Five must see crags at Arco, the birthplace of sport climbing as we know it
Massone, Nago, Belvedere, Spiaggia delle Lucertole and Calvario: five crags you must visit to savour the best sport climbing around Arco and Lake Garda. This is the first article in a series made with Vibram, to celebrate climbing yesterday, today and tomorrow as part of its 'Learn to Climb with Vibram' project.
Ever since the early 1980s the small town of Arco in northern Italy has been one of the undisputed centers of sport climbing, a driving force in Italy, Europe and the world. In those early years the likes of Roberto Bassi, Luisa Iovane, Heinz Mariacher, Bruno Pederiva and Maurizio Zanolla alias Manolo were among the very first to explore not only the infinite possibilities of the vertical playgrounds in the Sarca Valley, but above all to experiment with and shape the evolution of what was going to become sport climbing.
The smooth limestone cliffs rapidly became one of the favorite holiday destinations for climbers from all over Europe, and although the sport has transformed radically since those days 40 years ago, and even though now there are literally hundreds of crags and thousands of sport climbs in the area, some things have remained unchanged. Such as the importance of this small village on the world’s climbing stage, and the extraordinary beauty of its crags wedged between the green olive trees and blue Lake Garda.
Here is a brief overview of five crags that you need to have climbed in at least once, produced as part of the "Learn to Climb with Vibram" project dedicated to the world of rock climbing this summer.
The name says it all. The beautiful Belvedere cliff is located a few kilometers from Arco, where the wonderful first vista onto Lake Garda and the hundreds of sails takes your breath away every time. The view is unique and the photos taken here continue to adorn the covers of climbing guidebooks and magazines worldwide. With more than 50 climbs the crag is split into two sectors, and while the lower sector slabs with their close bolts are ideal for beginners, in the upper sector the wall becomes steeper and the climbs longer, with difficulties peaking 7c.
Where: At the village Nago, leave the car in the parking lot next to the roundabout and follow the obvious path to reach the cliff in 10 minutes on foot.
When: south facing, ideal in spring and autumn.
Located a stone’s throw from the center of Arco and nestled among the olive trees in the valley that leads steeply up to Làghel, Calvario is another of Arco's historic crags. After having fallen into oblivion for years, this beautiful sheet of compact limestone is currently enjoying a revival thanks to the old lines being rebolted and some easier routes being added on the left. In 1987 the Italian trials were held on Ali di Pollo in order to qualify for the 1987 Rock Master, won a few days later by Lynn Hill and Stefan Glowacz. But that's another story ...
Where: From Arco follow the road up towards the castle and Làghel. At the castle parking lot the road forks and, as it continues right, becomes a one-way street. Leave the car here and walk uphill along the cobblestones to reach the crag in less than 5 minutes.
When: east facing, it receives the shade in the afternoon. Ideal in spring and autumn.
Since the 1980s Massone, or Policromuro as it is officially called, has been the absolute reference point for all climbers, from beginners to families to the very best in the world. Incredibly, with its three distinct sectors it really does offer something for everyone, boasting 150 routes ranging from 4a to 9b, on all angles from smooth slabs to steep overhangs. Yes, some routes are fairly polished, but located among the enchanting olive groves and just a stone's throw from the center of Arco, Massone remains the heart and soul of Arco’s splendid sport climbing.
Where: There is limited parking below the crag, so it is highly recommended to walk up or cycle from Massone (10 minutes) or Arco (20 minutes)
When: east facing, it receives the shade in the afternoon. Ideal in spring and autumn, it is also possible to climb on summer afternoons when the Ora wind blows
The long sheet of compact limestone above the town of Nago is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and interesting cliffs in the Sarca Valley. Officially called Segrom but referred to more simply as Nago, in addition to its splendid view onto the lake it hosts 120 climbs from 4b to 9a. All are beautiful, most are long and technical; stamina for the small crimps, and technique for the Verdon-like shallow pockets and runnels, are key to success. The lower sector is suitable for families, and in recent years some short but very intense lines have been established on the boulders at bottom of the crag, catapulted the difficulties into the 21st century.
Where: Enter Nago at the roundabout (located next the petrol station). Follow signs for Monte Baldo and then park below the crag (signposted: Arrampicata). From here, continue up the obvious path to the cliff (10 minutes).
When: The crag faces south. Climbing is possible all year round, but the best times of year spring and autumn. Climbing is possible on windless days in winter, and windy afternoons in summer.
Spiaggia delle Lucertole
Located directly above Lake Garda, the Lizard’s Beach is one of the historic crags in Italy, where sport climbing in Italy was invented. At the start of the 1980s Roberto Bassi, Heinz Mariacher, Luisa Iovane and Manolo established a series of routes that are considered true milestones and testament the art of slab climbing. The ethics back then imposed run-out bolts, long sections of hard obligatory climbing and no checking out the moves on toprope. Nowadays these lines on perfect limestone have been rebolted to more modern standards, but climbs like Luisa violenta, Non seguitemi and La signora degli appigli remain timeless classics. And don't be fooled: even if 7a may sound like a walk in the park, these routes are anything but trivial!
Where: From Arco reach Torbole and continue south along the lake towards Verona. Immediately after the second tunnel, park on the right, or slightly further on on the left. Limited parking available. Warning: don’t leave anything in your car.
When: The crag faces south. Exposed to the strong Ora wind, it is often possible to climb here on windy afternoons in summer.