing in this particular guidebook.

Sector “Redhead” was our choice, situated 3 minutes walk behind the campsite.

Simon lead a 5C “warm up” route called “Easy Outer” with ease. When he lowered down he left the quickdraws in the bolts. He then pulled the ropes down. This made things a little easier for me as I led the route. This was my first climbing trip after a shoulder operation so I was nervous.

We did 4 more climbs in a similar way. The grade of three of them was 6a+ which pleased us. The need for some food and tiredness made us stop there (you tend not to notice time passing which does not help in making arrangement to meet partners!).

We were going to climb with Tim (Simon's son) in the afternoon as, being a student, he found it difficult to get up for the morning session. However a rainstorm stopped that - we got more provisions in San Vito instead. We went to our favourite restaurant in Macari for the evening. The place was packed with locals.

Sunday 2nd June

Temperatures hotting up. Fewer clouds. We elected for a sector we'd not been to before - “Seagull”. I led the warm-up “I did it my way” 5c and the others did as well. We then chose “Alec G” advertised at 6a+. Simon fought hard and eventually asked for tight rope so that he could rest and figure out the moves. Eventually he found a combination of climbing moves that worked and I got to the top. Tim managed to top-rope the route cleanly and I decided not even to try the crux long reach left. We resolved to enter our opinion on the route grade as 6b+ (two grades higher) on UK climbing website.

John and Andrea were on “Lo Spigolo Marisa” a spectacular looking 6a+ up an arete (rock fin). John had to fight past the crux wet section (after rain porous limestone can keep some pockets wet). Andrea fell off following this section.

We climbed “La Scala” 5c+/6a just to the left which proved enjoyable. However on the ascent I noticed a flap of rubber on one shoe in the most crucial area under the big toe. They were worn out!

We retired for lunch. Later I researched where the nearest climbing shop is to buy some new shoes. Unfortunately the nearest shop is in Palermo (1 1/2hrs drive away). I'd brought some soft climbing wall shoes as reserve. I'd see if they would suffice.

Eurocamp Active - Climbing

Monday 3rd June

James from Malta and Manuel from Madrid had flown overnight to join us. They were young, light build and keen (everything we were not). We all went to Anfiteatro Sector near the campsite.

Simon, Tim and I tackled “In Summ Gelungen” a fantastic 6b we'd done 2 years ago. After some superb climbing it finishes through a hole in a roof and you appear in the middle of a field. I was really pleased to have been able to have done this climb again as I was recovering from a major shoulder injury.

Simon had set a personal objective of leading a 6c. He threw himself at a route called “Surprise”. He could not do the route because the moves were too strenuous and blind. We finished on “Rumba” a 6a+ which proved a superb climb because of the large variety of climbing moves and situations on one pitch.

We did attempt to go climbing in the afternoon. We drove 5km to Monte Cofano to climb at one of 2 new sectors in the guide only to find “No Climbing” notices everywhere; posted by the Monte Cofano National Park Authority. Simon resolved to email the guidebook authors who we met.

Tuesday 4th June

We needed to climb on “Never Sleeping Wall” once this holiday. At 90m high and covered in tufas (stalagmites), this was the most spectacular wall in the area. It was a 20 minute drive away just past a large cave with houses covering its base. We did not start well. I failed to do one move on Harissa 5b the warm up climb. Simon fell off! We fared better on Pepperoncini 6a.

We then turned to the longer routes on the left. Simon managed to lead “Silent Sleep” 6a+. I'd failed to lead this 2 years before and only just managed to top rope it.

The last route of the day was “The Long Sleep” a 30m 6b+ which John led (we'd also failed on this 2 years ago). Simon top roped it. I decided just to take photographs.

Thursday 6th June

John Moulding and Andrea recommended the Bunker sector and were returning there. We followed. “Happy Otzis” 5c+ proved to be a nice, steady introduction. We all then did “Leguan” a varied 6a. Simon in his hunt for harder grades spotted “Alligator” 6b and threw himself at that. He had to ask for tight rope at one point before completing the route. That was enough for me. I declined to try the route.

Attracted by accolades in the guide book we tackled “Classic Deluxe” 6a+. There proved to be one power move which took a few attempts to complete. The route was good but not up to its billing. It was getting too hot to climb so we took the 20mins trudge back to the campsite.

Eurocamp Active - Climbing

Friday 7th June

Time for Simon's obsession of getting up a 6c! The plan was to go to Torre Isulidda and use Papas Work 6a as a warm up and to inspect Papa's Project 6a from a top rope. Problem was that the start of Papas work was hard and greasy. Simon struggled, Tim and I rested on the rope.

Simon eventually top roped Papa's Project and declared it “possible” as a lead but only if he remembers the correct sequence of moves. After all the playing about there was only time for one more route as the days were getting hotter and more quickly (and we were getting up later!).

Lo Spigolo Marisa 6a+ on Pilastro Marisa was the spectacular arete John and Andrea did last week. John had struggled and Andrea had fallen off because of a wet hold on the crux. I found a better side hold for the move which solved the problem (and annoyed John as he had not seen it).

Saturday 8th June

Round 2 of the Simon v 6c battle at Torre Isulidda. This time we went up Hot September 5b a very pleasant way to the top so that Simon could put the quickdraws in and practice the moves. This time he led Papas Project 6c without flaws. I floundered on the 1st hard move. However John led the route “on sight” i.e. as seen, without any prior knowledge. A good achievement.

We finished off doing Tower Route 6a in the shelter of the cave. Simon, Tim and I did the walk round Mt Cofano in the late afternoon. We'd got lost the previous year and ended up taking over 4hrs involving fighting through brambles, over fences etc. This time navigation worked and it took 2hrs 22min in pleasant evening temps.

Sunday 9th June

Time to have a go at a route I'd eyed all week.”9 o'clock on the Moon” 6b is a really steep line on Upper Seagull. It had an easy approach pitch below. My attempt failed on the last move. I could not do the crux. Simon did manage it. Worse still we moved onto “Attenzione Soffitto”, purportedly a 6a on good jugs. I could not get up this either. My last day climbing needs to be better....

Eurocamp Active - Climbing

Monday 10th June

Our last climbing day. We started on a climb that Simon had struggled on last year. John led and Andrea followed Retrobolter 6a+ on Sector Pietraia. I had to rest on the rope at the end of a steep layback section. I had not recovered my stamina since my shoulder injury.
I sat out on the route just R Thin Red Line. It was graded 6b+ in the guide but John and Andrea said it was no harder than the one we had just done. I needed success on a good route to finish and chose Brave Old Way 6a on Pineta Sinestra. This proved to be a satisfactory finish.

Local Climbing Facts

A major sport climbing area; probably in the top 10 locations within Europe. Routes are mainly one pitch; however there are some two pitch and multi pitch routes. A small number of trad routes but plenty of untouched rock. Some trad multi pitch up to 10 pitches on Monte Monaco (5km away from the campsite). One deep water soloing venue about 8km away from the campsite.

The rock is generally grey or red limestone; the vast majority being solid and not too sharp The bolting and lower offs are of a higher than average standard. The distances between clips are generally not too challenging.

Nearest climbing equipment store is in Palermo; 70 mins drive away. No equipment hire options. Climbing meeting area on the campsite.

Major international climbing festival centred on the campsite


Climbing is inherently dangerous; you should not rely on any information here for your personal safety.