Climbing in Val Tanaro, Italy

 

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The weather promised a week of sunshine in the southern side of the Alps. So we packed up, left early, and headed for the border regions in Liguria and Piemonte, in Italy. There were many questions in our heads. Was it too early? Is there still snow? Will there be any accommodations opened? What will the infrastructure be like? The reason was, the climbing areas we were interested in were all around 1000 hm high, and usually perfect for the summer. No risk no fun. So we left. With nothing organized, just lots of unanswered questions. 9 hours later, we found ourselves having our breakfast with a sunny view.

Val Tanaro, behind the shadows of the Ligurian coast

Val Tanaro  (Tanaro valley) marks a quiet valley that stretches between the Piemonte and Ligurian borders. About 55 km behind the Ligurian coast of Imperia, (40km away from Cuneo), the valley is reached within an hours drive.  Ormea is the center of the valley that caters to your needs. It is a city built in a curious shape of a heart, with small passages and some historic buildings found in between. The Sanctuary of ValSorda has a nice plateau with views to the opposite snow laid mountains Monte Berlino. The Saraceni tower and housing built in caves can be seen in the valley. Fortresses around Colle di Nava is the most prominent in the area. The landscape was still wintery. Leaves found more on the floor than it was on the trees. 20 km further off to the coast, you would never believe that winter existed.

We checked out many of the climbing sectors in the valley and found a few worth mentioning.  All those around Tanarello classico, Pian del Bosco, Bagnasco and Pian Bernardo. These sectors are either good for very hot days or cloudy cooler days. So there’s something for the different seasons, just not in winter when snow is plentiful. You can find three different kinds of rock here. Each lies just a few kilometres away from each other. The climbing is technical, physical, some bouldery and some overhanging. Some of these sectors are situated in a remote area away from paved roads. You won’t need a 4×4, but you shouldn’t  be particular about your car, bumping off an adventurous (off-road) dirt road for a few km. If you are, you are probably better off climbing else where or walking the access. Avoid these roads too, after or during warnings of storms and heavy rain, due to dangerous rock falls. I enjoyed the climbing in Tanerello most, so much that I failed to take a single picture. Mia culpa.

Nevertheless enjoy a few impressions of the region. More details of the area can be found below.

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Tanarello, Grotte Cornarea, Luna Park

Valle Tannaro

Next to the Madonna statue is a water source that gushes into the streams of the Val Tannaro

 

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Val Tanaro

From the top, the dirt road looks really easy to drive. But not after heavy rainfalls, or when the road turns into a stream. For two days, we cleared the road from branches, trees and huge rock falls and walked the way. On the third, the way was cleared for our car and we made it to the various sectors in less than 15 mins!

 

Val Tanaro

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Perfect for the summer. Compact limestone that reminds you of Altmultal, but with better holds and a second pitch at the top, climbable as one.

 

valle Tanaro

A swim in one of these crystal clear waters after a hot day was inviting. If only the temperatures didn’t say  just 9°C. brrrr…

 

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Cherry blossoms and views looking at Monte Berlino

 

Val Tanaro

Storm and strong winds that make huge trees break off like little match sticks. Earlier March this year, one storm devastated many of the forest trees and roofs of those staying in the valley

 

Val Tanaro

Grotte Cornarea

 

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A huge stalagtite in Grotte Cornarea

Pian del Bosco

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Many huge, hollow and ancient chestnut trees lays up in the plains of the hamlet Aimoni

 

Val Tanaro

Quartzite. At the first sight, I thought I’d turn back to the car. But after climbing a few routes, I suddenly found the beauty. East facing and cool. Take the second path that goes ascending until you reach a bend, from the hollow chestnut tree, descend in 2 mins to the crag. Do not take the first path that descends. Something that caused some confusion from in the guidebook.

 

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I ask myself what happens when a strong wind blows … Domino effect? Typical houses in one of the hamlets

 

 

Pian Bernardo

This impressive massive lies high over the hamlet Pian Bernardo. It takes a 40 minute walk before reaching the foot of these walls. However, the road to the hamlet is an uncomfortable, bumpy dirt road. You can usually park right at the end of the road, after the hamlet. At the time we came here, the last part of the road was not accessible after the heavy rainfalls and storm, so parking was also a problem. Even just for a car. Speaking to the one of the locals, he allowed us to park in front of his garage. He was so super friendly.  Pian Bernardo is good for the summer time. The whole massive is north facing. 90 routes and more bolted from the beginning to the end offers climbing in a cool ambience and routes in the upper grades starting from 7a. Most of the routes however, moves around the 8th French grade. Camping at the car park is prohibited! We decided to leave this crag for the next time in warmer days. Nevertheless, enjoy the view:

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This was by far the deepest cave we discovered. It brings you to differant halls inside. However, apart from absolute darkness, there wasn’t much to see. Not, when you have only the light that comes from your smartphone :-O

 

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The Ligurian coast right behind, far, far away. Do you see the cruise liner at the horizon?

 

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Trappa lies below on the left

 

Val Tanaro

8b+. Wet. Better. in. Sommer. And. when. we. feel .much. stronger. One. Day

 

Val Tanaro

creepy…

 

Val Tanaro

The way to the next hall

 

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Grey limestone, some holes, some tufas

 

Val Tanaro

Upper sector in Pian Bernardo

 

Bagnasco

Bagnasco. The climbing site lays right next to the main road. The rock is conglomerate and has many positive holds. Through it’s sunny, and has an easy access, I had a problem with the noise pollution, the site being just next to the main road.

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Bagnasco

 

Along the way…

Val Tanaro

Cherry blossoms everywhere

 

Garessio

Chieseta Santa Catarina in Garessio

 

Piemonte

Spotted the remains of this bridge on the way to Asti

 

Val Tanaro

When the sun sets on one side, the moon rises on the other. The warm pink, and orange glows of the sunset makes the rising moon a pretty sight.

 

Rio Tanaro

Rio Tanaro

 

Logistic facts and information:

The Tanaro Valley is the southernmost part of the Cuneo province. It is well possible to combine your climbing days with the areas in Val Pennavaire and Toraino. During our journey to this region last year, we had to make a choice since the valley is not easily accessible from the Vallee de Merveillees. If you like to be a little further off from the crowds, you don’t shy dirt roads, and you have a soft heart for lines, hills, alpine culture and nature that is still somewhat untouched, then this is for you. Take a little time to think about your accommodations as the infrastructure is not always perfect, especially in off seasons.

Guidebook

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Andonno e Cuneese, from Versante Sud,
1st Edition 2009 #ISBN: 978-88-87890-89-1

Gear

70m and 18 quickdraws

Type of rock

Limestone, Quartzite, conglomerate

Accomodation

If you are an Off season traveller, your choice of accommodation is limited to the few B&B which is opened throughout the year. During the weekdays, many of the shops are closed. This applies too to the restaurants and pizzerias there. You might find yourself driving from town to town which felt more like a ghost town in the weekdays, in the off season. Weekends are lively. Everybody is out and about, the traffic is heavy from those fleeing from the city, heading for the coast.

  • Alberghi, Pensions, Bed & Breakfast in and around Ormea
  • Agriturismo Mongioie, in Viozene  ph. +39 0174390101

  • Camp grounds:
    • Camping Riserva La Regina in Ormea
    • Camping La Fattoria in Colle di Nava (small camp ground. It was closed when we were there. No further info possible, website offline)
  • Rifugi:  While they are not very central, you can find them each with a fantastic view over the valley, always accessible with a car, but not always on a paved road. You can eat there, and have a shower too.

Supermarkets

  • Smaller grocery shops in Ormea and Garessio
  • A few local shops with typical local products in Ponte di Nava and Ormea (town square)

Water:

The valley is full of water sources. Best ones found in Cantarana and Ponte di Nava or Pian Bernado. Check out the queue when the locals go there to fill up their water bottles.

2 Comments

  1. Hello,
    i like your article very much. We have been hiking and camping arround rio tanaro and tanarello the last two years in summer, but we never went climbing there. This year we would like to climb there and hike further arround. Which climbing equiment is necessary and what skills a needed?
    Do you think the guidebook you used is allright to find hiking tours aswell?
    Thanks a lot for answering.
    greetings jan

    1. Hi Jan,
      glad to hear that you enjoyed reading about our trip to Val Tanaro! We sports climb most of the time, and recommend a set of 18 Quickdraws and 70m rope to feel comfortable at all sectors. I do recommend that you have a peep into the quide book to see if there are a few sectors with the level you feel comfortable with. If not, it would be best if you are traveling with an experienced partner. I loved Casterino which lays just by the lake with quite a number of pleasent climbs in summer. There are no explicit information on hiking tours in the climbing guide book. The best way to check for hiking trials is a local detailed hiking map. Have a great trip! Hope to have help you a little :-)
      Cheers,
      ^^Chris

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