Sicily - Sept. 25th to Oct. 5th

Flying from Gatwick to Palermo the four of us picked up the hire car & drove the 50 miles to the camping village of El Bahira (website) near San Vito Lo Capo (map)

The camping village is situated between the sea and below the edge of a plateau which boasts the steep cliff which the climbs are on.

The sea along here is mostly inaccessible due to deep defences of fiercely sharp jagged limestone rocks. Even in the couple of places where it was accessible the large slippery boulders under the water made the best method of entering & leaving the water somewhat seal-like! To cap it all in places the water thronged with small red jellyfish that packed a seriously nasty sting...

The cliffs were easily accessible from the campsite, just a 2 minute walk to the nearest climbs! They seemed to stretch for miles so there is plenty to go at (500+ routes) and there is scope for many more new routes.

The camping village is a collection of rectangular ‘boxes’ pretending to be ‘chalets’ with spaces  nearby for camping & caravanettes. Our ‘chalet’ had a double bed in one small room with another small room just managing to squeeze in two narrow bunks. It’s saving graces were an excellent shower and a long cushioned seat around the kitchen table which we used as our 4th bunk. There was also a small toilet. We did cook one evening meal but the lack of space & utensils dissuaded us from a a second attempt – just too much hassle. The toilet block was large, clean & nearby, so we rarely used the one in the chalet.

A large open-air (salty) swimming pool was also nearby and since the sea was so inaccessible we took up residence for a siesta on the sun-loungers every day. Coffee & ice-cream could be had in the poolside café. The site also had a restaurant & a pizza restaurant which we eat at quite a bit. A small food shop was also useful at times.

The site is less than 2 miles from San Vito Lo Capo (website) which we visited a couple of times to stock up on food and to eat in the evening. It looks like there is a proper sandy beach there too without the vicious defences of the campsite shoreline!

In late September it is still very hot and we soon got into the routine of an early start on the westward facing crag, aiming to clip our first bolts soon after 8am. The sun hit the crag about lunchtime and it was too hot to climb in the full afternoon sun.  Accordingly we retreated to our chalet for lunch followed by a siesta at the pool (plus ice cream!) and perhaps a dip.  On some days we returned to the crag for a route or two as the sun set and the creamy limestone turned all shades of orange.

The route choice was huge although easier grades were a bit sparse.  From French grade 5c upwards there were hundreds of limestone puzzles to solve.  Some some were delicate and balancey on razor-sharp cheesegrater rock, others strenuous jugfests on overhanging walls.  Although there were numerous climbers from all over the world, we never really had to wait for a route. 

A further 2 members of our group arrived  a few days later and very handily were able to pitch their tents almost next door to us, making it easy to organise our climbing and a very sociable affair!

Hankering after some more adventurous climbing on the Wednesday four of our number decided to drive (15 minutes) around the point to climb a long multi-pitch route on the east side of Monte Monaco:

The Via Fratelli Titt was billed as an 18 pitch 645m route, with bolts on the lower half.  Rick and Stu led off (on a variation of the first couple of pitches!) and Helen and Dom followed from the start point, just as the sun peeped over the eastern horizon.  It got hotter and sweatier as we worked our way up the face on pitches that were 4c to 5c, having to push through some prickly vegetation on the way.  Rick and Stu did some good route finding and we topped out mid afternoon, happy, sweaty and dehydrated.  It was a long dry walk back to the car and we decided  that single pitch routes were preferable from then on.  (~Dom)

Overall a good destination for a week or so of bolt-clipping on steep unpolished limestone with lots of sun & ice-cream thrown in!

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