I’m on a climbing holiday in Italy and wide awake from jet lag. The flight went smoothly and on the way into Milan the moving-map lit up with classic alpine names – the Dolomites, St Moritz, the Matterhorn. There were spectacular early morning views of the Dolomites that seemed to go on forever. From Milan we took the train to La Spezia and then a cab to our base in Portvenere. Portovenere is a pretty village by the sea with an old fort, church and “Byron’s Grotto” which was apparently a favourite swimming spot of the English poet, Lord Byron. From Grotta Byron are views of the sea cliffs of Muzzerone where we had come to climb; looking in the other direction are the snow capped peaks of the Apuan Alps.
Our objective for the first day was “Chi Vuol Essere Lieto … Lieto Sia” (200m, 6 pitches, 5c), considered a Muzzerone classic. I was a little wary after our experience in Arco in northern Italy last year where moderately graded routes such as this one were highly polished and end up with a glass like finish over the passage of time on account of their popularity. There were some polished sections that made the climb feel a bit stiffer than the grade would indicate but nothing like what we experienced in Arco. As a popular route – and it being a Sunday – we had to wait at the base for an hour as two parties set off ahead of us. On the climb communication was the main challenge as there is no line of sight between climber and belayer and the waves below drowned out calls. Nonetheless, the weather was perfect and the views were beautiful. As with every multi-pitch climb I have done there was a mix of satisfaction and relief to be standing on top a few hours later.