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Shine on you crazy limestone

Ice cold Berlin. The ground had turned to stone. Unbeatable frost glittered in the sun.

Their doorhandle knocked, their telephone rang, but they didn't answer. Around christmas one climbing hall after another proved closed. The city's sun set over us. We came upon an evil nazi tower with spacious bolts.

A few sleeps later we'd made it several hundreds of kilometers down the map. And this was only the beginning of our push to the south. Suddenly, along the horizon, they stripteased their way out of low clouds: the Alps. We entered the country that's a hole on many a map. Also not a country to take your giraffe to. Tunnel after tunnel, ravine sneak peek after ravine sneak peek, we made a way underneath mountains, following rivers like Hannibal's surprise army for Rome with 37 elephants (although Hannibal and co. were coming more from the west and needed to make it over a mountain col in the Vanoise or Queyras).

We felt the driving skills around us deteriorate. The local radio announced Oggi No. It was not far until the Italian border showed up.

An hour after we smuggled a German pizza over, our car crossed the Po plains and the sun hit our face. In one direct line we drove through the sister region of Flanders, akin in light pollution, enterpreneurialism and a dispersed urbanity.

When the densely built areas finally were behind our backs, we were surprised with blocked routes. Another grant detour would lead to the Genua highway with the unrepaired bridge that collapsed the summer before last summer. But we choosed to bent around hills. Roads continued sticking close to the abundant Bormida and its grasslands, skimming past Cairo Montenotte where Ferrania film once was manufactured. The shades of the hills got longer, the orange grass shorter. It might even snow here some nights. Then it got slightly down again.

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Here we come. Final(e)ly we arrive at the 70's hillside (individual) developments and their little alleyways, reminding me of Cogne's old villages. The parking spot is a bundled facility (unlike many farce developments of that time) and by foot we find the house that's never locked. The bungalow's side garden suddenly opens up a view all the way to the cliff and the sea, as well as to the blue or white forest chapel down at the other side of this valley. Between an orchard, and houses we cannot see, we get ready for a chance series of celebrations.

Morning comes. Bring on the arrampicate!

When in the dark we stride down the hills again, and drive back to civilisation, the shops welcome us (regardless if sunday or holidays) with the food fresh and the locals helpful.

Routes we pick out tend to feel chopped quite often, allowing sport climbing gems and doubts over climbing ethics. It is for climbing media a cliché to introduce Finale Ligure as the polished sandbagged once popular climbing area. Last week UKClimbing started off that way again diverting to Oltre Finale (Albenga valley).

The 'polish' judgements seem to stem rather from a popular cliché than from reporters' own experiences. The series of random crags we bumped into didn't reveal any polish at least, except for some spots at tourist-plagued Grotta dell'Edera-wow and Monte Cucco's Anfiteatro where it didn't affect the routes.

From the sea, we head out into the Ligurian rocky hills where only the occasional ruin (or clear foot tracks underneath a.o. evergreen oaks) give away people's presence before us. We dare ourselves into the Harvard Footwork School of Ligure, pump finds us, and together with mostly German climbers we become rock maniacs.

Recommended topo: We unanimously favored Finale by Marco Tommasini (2017). It's not the most recent book and didn't mention a few climbs we found out. Yet the drawn lines are consistent with reality and coherent with each other. The work is focused, neat and communicative.