November 4, 2013

Tuscany Trip - Part 6 - Climbing in Candalla

One thing we really love about living in Europe, is how it can so easily satisfy so many of our interests. Apart from missing family and friends in the states, it has so much to offer in almost every other category. The amazing cultural and historical destinations: cities, castles, museums, exhibits; unbelievable landscapes: mountains, forests, rivers, lakes, oceans, as well as an endless supply of one of our biggest passions, rock climbing. When planning our trips, we try to combine all of those aspects into our destination selection. Naturally, our number one priority is ensuring good climbing is close by.

What is amazing about Europe is that it is so full of good rock, no matter where you decide to travel, you can almost ALWAYS find good climbing nearby. The most difficult part is usually just finding information on the rock the area. Finding good information about climbing areas on the web for all the small, less known areas there are throughout Europe requires quite a bit of research, word of mouth, and even some good old bushwhacking and exploring on your own. Frank has developed a particular knack for this. We usually just go down our never ending list of European places we want to visit, and Frank finds the climbing nearby. 

This time of year, traveling with tour kids and grandparents, we needed somewhere warm. Greece was at the top of our list, but airline tickets were ridiculous, and there happened to be a huge climbing festival right during our window and we weren't particularly thrilled with the thought of the island swarming with loads of other climbers. As tempting as it was to just return to Sardinia, the amazing deals on Ryan Air from Nuremberg to Pisa (59 euros a person) are what swayed us in the end.

Sure enough, Frank had just talked to some locals here in the Frankenjura about the amazing tufas and long, beautiful routes in Tuscany. We had been to Finale Ligure and climbed all over the Ligurain coastline, so it made sense that the neighboring coastline was also filled with very similar climbing. The word was that Candalla was the best in the area, so we situated ourselves in Camaiore, just below the limestone covered peaks nearby.

We did have a bit of rain on this trip, which provided us with perfect rest days and days to go see the cities. On sunny days, we hiked to Candalla, checking out the long and steep, black and white tufa infused limestone cliffs in the Versilian mountains. It was everything I hoped for and more. 

Hiking to Candalla is amazingly beautiful. The trail begins at an ancient water mill, which is fed by a gorgeous and rugged mountain river where people fill giant water jugs for their home. Right next to the mill is a neat little waterfall lapping into a pool which swimmers must frequent on hot summer days as evidence from a rope swing. There are different signs all along the path displaying the areas diverse macroinvertabrates, fish, birds and other flora and fauna. It was a reasonable approach to do with the kids, beautiful setting,  and has awesome climbing. Even with the few rainy days we had, the routes managed to dry up by the time we would leisurely arrive on the sunny days.

Locals were filling bottles from a spout coming directly from the river

Macroinvertabrate sign! In my previous job, I sorted water bugs for a living...
Just after crossing the rugged river lies the base of the cliff. It has a super serene setting with a nice flat base for the kids, pools of water to refresh in, and at the top of climbs, you can see the Liguarian sea in the distance. The entire time we climbed at the area, we only saw one other couple. Pretty unbelievable considering the hundreds of perfect limestone routes there. Only in Europe can such a good crag be empty during the fall with perfect conditions. The only thing we could assume was that there were newer crags than what was listed in our guidebook, and by the look of all the rock in the area I'm sure it was the case. But we were perfectly satisfied with our passe crag.

One interesting feature of this area that we were not expecting was...SCORPIONS! We were hiking around with Cooper one day when he pointed to something on the wall and asked "whats that Mom?" as he gently touched it and it fell to the ground. When I looked down I could not believe it was a scorpion. A little unnerving especially after we started looking around and finding more and more. I mean, the place wasn't "crawling" with them but I did feel the need to look before I sat down on a rock or a log. After a little research we found they are only slightly venomous with a sting much like a bee or wasp. Still, freaked me out enough to hesitate grabbing into deep holds.

I fell in crossing on the slippery rocks, so Cooper decided to join me and test the frigid water.
Awesome tufa warm up we did. "Mano di Alieno". Nice name
Me resting on one of the knuckles

Awesome Water Hourglass
So that's our wrap up of our trip to Tuscany. If you're ever wanting to go but not sure because of the lack of climbing, fear not! We're already missing the long, steep technical routes, and the peaceful quiet setting. Although the climbing of Candalla will never be listed in the top of Europe's long list of famous sport climbing areas, and you probably won't see Chris Sharma or any climbing superstars hanging out there any time soon, it's just perfect for a family wanting to see the nearby historical sights and get in plenty amazing sport climbing. Have fun!

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