Beat the heat

By Kenny Stocker

Everyone one knows that bouldering gets easier as the temperature drops. A little bit of magic happens that means those holds you were slipping around on suddenly stick, and without any extra training, skill or effort on your part you hit the big numbers. Unfortunately as the temperature drops the experience gets a bit more uncomfortable, it is not quite so fun to sit around with a picnic and you are forever pulling on and off a down jacket. Winter bouldering is not for everyone, so if you want the fun and the grade in the summer you have to head for the magic 2000m.

Here is a round up of 10 European bouldering destinations where you can climb without your beanie and come back with a tan and some numbers to impress your mates.

Magic Wood
One of our favourites, and back in its day as mysterious as its name suggests. As the years have passed it has become better known and although the mystery has diminished the quality of the problems remain. Access to the magic was an adventure involving either wading across an icy stream or a Tyrollean traverse along steel wire, now a bridge gives easier access. Thanks to its altitude (a feature common to most of these venues) and steep forested valley sides you will have a good chance of climbing through the day. The boulders are distributed along the valley sides and linked by weaving footpaths. The boulders on the valley floor or along the river bank have decent flat landings while the ones higher will require a bit more care, a couple of pads are a good idea. Some boulders will feel they have built in air conditioning as icy draughts expel from beneath the boulders. Remember this is a fragile and sensitive area so be good and protect it for future climbers.

Country - Switzerland
Altitude - 1300m
Guidebook - swissBloc 1, Ulrich & Harald Röker - ISBN 978-3-938680-20-9
Topo - Frank & co..
Website -

Silvretta / Silvapark
This large bouldering area is situated around the Austrian village of Galtür and forms part of the Silvapark, a zone dedicated to year round outdoor recreation. It is home to Bernd Zangerl’s testpiece problem ‘Momento’, but you don’t need to be working in the 8th grade to get the most of Silvapark. There are 8 sectors to go at and there is even a sector for children and beginners just 10 minutes from the Almkogelbahn mountain station. The rock is granite so don’t expect it to be easy on your fingers, if you are here for a few days get some conditioning in beforehand so you can make the most of it!

Country - Austria
Altitude - 2300m
Guidebook - Alpen en bloc 1, Florian Wenter, Lorenz Delago - ISBN 978-3-95611-021-4
Website -

St Gottardo / Sustenpass
At this time of year if you hope to be able to climb near your limit then the high mountains of Switzerland are a classic destination. The Gottardo area contains many bouldering zones of which Sustenpass is one of the better known but don’t let this stop you shopping around. The style of climbing involves pulling down on crimps, edges and slopers. The rock is granite, get used to it as there is a lot of it in the Alps and if you thought gritstone was rough be prepared to up your threshold… it is rough. This is a high level pass so you will be treated to great views of snowy peaks, and if you are camping out overnight you will get to see stars you never knew existed. Thanks to its location it makes a good stop off point if you are on your way to Cresciano, Magic Wood, Val di Mello or venturing all the way across to session out the Dolomites.

Country - Switzerland
Altitude - 2000m
Guidebook - swissBloc 1, Ulrich & Harald Röker - ISBN 978-3-938680-20-9
Website -

Fed up with the crowds and heat of Ailefroide? if so head north towards Val d’Isere, past Bonneval-sur-arc to the beautiful little village of Tralenta. Here you will find boulders strewn along the valley and along the icy river, a must for cooling down hot feet. It is climbable in summer as it is at the magical 2000m. There is a vast quantity of blocs but many are stacked on top of each other, a bit like Cimaganda, so make sure you have lots of boulder mats at hand and some useful spotters! The style of climbing can be quite dynamic and if you are here in July you might stumble across the Tralenta Bloc Party.

Country - France
Altitude - 1900m
Guidebook - See topo
Topo -
Website -

Città dei sassi
Situated at a whopping 2200m you will truly have your head in the clouds. The bouldering is on a type of limestone called "dolomia", and even though it's not even close to sandstone or granite, it is a great fun. The area was a training field for the alpinists since long ago, and in modern times the bigger boulders have been bolted, offering a good number of routes and a great place to take climbing classes out.

The setting just takes your breath away. You feel you have to boulder quietly, not to wake the surrounding giants up, and not with the cocky attitude that sometimes boulderers have. Here, you belong to the mountain. The problems, in the vast majority, are steep and powerful, there are pockets and edges, a few slopers, and in general long moves with some serious pulling down.

It's an alternative to more popular and, let's say it, better destinations, but it's worth every minute. In the summer, when the valley is packed with climbers, and (many more) tourists, the drive uphill can be a torture of almost one hour. So, if you want to sample the valley at its best, wait for a sunny weekend, or even better mid-week, in late September or October.

Rifugio Sella is just a short distance away from the boulders offering food and lodgings for those wanting to take advantage of Italian hospitality, or according to our mate Lorenzo… a little downhill of the bigger boulders, in a field, there's a small wooden hut besides a small runnel. Go eat there!

Country - Italy
Altitude - 2200m
Guidebook - Arrampicata sportiva & Boulder in Alto Adige, Juri Chiaramonte - ISBN 978-88-7283-307-0

It might not be a name that rolls off the tongue in the same sentence as Fontainebleau, Rocklands or Heuco however this discrete bouldering area in the Appennine national park in the Italian region of Tosco-Emiliano is a favourite with Michele Caminati. A short drive from the beautiful city of Parma the boulders are distributed amongst lakes and beech woods. New sectors have been recently added and during summer it offers a fresh and breezy environment with nice views. A good option if the weather in the mountains have turned stormy.

Country - Italy
Altitude - 1300m
Guidebook - iBloc, Ulrich & Harald Röker - ISBN 978-3-938680-05-6
Website -

The most southern of our summer venues takes us into Tuscany, a favourite with artists, writers and foodies but there is also a lot of interest for the dirtbag boulderer. Hidden in the chestnut woods, all of which appear to be topped with the ruins of medieval castles, hide boulders with problems ranging from F3 to F8A. There is a great mix of styles with slabs, overhangs and even highballs to get your heart pumping. Obviously the altitude gets nowhere close to our magic 2000m but thanks to the shade you can climb all year round on some 3000 problems, and if it does get too hot, well there is always time for the fine dining. Sassofortino has been the venue of several E9 boulder parties.

Country - Italy
Altitude - 600m
Guidebook -
Website -

Sitting high in the Western alps this is a little known area in a real alpine environment. The area takes its name from the blue glacier, the northern most glacier in the Alps - no one said it was going to be easy to escape the summer heat! Most of the boulders are overhanging, right up to 8B but you can also find slabs and highballs. The boulders can be a bit jumbled, don't expect flat grassy landings so the more pads you can carry the better. There is a mountain refuge, the Blaueis Hut, where you can eat and sleep, and considering the time and effort needed to make your way here it will be worth your while to stay more than one night! Be warned that wild camping is strictly prohibited so book your bed well in advance.For those prepared to venture off the beaten track the views of the surrounding mountains will make the effort very worthwhile; the walk in to Stanage Plantation will never feel the same again!

Country - Germany
Altitude - 1700m
Guidebook - Alpen en bloc 2 – Bouldering in the Alps by Florian Wenter
Website -

Hoya Moros
Madrid probably wouldn’t be high on your list of cool summer climbing destinations. With an average summer temperature of over 30°C you might think stumping up the extra cash for sports luggage would be a very bad idea. Hoya Moros is about 2 hours west of Madrid and located at 2100m in the Candelario mountains which makes it a very credible summer destination. It isn’t however for the armchair boulderer. In the summer months the road is closed and you will face a walk of 2.5 hrs, but once there you will experience solitude, beautiful views and icy cold rivers. As with all of these bouldering areas, the ecosystem is fragile and every visitor has a responsibility to preserve it as it is to ensure future generations can find the same pleasures as we do today. Have faith it is well worth booking on your pad after all!

Country - Spain
Altitude - 2100m
Guidebook -
Website -

Gap of Dunloe
As your friends beetle down the Autoroute du Soleil for 2 weeks of high mountains, sun, snow and wine be a hero and head west into the setting sun. Drive through the night until you reach Ireland’s highest mountains, and as the road cuts a path through MacGillycuddy's Reeks, the sun starts to rise, park up your car and step out with a grin on your face and the spirit of adventure flowing fast through your soul. Hopefully as you breath in the fresh air and look around you will find steep sided valleys that will protect you as the temperatures rise to barmy heights. You will see pristine bulletproof sandstone blocs promising good friction and new boulders wait to be developed. If not then you are not in the Gap, but never mind your mates are probably having it worst, stuck in a queue on some French motorway.

Country - Ireland
Altitude - 700m
Guidebook - Bouldering Ireland, David Flanagan - ISBN 978-0-9567874-3-9
Website -

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