Taking the rough with the smooth…
Hyaena 8B+ | Finale Ligure
The sunny south, sea and warm rocks – all the ingredients for a rock climbing feast. The Italian climbing area Finale Ligure near Genoa has all this – and much more! Italian climbing history has been written here for more than 30 years.
When news of Mediterranean climbing areas travelled across the Alps to the north in the early 1980s, for most climbers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the days of Christmas spent in cozy lounges and bouldering sessions in icy winter sunshine were over. A winter vacation in the south became mandatory – and the playground of choice was Finale Ligure, just seven hours’ drive from Munich or Zurich. Warm temperatures allowed them to fully savor their passion for climbing, with no cold fingers. They slept in tents, on the beach or in rattly VW buses, cooked their own meals – usually spaghetti with a sauce – and the only truly important topic of conversation was climbing.
The rocks of Finale Ligure are one of the biggest climbing areas in the whole of Italy. Today, there are close to 3,000 routes distributed over some 160 rock faces, most of which are excellently secured with bolts and guarantee maximum climbing pleasure at all levels of difficulty. «The rocks of Finale Ligure are one of the biggest climbing areas in the whole of Italy» However, the nature of the climbing is pretty “particular”: generally crimpy and technically demanding face climbs on small grips and water holes, with some pretty tough difficulty gradings. When we went back, for the first time in more than a decade, to do some climbing in Finale last year, we realized that the gradings for all the routes were half a grade lower in comparison with the other regions we had been climbing in – so be prepared, in Finale no routes are «given away»…
One of the «resident caretakers» of the rocks of Finale was Andrea Gallo. In 1986, he was just 22 years old – a «young hot shot» in the best sense of the word! A passion for climbing had brought this young man from Turin to Finale Ligure, where he quickly earned a reputation as the best climber in the region. No wonder, as he climbed every day, tirelessly opening up route after route. When he spotted the line «One of the ‹resident caretakers› of the rocks of Finale was Andrea Gallo»across a gray and seemingly impossible rocky pinnacle on «Alveare», he had no doubt: he just had to climb it! To start with, he didn’t manage to climb a lot of the individual moves. However, he worked determinedly on his problem throughout the spring and, over Easter, managed to climb all the way to the last crux section. But the temperatures were already too high – he couldn’t hold onto the grips! It was not until late fall, on December 2, that he finally made it all the way to the top – giving Finale a new «test piece» and, for a few years, the most difficult route.
27 years, and more than a generation later, Andrea Gallo once again found himself at the start of «Hyaena» – this time as a mentor and belaying partner for Jakob Schubert from the MAMMUT Pro Team. The «United by shared passion» project brought two climbing generations together to climb a ‘rock classic’ – the ultimate classic in Finale: «Hyaena»! Taking the rough with the smooth – in Finale Ligure…
United by shared passion
What brought you to Finale?
I come from Turin and we used to drive to Finale every weekend. After a while, we got tired of all the driving and decided to live in Finale. We climbed every day and were probably the first people in Italy to live purely for climbing. I was also doing a lot of climbing in Nice at the time and was strongly influenced by Patrick Perrault and his routes in La Turbie.
What significance did Finale have for Italian sports climbing?
We were among the first people in Italy to use the French grading system – the one used in Buoux, Verdon, St. Victoire and La Turbie – but we used the “proper” French grading system, not the one used today. In Finale, we talk about the tough and fair “pre-euro French scale” and the “euro French scale”, that we just laugh at…
How would you rate the significance of “Hyaena” in relation to the further development of climbing in Finale?
For me personally, it was a huge step forward and really boosted my motivation! At the time, I was the only local climber who was able to grip these small holds. So “Hyaena” earned its place in the rankings of the most difficult routes and a lot of top climbers came to Finale to try the route. However, most of the celebrated climbing stars had quite a few problems on this and other routes. Of course, that pleased us “locals”! The ascent was a magical moment – I didn’t know how difficult the climb actually was, I just knew that it was pretty tough. The first person to repeat the route was Gerhard Hörhager from Tyrol, in 1987. It took him four days. He was finding the upper section difficult to get past, so I went there with him and explained the crux section. The next day he managed to climb it.
How do you view Finale today?
Today, Finale is mainly an area for “regular climbers”! There are thousands of routes, mainly in the medium difficulty range, as well as lots of sun, a beautiful town and the sea. For “high-end climbers”, Finale is no longer on the to-do list, despite the dozens of very difficult routes here. However, the nature of the climbing is no longer “in” – mainly on ledges and technically difficult overhangs where you have to keep working away until you succeed. On long and overhanging modern stamina routes like the ones you find in Spain, it is a lot easier to climb really difficult routes fast – but in Finale, you need time and patience.
How would you describe “Hyaena”? In particular, if you compare it to today’s “modern” difficult routes?
“Hyaena” is not quite as steep as the difficult routes we’re familiar with from places like Spain. The route is very demanding from a technical point of view and you need a lot of strength in your fingers to grip onto the little ledges at the crux sections.
What do you think about the grading? How would the route be graded today?
I think that Andrea’s original grading of 8b+ was exactly right. A few people downgraded the route later and so it’s shown as 8b in the guide; but it’s very hard for that level. But it’s always difficult to grade this kind of technically demanding route. In contrast to a pure stamina challenge in Spain, you need to boulder out the complex moves on the route first before you can climb them. “On sight” is very, very difficult.
The climbing style required for “Hyaena” is very technical. How do you find this as a “young” climber?
Personally, I like it a lot. Routes like these are also great training, as technically you never stop learning. It’s important to take a relaxed approach to this kind of route and tackle it without any great expectations, because it generally calls for more time and attempts than a pure stamina or maximum strength route.
How was the time with Andrea?
I had a great time and I’m pleased that I had the chance to get to know Andrea. Right from the start, it felt as if we had always been the best of friends. I was really impressed by his passion and enthusiasm for climbing, and his many stories about climbing in earlier days were inspiring.
How did you like the climbing in Finale?
Finale is an incredibly beautiful place. From our apartment you could see both the town and the sea, it was an amazing sight. It’s definitely the perfect vacation destination for climbers because there’s no shortage of rocks. I’m sure that I’ll go back there again soon.
Tough nut to crack
Most difficult individual move
Andrea: at the time Finale was a laboratory for me and some other friends, we decided to move from our towns (Torino, Genova) lo live there and climb all days, we were the first in Italy to do that and we opened the way for future generations. At the time i climbed a lot in the Nice area in France (la Turbie) and i was influenced by the routes Patrick Berhault did there, i applied his ethics and grading in Finale; Finale was the first area in Italy to use the French grading and it was and still is the “real” French Grading, the same used at the time in Verdon, sainte Victoire , Buoux and La Turbie, not the grading used today; we laugh at it and in Finale we are used to say Pre Euro French grading or Euro French Grading.
Today Finale is mostly known as an average climber destination, thousands of routes, sunny, beautiful town, sea, etc…for the highest level is no more a primary destination even if there are dozens of really hard routes, especially on slab and technical overhangs; but this style requires practice and conditions, it is difficult to arrive and do the hardest very fast, is not like Spain, big overhang with good holds and pumping routes, her the moves are often tricky and you need some time to master them, so we have now a bunch of really strong local climbers on this style.
Two climbing generations
1986December — Andrea Gallo
2013December — Jakob Schubert
Would you like to try the route for yourself? There’s an easy way to find the start for once! Get the GPS data to find our recommended path to the start of the route (note: differences of up to 10 meters are possible due to measuring inaccuracies).