Top 5 European Sport Climbing Destinations by Alpine Mountain Guide Olly Allen

Photo by Mike Bean
 
Kalymnos
 
The Greek island of Kalymnos once famous for its sponges has now become a climbing mecca. Excellent bolting and ‘holiday grades’ have ensured it’s enduring popularity. Kalymnos has routes across the grades from mega steep tufa climbing to vertical walls. The climbing sectors face all directions allowing climbing in the sun or shade.
 
Agealis (F7c) would have to rank as one of the most enjoyable routes on the Island. Rastapopolis (F6c) is yet another classic voyage into 3D climbing. You can buy the local guidebook on the island or at good climbing shops in the UK. The island is too hot in the summer months but October to April is ideal.
 
A 70m sport rope and 18 quick-draws will suffice but 80m and 24 quick-draws is better on some of the mega pitches. Self catering accommodation is easy to find below the main climbing areas. There are a few shops selling climbing equipment. You can walk to a lot of the cliffs but to open up the islands full potential hiring a moped is great fun. All the local restaurants sell excellent value meals with lots of seafood on offer. On rest days why not take the short boat ride to Turkey and visit the colourful bazars.
 
Kalymnos - Mike Bean
Photo by Mike Bean

 
Sicily
 
Sicily synonymous with the Italian Mafia has some excellent winter rock climbing venues. San Vito de Capo is one of the best with an amazing spread of quality routes at amenable grades. Some of the best climbing is in the 6a to 6c bracket. It has a great variety of climbing styles from vertical walls to steep tufa in a seaside setting.
 
A 70m sport rope and 14 quick-draws should be enough for all but the longest routes. Self catering accommodation in San Vito is a short drive from most of the cliffs. This is a pretty big place with many shops, supermarkets and restaurants. If you want to be within walking distance there is an excellent camp site below the main sectors. This also has the only climbing shop in the area. The local Italian guidebook is comprehensive but not the easiest to use. The German pictorial “Sicily Rock” is far better.
 
Hiring a car opens up the islands full climbing potential. On rest days you can visit many world famous local archaeological sites. If you have a few spare days Mountain Biking up the highest active volcano in Europe Mount Etna is great fun.
 
Mount Etna - askii
Photo by askii
 

Rodellar
 
Northern Spain has the highest concentration of world class crags anywhere in Europe. Rodellar nestles in an isolated valley below the foot hills of the Pyrenees. The Mascat Gorge cuts through the village forming some impressive limestone cliffs. The route grades are pretty uphill and you need to be operating above F6b to get the best from the area. Most of the climbing is steep and technical, knee bar pads are useful on a lot of the harder routes.
A 70m sport rope and 18 quick-draws will suffice but 8om and 24 quick-draws is better on many of the mega pitches. Coliseum (F8a) is one of the most memorable pitches just over 50m long but with no hard moves just lots of them! Sopas de ajo (7b+) is another classic where knee bar pads help and the crux being the last few moves. The guidebook sold in the village is excellent.
 
Accommodation on the campsite is only available until the end of October. There is an excellent Refuge at the end of the village with cheap dormitories or private rooms. It serves excellent ‘Platos Combinatos’ which is a pick and mix meal available all over Spain. There is a small shop and hotel when entering the village where rooms and chalets are available. The valley is a dead end so you need a car and its best to ship supplies in for the week as its a good hour to a supermarket. Climbing supplies are available in the local shop.
 
Rodellar - Mia & Steve Mestdagh
Photo by Mia & Steve Mestdagh
 

Siurana
 
I first visited Siurana in the early 90’s when development had just begun. Over the past 20 years they have replaced the old gravel road and bolted more than 2000 routes. It has become a mecca for climbers of all grades and offers faces of all angles and aspects. It has a well founded reputation for technical climbing so warm those fingers up!
 
A 70m rope and 14 quick-draws will cover most eventualities. Some of the older sectors are getting a bit polished now but the newer sectors are world class. Memoir du Sepia (F8a) and El Muerte del Sponsor (F7b+) are two of the best on the newer sectors. There is a new (2014) comprehensive local guidebook which is a work of art.
 
Siurana is best enjoyed in the autumn and winter as there aren’t many North facing sectors. There is a good campsite in Siurana village with bungalows to rent. As most people will hire a car in some ways its better staying in the village of Cournudella del Montsant. There is more going on here with a supermarkets, bakeries, cafes and a climbing shop. There is a refuge in Cornudella and plenty of self catering apartment options. Staying here allows easy access to Siurana, Montsant and Margalef. Montsant and Margalef are world class crags in there own right. Both are famous for steep pocket pulling making a nice contrast to Siurana.
 
Siurana - ieta_xantia
Photo by ieta_xantina
 

Gorge du Tarn
 
Nestling in Frances Massif Central 30km from Milliau ‘The Tarn’ is an impressive rift flanked by cliffs on either side. The climbing is on pocketed limestone with some friction. The pitches tend to be long and sustained but there are a few sectors with shorter power routes. It used to have a reputation for some long run outs but recent re-bolting has addressed this.
 
The climbing season is from Spring to early Autumn as it can be cold and wet in winter. There are many varying style routes from the long La Plage Blanche (F7c) to the scary Crash Test (F6c). Some of the pitches here need a long rope or some ingenuity to lower off!
Its best to fly to Nimes, Montpellier or Rodez then hire a car. There are to good campsites at either end of the Gorge but they do close out of season. The revised local guidebook is available at the campsite or the Rockfax has selected routes. La Rozier (12km) is small but has most amenities and a small supermarket.
 
If you get bored of the Tarn then just over the hill are the Gorge de la Jonte and Le Boffi. Both are unsurprisingly world class venues in their own right. On rest days you could Kayak down the river or visit the caves at Aven Armand.
 
Gorge du Tarn - Philip Larson
Photo by Philip Larson
 

Hope you enjoy these venues as much as I have!
 

Olly Allen