In search of the perfect line

Climbing and bouldering are very much in vogue. Lake Maggiore is a huge playground where you can let off steam all year round. The rugged rock walls and giant boulders of the Ascona-Locarno region attract large numbers of climbers and boulderers in pursuit of their passion; they also benefit from the stunning scenery and benign climate of Switzerland’s southern canton.

  • One of them is Filippo

  • a young man who grew up here on Lake Maggiore and who has been climbing and bouldering since his early teens. He’s actually a student, but bouldering is what really excites him. His expertise at the sport means he enters competitions and spends a lot of time with his friends training both indoors and outdoors. So where does his fascination for this activity come from?

  • “I’m mesmerised by the blend of elegance and strength – it’s an all-round sport.

The region’s a popular destination among the climbing and bouldering fraternity. Why is that? “One reason is the quality of the rock and the lines; another is the sheer variety. Brione in the Verzasca valley has some of the best rock in the world.” Brione and the Bavona valley are bouldering meccas, while sport climbers are drawn to the Vallemaggia for its wonderful crags and long routes – such as the classic “El Cat” above Brontallo or “Speroni di Ponte Brolla” at the front of the valley.

The Lake Maggiore region is a paradise for climbers and boulderers not only due to the rock, but also because of the choice in terms of campsites, accommodation and budget. Besides, there’s nothing better than immersing your sore hands and cramped feet in a river or lake after a long day’s exertions in the heat and, drink in hand, chatting with fellow climbers about newly explored or successfully completed routes. The climbing fraternity is very open about sharing tips about the perfect line and new routes with others. These things are part of the fascination of this sport – you’re one big family and where you come from doesn’t matter, because climbers speak their very own language.

  • “Children love climbing everywhere. Climbing brings out the child in you and frees your mind.”

  • Anyone interested in the sport should perhaps start indoors in a climbing gym before venturing onto the rock. However, if you already have some experience under your belt, you should definitely explore the area around Locarno, as it offers a huge choice and breathtaking panoramas.

Before you can enjoy these views, you have to get yourself ready. “It’s all about the group experience: often you remember not only the line you climbed, but also the moment you climbed it and who you were with while you climbed it.” For sport climbing, choosing the right partner is essential because your safety depends on that person. The best thing is if it’s someone you trust. This is less of an issue in bouldering, but here, too, having good people around you pushes you to do better and not give up.

Almost more important than fitness – especially in bouldering – is mental strength, because you spend 99% of the time dropping off the rock. Having the right technique avoids having to use too much strength, but you won’t get far without strength – you need both, whether you’re climbing or bouldering. You also need to be motivated to go beyond your limits. It’s worth noting that sport climbing and bouldering are two quite different sports. Many people stay with bouldering, as all you need is a thick mat and a pair of climbing shoes to scramble up like a spider. But the key prerequisite to becoming a good climber/boulderer is a love and respect for nature.

Plan your stay