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Simplify our lives, meet new friends, climb new crags. Go Goose Go.

Finale Ligure

Stefano and Laura had raved so much about this place that we decided to check it out for ourselves... We left Zandobbio around 10am and arrived in Finale close to 2pm. Since it stays light until 9:30pm, we figured that we could do some afternoon climbing before the day was out. We headed to Bric Scimmarco, one of Stefano's recommendations. The hike in took a half an hour and was a little tough to find; we got in three climbs, which at this point was quite enough for an afternoon. Once again, we were presented with slippery limestone with tricky reads. The length and abundance of climbs was promising.

Later that day, we set off for camping.  We found the wild camping pretty quickly, as the signs to the Monte Cucco climbing were plentiful. Monte Cucco is a great free campsite with one squat toilet and running water for dishes. The tent sites are much more private and enjoyable but we found a more secluded spot after our first night that we continued to use...until the one night when a couple of Italians put there tent up within 5 feet of our site when there were tons of better tent sites in the area...It is almost as if other campers are magnets for Italian campers. Where we try to find the most secluded area, they seem to be as close to another campsite for safety. WTF?

Finale is a huge limestone area right off the coast; it is part of the Italian riviera, as it is situated right along the Mediterranean. There are tons of areas, each with many climbs. The only issue that we had with Finale besides the greasy and hard to read routes, were the temps. How do they do it? Climbing in the summer is miserable, yet there are always peeps out there.

Finale Ligure has a lot more to offer than climbing. Being on the Meditteranean coast, people from all over Northern Italy come to vacation there. We truly enjoyed both the town of Finalborgo and the coast, during our rest days and middays. Gelato and pizza were plentiful and thoroughly enjoyed.  Internet was always a challenge but Finalborgo ended up serving us well; it just took a lot of asking and creativity.  Also, a little shoutout to the Rockstore. They did a fabulous and quick job on resoling three pairs of our shoes. Thank you so much!

Though the heat was practically unbearable, we did have a couple of favorite areas...Superpanza is fantastic and has a ton of multi-pitches that look phenomenal. We never got to do a multi-pitch while there though; the ones we saw were all a bit too hard and it was a bit too hot. We wanted to do the classic Superpanza but after asking some locals, they advised against it, claiming that the bolts were just too old. I desperately wanted to do my first multi-pitch but alas, I will have to wait. on the higher sector to the right, we found a cave with overhanging, powerful routes that fit Steve just right...me, not so much, but there were vertical slabs to the left that suited me just fine. Here, Steve sent Viaggo nel Futuro, a 7c+/8a on his second go, not bad... Le Manie was another amazing sector. A little trickier to find but with short, stout, bouldery routes. Museo dell'uomo, a classic 7b, turned out to be one of Steve's favorites thus far. The bouldery, powerful moves served him just the right amount of challenge that he could muster on the 31°C day. He also tried the 8a near to the 7b, but the temps were just too high. I worked hard on a 15 meter 6b+ that just kicked my ass...I just couldn't get past the two crux moves...another day, another time...

After a weeks worth of hot, greasy climbing, we were ready to go up into the mountains...we needed to cool off. The area was truly amazing and we hope to visit again, but in the spring or fall, when temps foster sending rather than sliming...

-C

The Heart of Italy

It is rare in life that you meet individuals that in only a few days can have such a wonderful and positive effect on your life. After our time in Croatia we set Alice (our GPS) to the small town of Zandobbio in the Bergamo Province of Italy and pointed the Goose west. Our destination was the home of Stefano Codazzi and his girlfriend Laura Gugolati.

The notorious Tommy G had put us in contact with Stefano after having met him on the sunny shores of Railay Thailand some years ago. We did not know what to expect and thought we would spend no more than two days in their company before we set out again on our way north.

Upon our arrival Stefano greeted us with a big grin and open arms. We realized we had briefly met him a few years ago when he and his friend Paolo had visited Thomas in San Francisco. Stefano ushered us into his home and we met Laura for the first time. We spent a quiet evening chatting and planned to climb the next day. In the morning we had the pleasure of meeting Giulia, their adorable nine month old daughter.  A bubbly, inquisitive ball of joy, Giulia accepted us with no hesitation.

After breakfast we set out for Valgua; a crag that Stefano has assisted in developing over the past twenty years. He continues to develop new crags in the area, always making sure that there are lines for people of all levels. His newest crag even contains a board where climbers can give their input about the new routes, grades, stars, info, etc.  We picked up Paolo (no, a different one) on our way. We spent the day climbing wonderful moderate routes on the tricky limestone.

Thumbs up to a day of crushing limestone!

After dropping off Paolo and meeting his beautiful twins we went to Stefano's home and enjoyed the first of Laura's many delicious home cooked meals.

Sunday morning, we were invited to join the family for an excursion into the historic city of Bergamo. We spent the day winding our way through the cobblestone streets and vast array of stunning Catholic churches.

The wall surrounding the upper city.

Lunch break - Delizioso!

That evening we enjoyed another fantastic Milanese meal, made by none other than Laura the master chef. Laughter and conversation continued until late despite the fact that Stefano needed to wake up at 6am for work. He works as the production manager for Climbing Technology, creators of the Click Up and Alpine Up. Unfortunately, Stefano woke up late...something he has never done. Sorry for keeping you up so late!

Our next day consisted mainly of admin tasks. Changing the oil, organizing and cleaning the van, which included a trip to one of the many autolavaggio in Italy; they are everywhere, and trying to get flights to South Africa with our United miles (what?! South Africa? More later....). We spent the latter half of the day with Laura and Giulia; eating, playing, napping and practicing English. Stefano returned home later that evening and we all enjoyed another night of chef Laura's amazing cooking.

For our last day in Zandobbio, we went to Milan to meet with the consulate general for South Africa; there was this little fine that Steve had to pay for overstaying his visa last summer (a whole 14 hours!).  We had a a bit of a late late start due to never ending rain, but headed to Milan and paid the fine. We then decided to spend a couple of hours actually enjoying Milan and seeing what the city has to offer. After doing a little research, we decided to go and view The Last Supper, as it is housed in the abbey of Santa Maria delle Grazie and the ZA consulate was quite close to the church. We found parking right next to the church but unfortunately, to view one of the most important and famous paintings in the world you need to book tickets three months in advance.  Lucky for us, there was an exhibit of Da Vinci's sketches that was available for viewing in another area of the church.

We viewed twenty sketches and notes in the Great Masters crazy backwards writing. The twenty sketches consisted of diagrams and notes on water irrigation systems but also included one or two sketches on flight and geometry, much to Steve and my delight. The water stuff was cool, but flight and Geometry was way cooler.

Next we decided to head over to the Duomo, Milan's most impressive Cathedral. We walked through the crowded streets of Milan and suddenly arrived at a large open square packed with tourists, in addition to masses of Senegalese men hocking their wares. As we walked up, one looks at us and says "my african friends, come, let me talk to you." Knowing that he was going to either try to sell us something or attempt to have us give him money, I attempted to veer off, but he walked quickly and grinning from ear to ear, he spoke again "look at how dark you are, you must be African". He held his arm next to my white but slightly tanned arm. We laughed and decided that it wouldn't hurt us to talk with him for a few moments. We told him that though we weren't African, we had indeed been to Africa and that we were going back again next month. He put bracelets on our wrists (string friendship bracelets) and we, in turn, gave him a couple of euros. He was so sweet that we just didn't mind being swindled at the time...

The Duomo of Milan is an amazing sight. Stretching up high above the piazza del Duomo, it's the third largest church in Christendom. A staggering 3,500 statues and 135 spires adorn the marble structure, which has a Baroque and neo-Gothic façade, as well as five bronze doors carved by different artists. It's no wonder that it took 500 years to complete and building work continues today.

Stefano says that it is very common to say that you are like the Duomo, if you take far too long to get ready...I guess 500 years is quite a bit of time...

That evening we went back to Zandobbio to spend another lovely evening with our newfound Italian "family"; we enjoyed laughter, great food and conversation for yet another glorious night.  Stefano and Laura are two of the most caring and generous people we have met on our travels and we will cherish the time we spent with them in the small valley town of Zandobbio.

Ciao S&C

Paklenica

Paklenica national park is about 3 hours north of Hvar and seemed like a logical place to stop before heading to Zagreb. Pacho, from Hvar Adventures, originally told us that we should definitely hit Paklenica on our way back. Stefano, our future bestie, also told us that Paklenica was a great place to stop on our way back to Italy. We reached Starigrad on Friday evening and attempted to find a good place to camp. We did a little recon but could not find any wild camping close to the park. As it turns out, we could have found some, according to a German couple we met on our last day, but you really need to know the area to find it. The first place we looked was the Paklenica park campsite. We figured that maybe if we stayed with the park that we could bypass the daily charge of $10 per person for entry. Unfortunately, this is not the case, but rather you need to pay approximately $25 a night for camping in addition to the daily entry. The campsites in Croatia and Italy are a little ridiculous; people camp right next to each other, like a can of sardines. The campsite was next to the beach, a plus, but each site was less than 1 meter away from each other. For $25 a night, we knew we deserved better. We tried another campsite down the road but it was $35 a night.  Since most people want to camp by the beach, the campsites are able to charge unreasonable prices, but there were many other camping areas that are not on the beach, so we decided to try one of those. We drove into Camp Popo, which turned out to be the perfect little slice of paradise.

There was only one other couple there for the first two nights. An older German couple that spoke no English and never seemed to leave the camp area. Yet the wife did walk around the compound often, taking her marmalade kitty for a stroll... Camp Popo only cost $10.50 a night and had awesome showers with hot water. Though we always prefer wild camping, camp Popo was an absolute pleasure.

Outdoor climbing gym...

Paklenica is a climbing paradise. The summer is not the season, as it is a bit warm, but the sheer amount of routes there is overwhelming. The $10 per person a day cost is a bit of a turn off but you can climb routes anywhere from 4b to 8b+ within a fifteen minute walk. This place is not only a paradise for sport climbers but trad climbers as well, as there are tons of multi-pitch trad routes. There is even a bit of bouldering there, however, June is far too warm for bouldering.

We stayed at PNC for four days. We climbed early in the morning and late in the afternoon, as the middle of the day was far too hot.  Since most of the climbs are so easily accessible, they are also incredibly greasy, as they have had a lot of traffic. Climbing on greasy limestone is not so easy, especially during the warm summer months; your hands and feet constantly feel like they are going to grease off, which leads to over-gripping, which then leads to a lack of sending due to pumped arms and premature exhaustion.

Steve's proj at PNC was an 8a called Funky Shit. The hike up to Funky Shit is a bit steep, thereby allowing for grippier holds, not much traffic up there...after his first attempt, Steve assessed that the moves were indeed some "funky shit".  On our first visit to FS, in the cool cave area called Hram, Steve attempted the route three times.  Unfortunately, no send but we planned on coming back the next day. During his attempts, we met two young German boys who were working there own projects in the cave. While hiking up, they saw Steve working FS and thought he was Chris Sharma; I think that they were pretty disappointed when they realized that they were wrong...

Ready to send and ready to get a hair cut.... Steve went back to work in his project the next day but unfortunately, the temps were just too high and his hands just could not hold on. He made three more attempts, his second attempt the next morning being his best one; he made it two-thirds the way up before falling.  Though he did not send the rig, he did quite well, considering the temps and the greasy limestone; he should be proud.

No projs for me but Paklenica is where I actually began leading on limestone. Prior to this stop, the tricky, greasy limestone seemed impossible but Paklenica's climbs seemed much more reasonable: I led a 5c and a 6a+. (the funny hing is that my first lead ever was on limestone in Thailand, but that was a 5.8 which is just a bit different) Leading felt pretty good...unfortunately, my leading days were short-lived. Fear definitely gets the better of me and I cease to have fun...sometimes, I even feel that way on top-rope. My head needs lots and lots of practice before I feel confident...it'll just take time and I need to be patient and that is exactly what I am attempting to do.

After working on Steve's proj the next day, we decided to check out the supposed highlight of Paklenica, the huge cave that was full of stalactites and stalagmites, called Manita Pec, meaning crazy woman.  The hike from the main area was 1.5 hours but Steve and I decided that we wanted to go too late (they close the cave to visitors at 1pm in the summer, as they do not want the temps inside the cave to exceed a certain temp, so they only allow visits for three hours a day in the summer), so we had to make it in 50 minutes or else we would not get in. We hoofed it and made it with five minutes to spare.

The view on the hike.

We didn't have to rush; they ended up giving the last tour a little later, allowing for some stragglers. The cave was fantastic. The pics below just do not do it justice, as you are not allowed to use a flash and the tour is pretty quick moving. It takes about 20 years to create 5mm of stalactite and some of them were over 15 meters tall... Pretty amazing. The most amazing "structure" was the area called the organ for obvious reasons.

The organ structure.

When women were pregant, breast feeding, or had small children, they hiked up to the cave and either drank the water or credit to their small children. They believed that the water had magical powers; and it did, as it was so rich in minerals and pure, it was probably the best type of water to drink. This hike would take hours for a few liters of water, so these women were deemed crazy; hence the name of the cave.

After five days of greasy climbing, albeit high quality, we decided it was time to make our way to the valley town of Zandobbio in Italy to meet a mutual friend and climb on more tricky limestone.

-C

Chains in the rain in Spain....I mean Italy...

Monday morning we woke up having previously discovered the trailer trash of Italy (we stayed at a truly crappy campsite/trailer park, where trashy Italians live on the weekends, which included pools with no water and Pierre, the resident bunny rabbit) We needed to use the Internet so that we could see when our registration was to arrive and to see what was happening with our rental in Croatia, so we headed to Torri d'europa for our Vodafone Internet hook-up.  An hour of web use and then some food shopping at the COOP (the Italian supermercato that was probably the best market we've found since the superCarrefour outside of Font, actually even better) and then off to the local crag in Trieste.

Though it had been raining when we woke up, we had waited for the rock to dry and figured that about four hours of no rain was good enough for the limestone...when we arrived we checked out the crags and the rock was dry, yippee! So we hiked down to the overhanging area since there was definitely a threat of reoccurring rain.

The hike was a bit steep and muddy and included a rope for support. We hiked down and began to look for some good warm-ups when it began to sprinkle.

iPhone topos are a bitch....

Well, we could deal with a little rain but we decided to go to the truly overhanging crag where we would be shielded. The climbing was a bit harder, mostly a rang of 7's with a couple of 6's and a couple of 8's. Being that I was not quite comfortable with the limestone yet, Steve was going to be the only one climbing these routes. We started on La Fontana, a 6c+. As Steve started the line, it began to drizzle once again but since this was mostly overhanging, we were still dry...that is until the 4th clip, where he had to climb over to the head wall and it started pouring. I wasn't able to look up as rain was pouring into my eyes. Steve fell at the 5th clip, having hit a hold that was completely sopping (no grip there), but he was determined to finish the route. Four more bolts and he was done...did I mention that he had to clean it as well, as I wasn't gonna do it in the rain. By the time Steve finished he was drenched and it was consistently pouring. We looked at the other routes and though most of them were dry, the last bolt or the chains were over the lip or in the rain...we decided to pack it up and try again tomorrow...we're stuck here for at least another day until our registration arrives and we might as well take full advantage...our hike out was wet, muddy, steep and a bit treacherous...think Michael Douglass and Kathleen Turner à la Romancing the Stone...wish we had taken a pic...

Fixit in Freiburg

Our last day in Font we decided we would watch the horse races at the hippodrome since we had been sleeping there most nights and thought it might be exciting to see the grounds in action. It was not. The horse races were probably the lamest thing that I have seen on the trip thus far. Perhaps if they ran more than 300-500 meters, it might have been better, but it was the same short race over and over with seemingly no rhyme or reason to the order or the results. I fell asleep, hoping the rain would stop and we could actually climb our last day in sandstone paradise. I awoke to more horses trotting past the van and drizzle coming down in a steady stream. No climbing. That meant shopping at the Super Carrefour. The Carrefours are all over place and are basically your Safeway/Walmart of France. The Super Carrefour on the other hand is like a super Walmart on steroids. This place is huge. Too huge actually. They have two cheese isles and a gardening section with lawn mowers. You can get everything you need but you need a rest day after you're done. Maybe two. Anyway, we went, we shopped, we conquered. Upon our return to the hippodrome we saw Raul and Emilie parked so we pulled up next them and I hopped out of the van. As I made my way around the back of the van I smelled the sweet scent of coolant. I also heard a distinct water flowing sound. I dropped to a knee and saw coolant freely flowing from the engine bay into the grass. I leapt into action, grabbed a stainless steel pot and caught the over flow. I opened the engine bay for inspection and found that the 25 year old expansion tank had finally decided to give up the ghost. The threads on the tank could no longer hold a tight seal. As the pressure from heat builds in the system the tank should overflow to the burp tank but instead was exploding from the top of the expansion tank, which could cause engine overheat and if not monitored, catastrophic engine failure. We were leaving for Freiburg the next day, we had spare coolant and I figured what better place to fix a Westy then in Germany. One last night at the hippodrome and we set off. We had to stop about midway as the van started to overheat. Carrefour to the rescue again. We grabbed 5 liters of coolant and made it to Freiburg.

Freiburg is a college town. The beer is good, the girls are pretty and the pretzels are plentiful. We arrived at Scott and Kaddi's place early evening and enjoyed a a nice meal out after almost a year since we last saw them in South Africa. They live in a small flat with three more room mates in a fifth floor apartment with no elevator. Kaddi graded the stairs 5a. She never forgets anything upon departure.

A small local climbing wall under a bridge near Scott and Kaddi's apartment.

It's a good spot to chill and enjoy company and a German beer.

The next day Kaddi worked on a project for Uni while Scott, Corinne and I went to Gueberschwihr to do some sandstone route climbing. The rock was unlike anything I had seen before. You would start a route on an overhang with small crimps and powerful moves. Then do a technical slab. Follow this with dead vertical lay back crack climbing and finger locks. Finish the route with greasy side pulls and underclings on horrible feet and you have yourself some of the most entertaining routes I have climbed in some time. This could be due in part that the crag is a man made quarry. Either way it was a blast.

The next day Scott and Kaddi were going to Stuttgart for the weekend to set routes on an outdoor climbing wall. The van behaved the previous day when we went to Gueberschwihr so we thought we could take it to Chironico in Switzerland to do some bouldering for two days. No sooner than we started the van did it start to overheat. The cap was on the fritz and it looked like we need to address the problem sooner. After visiting auto parts stores to no avail and getting directions in German we made it to a VW dealer and ordered a replacement tank and cap for €36. The part would not arrive until Monday, so we had two full days to kill in Freiburg.

We filled our days with internet, reading, and eating pretzels, bratwurst and gummi bears while strolling around the picturesque town of Freiburg.

Come Monday we picked up the part and asked if the dealership could install. For €100 in two days, no problem. Forget that, we still wanted to hit Chironico and visit Osp in Slovenia on our way to Croatia. I was not doing 16 hours of driving in two days. After visiting several shops, all booked until Wednesday, one caravan shop, also booked up and calling three more, we were directed to a Russian fellow who also lets you do the work yourself if you like. The job was a simple one, even a DIY, but we needed somewhere to dispose of coolant, so this seemed like the best bet. We went over, and were told to wait an hour. He switched out the tank then took the overflow coolant and dumped it down a drain on the ground...so much for proper disposal. He charged us €20 and we were back on the road.

We left the next day and drove through the Swiss alps to the Italian region of Switzerland and a quaint town called Chironico. It is home to a small but dense bouldering sector with rough granite and thrutchy moves on tiny crimps. It also happens to be one of the former backyard playgrounds of a boulder named Fred Nicole.