I don’t remember how I discovered this climbing destination. When I was preparing for a year long climbing trip through Europe in early 2020 this was going to be my first destination. A year later I made it there, what a great find!
Finale Ligure was once a very popular and well known destination. Nowadays hardly anyone I speak to has heard of it. It might have to do with that there are hardly any 9’s out here, so no well known climber visits this area. However there are close to 5000 routes in this region so it can accomodate a lot of climbers.
Originally all climbing was inland from the town of Finale Ligure, and that’s still where you find the most routes. But more recently the valley inland from Albenga has been developed, called Val Pennavaire. Years ago someone made a guide called Oltre Finale, outside Finale, with climbs in multiple valleys a bit further away from Finale. Nowadays people think that there is an area called Oltre Finale, but there is no such place.
By accident I ended up staying very close to Val Pennavaire, a valley with 1800 routes in all grades. A very happy accident I say. Most crags here are easy to reach and the quality of the rock is amazing, not one climb is really polished. I did most climbing here but it was only 45 minutes to 1 hour to reach most of the crags of Finale. So I’ve also enjoyed a variety of crags on the Finale side.
Traveling to FINALE LIGURE
Finale can be reached fairly easily. Closest airports are in Albenga and Genoa and a train connection runs along the coast. Also parallel to the coast is the toll road between the French border and Genoa.
From what I’ve seen most people use cars to get to the crags. However, inspired by Kalymnos, I think it can be just as useful to rent a scooter instead (if you’re in need of renting). The one road that connects all the towns is always full. The maximum speed on most roads is 50 km/h. So it can even be that you’re faster on a scooter. Besides that also many parking areas around the crags are small, on busy days it might be way easier to park a scooter instead of a car.
Where to stay
This area breathes outdoor sports and tourism, so all types of accomodations can be found. When choosing where you are going to stay it’s best to choose if you mostly want to climb around Finale Ligure or if you mostly want to climb in Val Pennavaire. Finale has the most climbing routes but on the other hand it is very popular so it’s more busy and probably prices might be higher in that area. Val Pennavaire is less known but has a lot of diversity, you’ll find mostly locals climbing here and on average quieter crags.
I stayed on campground Bella Vista, only 15 minutes away from the first crags in Val Pennavaire and it only took me 30 minutes to get to the first crags on the Finale side.
There is a wide variety of guides available for this region. I ended up buying the ROC Pennavaire guide for Val Pennavaire and the Finale climbing by Marco Tomassini. I bought the Finale guide from the writer himself in one of the shops in Finalborgo. The town has about 5 different climbing shops, I have no idea if one is better than the other. The old town center is a great place to stop for a visit, it breathes outdoor sports. The guide for Val Pennavaire I bought from the CPR shop in Cisano.
Both guides aren’t the best I’ve ever seen, but they do have the most important information in there. The Finale guide can be bought in 3 different languages, Italian, English, German, so pay attention that you buy the right one for you. The guide contains 3000 routes spread over 192 crags containing single and multi-pitch routes. The Pennavaire guide is written in Italian and English. It has 1800 routes, mostly single pitch, spread over 47 crags.
There is so much climbing on so many different crags, so it’s always possible to find something you like. Before I arrived I read on a website that the climbs in Finale are very polished, but in 99% of the routes that’s not the case at all. Even when it is a bit polished I never had a problem with slipping.
I’ve enjoyed climbing in both Val Pennavaire and Finale Ligure. If you would have me choose I’d probably go for Val Pennavaire. I liked the diversity of rock and style of climbing and the bolting. I didn’t really encounter any polished rock. However since my maximum grade is around 6a I explored all the crags that suit me in 7 to 10 climbing days. Also keep in mind that climbing on the crags on the other side of the river is not allowed due to nesting by birds of prey.
The amount of crags in Finale is so large that you could last a month climbing at different crags and probably you still haven’t seen it all. There are so many options that it might be hard to choose. The historic crags from the 70’s are most likely to be polished and the grades are very stiff there, but they offer some great lines and views. The newer crags have a friendlier grading but are sometimes overgrown. Some crags have very friendly bolting while others can be very scary. There is a lot of this information in the guide, but sometimes you’ll find out once you’re there.
There is one via ferrata in this area, if I’m informed correctly. In many places you’ll find these very touristic via ferratas, this isn’t one of those. This one is a climb to the top of a mountain, it has vertical portions but you’ll also find portions where you’re just hiking. The ferrata isn’t very difficult, but I did need the full 5 hours for the climb and descent. I had a great time on this via ferrata, it offers great views of the area and if the weather is good you’re able to see the sea in the upper part of the climb. Some portions of the climb are very exposed, in these places the wind was sometimes making things a bit more difficult.
On average I think most climbs are about 15 meters high. However, there are climbs that are 35 to 40 meters. With a 70 m rope you’ll be able to climb almost everything in Finale and Pennavaire. Anchors vary sometimes per route. I’ve seen clipping carabiners, screwing carabiners, rings, two separate bolts with each a maillon rapide and much more. Bolting here is mostly done with glued bolts. 12 quickdraws will get you to the anchor in most climbs.
From the guides it seems that all multi pitches can be climbed with a 80 m rope and most only need a 70 m rope. There is never talk of using any nuts or cams in the climbs however slings are sometimes mentioned to use when the bolting is very spaced out and sometimes there is mention of belaying on a tree.
When in need of any missing gear or needing to rent something I’m assuming that one of the many shops in Finalborgo will be able to supply that. I’ve had my shoes resoled in the CPR shop in Cisano, they don’t do it themselves but send it to a very decent resoler. They needed about two weeks to have the job done.
This area has very active climbers year round. Posting in the Italian Facebook group helped me to find a partner. However most people in that group only speak Italian, I was very lucky that someone replied who is a fluent English speaker. Another way to find partners is to go to one of the many bars where climbers meet before and after climbing.
For Val Pennavaire it’s the Bar Ristorante Neva where the climbers meet. But asking in the CPR shop might also be a wise idea. On one of my climbing days over in Finale Ligure we started and ended the day at Bar La Scaletta in Orco. Also just strolling around in Finalborgo at the end of a climbing day will be a sure bet that you meet other climbers.
What else to do
Because of the unique landscape of this area there is a sharp distinction between coastal tourism and the outdoor sport world. A thin line along the coast is very busy and full with shops and restaurants. As soon as you are a few kilometers away from the coast you’ll find yourself in a quiet mountainous landscape. Here you can enjoy long hikes or mountain bike rides.
Close to Pietra Ligure is an old sandstone quarry where some dry tooling has been developed. I’ve not done it myself, nor do I have any experience with it. I only noticed it when I came by there during a hike. Last thing that probably is also quite popular in this area is watersports. With a beautiful blue sea I’m sure that during the summertime you can enjoy a range of fun things in or on the water.
- Campground – http://www.campingbellavista.nl/
- CPR shop – http://cprfreesport.com/
- Via ferrata – https://www.ferrate365.it/en/vie-ferrate/ferrata-artisti-bric-agnellino/
- Italian Facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/voglio.arrampicare
- Bar Ristorante Neva – https://goo.gl/maps/uppkR5NBeuvMYnZLA
- Bar La Scaletta – https://www.facebook.com/Bar-la-scaletta-Feglino-508147136019719/