Logistics and datesBeata and I flew out from London on Friday 26th June 2015 arriving at Verona airport around 9:20PM. We picked up a pre-booked hire car at the airport and drove north on the A22 toll to Arco, arriving at our campsite around 11PM (this was a problem -- see below!). We flew back Sunday July 5 giving us eight full days to climb (not including rest days).
We both agreed we would not want to do it without the car. We drove to all crags, stashed our gear and stealable equipment and used it extensively on rest days. For €75/each for a cheap car it was a no-brainer for us.
Campsites (and warnings)We had pre-booked at Campeggio Arco for the full duration of our stay (10 days), including having paid €100 as a deposit. Upon arriving we found the gates were closed and locked at 11PM every evening, not to re-open until 8AM. We assumed we'd be able to park outside, pitch and handle everything in the morning but this was not an option. The night security guard was unhelpful, rude and had alcohol on his breath. Personally I was unimpressed by the lack of toilet seats on the men's toilets (sit downs not squatters) but I later discovered the other toilet block did have toilet seats. Otherwise the facilities were very good and clean, although charging by the hour for Wi-Fi was a joke.
Some friends were staying at the ever-so-slightly cheaper Camping Zoo a further minute down the road by car. We spent some time here and both agreed this was the campsite to stay as climbers. Staff were more friendly, the grounds were more relaxed and critically the gates were never locked (great if you want to make a dawn start in summer). Our friends arriving after 11PM and were able to register and pitch without any issues (without pre-booking). This places also includes free Wi-Fi and pitches seemed more shaded and private than Campeggio Arco.
Both of the campsites are a short walk (10-15 minutes) into Arco town centre. A number of crags are within walking distance (particularly some good multi-pitching) but you'd be seriously limiting your options.
WeatherReally hot. Too hot. We experienced a dramatic thunder storm one evening but everything was dry the following morning.
I'd recommend a very airy tent; we shared an Alpkit Kangri (geodesic expedition-style tent) and all ventilation was open without giving up mosquito protection and we were too hot. Not that I'll be going back again this time of year, but if I did I'd take my MSR Hubba Bubba NX and I think I'd be far more comfortable.
The group we were with (and our levels of motivation) meant we were climbing mostly during the day, not always paying good attention to when specific crags were in condition. Big mistake. We saw nobody climb anything hard, perhaps a 38m 7b I tried was the hardest thing I saw anybody look at. Back home I can red-point 7b in a day (admittedly shorter, more bouldery) but here I set off fresh and returned to the ground dehydrated, exhausted and lacking motivation to do anything else. That said, some of these routes had spectacular climbing - the movement, the continuity, the position, everything was spectacular.
The Climbing (and my performance)
|Start of a spectacular 7b at Nago|
My performance was terrible. Two weeks earlier I'd sent two 7c projects in a day but this was in the final week of my "performance phase" (Anderson & Anderson training) and perhaps should have been rested not trying hard stuff in hot weather. I don't believe this to be the whole story - heat was a huge factor and we did not take advantage of climbing after dawn or before sunset, something we've done in the past but were unable to motivate ourselves to do before, perhaps because it was so hot that by this time we'd only managed to be asleep comfortably for a couple of hours. My diet was also poor as I was treating this as a holiday and a climbing trip; in better temperatures I'd still have been able to climb hardish even with a little extra weight but here everything came together.
Those are all of the excuses but at some point I need to face it: grading at Arco is stiff!
|Crux pitch of Olocausto|
Prior to visiting Arco I felt I was a decent enough slab climber, having sent 7a, 7b and even a 7b+ in Kalymnos, but it's clear that slab is a different beast in Arco. While leading the hardest pitch of Olocausto at Placche Zebrate I was repeatedly shut down and had to resort to stepping on bolts to make progress (even with the bolts the moves were still hard and scary!). My feet seemed to slide from the rock; perhaps due to the rock being hot or some lichen on the rock, but most likely because I was not able to make use of the "ruthless friction" the topo advised. My advice would be to work through the grades and get accustomed to the style.
GuidebooksAt my request a friend picked up two guidebooks for us - Arco Rock (single-pitch sport climbing covering a huge area) and Arco Walls (multi-pitch sport climbing also covering a huge area). These were about €35 each, in English and apart from some poor transport directions they served us very well. However, they were massively overkill for an 8-day trip. I saw other people with a much smaller guidebook, presumably a limited "best of Arco" which in hindsight is what we should have picked up as we only climbed at the best crags and beelined for the recommended routes which is what I'd expect this guidebook included. Neither of our two guidebooks covered Via Ferrata but we were able to ask friends for advice on where to go.
On directions in the Arco rock book - the written directions are in some instances exceptionally poor, to the extent that three cars independently got lost while visiting one crag. Additionally the QR code GPS locations are to be taken with a pinch of salt - in one instance an upper and lower car park had been swapped, and another the GPS location in no way matched up with the parking areas in the text description (but did manage to take us up some seriously sketchy roads).
Non-climbing daysGenerally these are rest days but with all of the Via Ferrata around these are not always such a great rest.
|Dolomites from Sella pass|
|Looking south towards Lake Garda from Castello di Arco|
One afternoon we drove to Lago di Garda, parked the car for €1/hour and went and sat by the lake. Great for relaxing although somewhat busy while hot.
- Everything shuts around mid-day until 2-3.30PM (depending on the shop) for siesta; most shops then close at 9PM
- There's a big supermarket a short drive from the campsites, as well as smaller shops in Arco centre
- Ice creams are exceptionally tasty and good value at €1 per scoop (although there was some debate whether a two-scooper at €2 was worse value for money than two one-scoopers at €1 each ;)
- La Sportiva shop offers some decent discounts on shoes (think Sterling prices except in Euros)
- Best pizza available near Arco is the buy-a-slice in one corner of Arco town square (wait until they bring a fresh one out and immediately order a few slices, or get a big group and order what you want)
- Pizza restaurant between the two campsites is worth a visit also