Friday, July 8, 2011

Arco, Italy. Oh... and did I mention Ferrari Spumante? Italy - Installment 2 of 3.

After two glorious weeks in Castelbianco, throwing ourselves at steep sport climbs with abandon, it was time to move on. Some projects were put to bed, others, like on all good climbing trips, must be revisited in the future for the redpoint. We piled ourselves and our gear into our teeny Chevy Spark rental, we called her Sparky, and began driving across Northern Italy to Arco. We stopped periodically at gas stations along the Autostrade (freeway), not to fill up on gas, but for another necessary, aromatic and delicious type of refuelling... coffee! Each gas station was equipped with an espresso bar where you could grab a damn tasty cappucinno, macchiato or espresso for a few euros. No paper cups at these joints, just spotless white porcelain to hold the deliciously fresh concoction for the few moments between production and consumption.

Staying caffeinated and alert was important because driving in Italy is slightly terrifying. Even with Sparky's pedal to the metal 140 km/h was about our max on flats or downhills, but other drivers would make us feel like we were standing still as car after car passed us going 200 km/h. The road traveled through more frequent tunnels than I have ever experienced, meaning our eyes were constantly adjusting to light and dark.

We finally arrived in Arco late at night, and an enthusiastic and friendly young Italian man named Mateo met us and escorted us up one of the steepest hills I have ever driven. Our destination was a four-apartment villa situated on a hill above Arco and Lago (Lake) Garda. The villa was surrounded by vines which Mateo explained were of the Ferrari Spumante variety, a specialty of the Trento region. I could hardly believe our luck... not only were we staying in a comfy villa, far from the tourist-ridden streets of Arco, but we were surrounded by a grapes with the world's most fun-to-say name. We took advantage of our upscale accommodation, and our friend Dylan Taylor, an American expat photographer and mountain guide living in Chamonix joined us for the week.
The villa and of course, the Ferrari Spumante. Dylan Taylor photo.

Is this really us? With our afternoon antipasti and wine you could almost mistake us for 'normal' people on a Euro-holiday. Dylan Taylor photo.

But "normal" people probably don't buy the 1 Euro bottle of wine, just to see what happens...
Dylan Taylor photo.

"Maybe if I let it breathe a bit it will become drinkable..." - rest assured that bottle was NOT poured down the drain. Dylan Taylor photo.

Oh yeah, I forgot, there was some climbing done on our rest days from eating, drinking wine and lounging in our private vinyard. Oh yeah, and then there was swimming in the numerous lakes in the surrounding countryside. Some of the climbing we did in Arco was actually really good. And just being somewhere with so much climbing history was fun. Since 1987 Arco has hosted the Rock Master climbing comp, and a few minutes walk from downtown Arco is the giant artifical wall where this competition is held. The town is surrounded by single and multipitch climbing, including up to 12 pitch climbs on Mt. Colodri, which is literally a 5 minute walk from your morning cappuccino or afternoon gelato. We climbed Zanzara, a fantastic 12 pitch 7a+ on Mt. Colodri. A variety of climbing styles, sustained and technical pitches and fairly minimal polishing made this one of the most classic and memorable climbs of our entire Italy trip. Even the descent is classic, a via ferrata popular with tourists winds its way down from the summit ridge, which has both a castle and a giant lit-up cross, along steep ledges back to town.

Climbing on Zanzara. Dylan Taylor photos.

Looking down on Arco from partway up Mt. Colodri. Dylan Taylor photo.

The single-pitch climbing in Arco was also really good, but much of it was on sunny walls and while we were there temperatures were spiking above 30 C. The popular and stacked crag Massone was also the most polished rock I have ever climbed, making it difficult to relax and enjoy the movement on the gently overhanging flow features. We did do some amazing pitches, and if I found myself back in Arco I'd hope for some cooler temps to have a few more burns on the amazing 7c tufa climb called Abissi.

After just over a week in Arco it was time to move on up and out of the heat. Next installment: Dolomites!