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.
Tanarello, Grotte Cornarea, Luna Park
Pian del Bosco
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:
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.
Along the way…
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.
70m and 18 quickdraws
Type of rock
Limestone, Quartzite, conglomerate
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.
Rifugio Quarzina, Quarzina
- Rifugio Chionea, Chionea pass
- Smaller grocery shops in Ormea and Garessio
- A few local shops with typical local products in Ponte di Nava and Ormea (town square)
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.