Employing the sheep technique we decided on Sicily for this years sun rock trip, a new place for all 12 of us. Managing to make the trip to Stansted as complex as possible we all got the plane (just), picked up hire cars at Palermo and drove to our base San Vito Lo Capo. Motorways and wiggly roads led us to the 3 apartments that Tracy has booked over t'interweb.
Our base was well chosen as there is a Stanage sized limestone edge about a mile away and a huge cliff in hobbling distance, visible from the rooftop terrace. Back at Palermo (about an hour and a half away) there is a collection of single pitch crags and multi pitch monsters. In between many areas offering more adventurous opportunities as well as some hard bolted lines. In short, tons of rock, sport and trad, much of it still being developed, at all grades and a variety of styles of climbing – slabs, crack, corners, caves and overhangs.
Andrew had hired a tiny car and set off in various directions driving about checking out the salt pans, some local villages, a couple of walks in the national parks and a few encounters with some fences, didn't put him off though! A cake trip with Paula, Tracy and Jules to Palermo provided the other distraction.
We made a good use of the local edge climbing at either end (encountering bees at one end and snakes at the other) with tiny walk-ins and a great collection of routes to head for. Indeed we spent quite a few days here, just in different areas and were never crowded out by other people. Inevitably there were German teams and a few other Brits.
The trip was fairly incident-packed, starting with Pete E's encounter with a bees' nest – which turned out to be more worrying with a few stings the price to pay. Pete and Tracy bailed off the multi-pitch route in Palermo, which was fine until the rope got stuck and Pete had to prussic 30m back up the rope, and it got dark – and no head torches. For Jules and me waiting at the car watching the shenanigans it was all a bit concerning. A handy hint from Pete is that your camera works as a backup torch!
Then it all got a tad more serious with yours truly having to jump off a route whilst down climbing and encountering a very loose huge flake. Bruised heel, thumb and a cut finger put paid to our attempt on the trad multi-pitch on Pizzo Monaco – visible from the apartments – that two teams had done the day before (start uphill from the bedsteads!). Peri, Pete, Simon and Carmen had enjoyed their day
…nice route scary abseil, felt quite lonely up there in deepening twilight after everyone else had gone down waiting for the rope to come free, could hear nightjars calling on the opposite cliff and thought of Andrew Peri
Guidebook description left much to be desired, especially pitch lengths.
Which perhaps we should have taken some notice of! After hobbling back – we found Steve V on all fours in agony from a pulled back. Not a great day.
Steve spent the rest of the week working his way through the pharmacy and dragging Paula around the Drs and hospitals but never recovered enough to be able to get back on rock. I was much luckier, with the tiny walk-ins I could still manage to climb but not walk far so the local crags were ideal.
I never ventured to the single and short multi-pitch venue in Palermo, but those that did seemed to agree the grades were stiffer but with some good routes, and one designed with Simon in mind
Clessidre a 3 pitch 5b,5b,5b . Pitch 2 was hard 5c and superb, best pitch of the holiday, winding a way through improbably steep terrain. Pitch 3 was about 5b for one move, and involved climbing up through a hole in the cliff and emerging from the top for a Peak Scar-style finish up a floral grassy ramp.
The other highlights of the holiday seem to invove a large amount of ice cream -
which was rather good, though the eating out possibilities were very limited being a bit early in the season and so many of us. I think smaller parties could have foraged better in the little local cafes.
The return journey was made loads more interesting by the roadworks on the M11 – meaning people arriving back in York at 6am – not great.
I think I echo most peoples views that it was a fantastic venue with some really high quality, non polished routes, well worth seeking out and some great trad to have a go at. It's not as cheap as the Costas (flight around 140 each, car hire similar and apartments quite pricey – but there are cheaper places if you can find them locally) but definitely a different, less busy, less polished destination – as we only only went to one corner of the island so plenty more to explore with all the culture and ruins there as well.