Exercise Boars Claw 19 was a unit-led rock climbing expedition to the Arco area of Trentino, Italy.
The aim of the expedition was to deliver the Rock Single Foundation course to three individuals and to provide the remaining seven individuals the opportunity to experience multi-pitch climbing in preparation for a future big-wall expedition in 2020.
A further aim of the expedition was to provide Officer Cadets the opportunity to become involved in various decision making aspects of the expedition including command and control.
One of the desired outcomes of the expedition was to provide opportunities for the officer cadets to be involved in the decision making process and to contribute to the delivery of the expedition including food planning and making bookings for the final meal, developing a photo album and slide show presentation, diary keeping and budgeting and account keeping.
One of the main reasons for basing the expedition in the Trentino area of Italy was the stability of weather which would minimise the impact on training.
The weather experienced during the expedition was challenging in relation to temperatures. For rock climbing the temperatures were extremely hot, reaching 32 degrees on several occasions. This resulted in the selection of shadier climbing venues and early starts to avoid the hottest part of the day. Only one late afternoon thunderstorm resulted in climbing being cut short.
Following feedback from previous expeditions, it was decided to fly the main body out, while three expedition members drove one unit vehicle from Aberdeen to Italy. This resulted in a three-day journey utilising the Newcastle to Ijmuiden ferry with an overnight stop in Innsbruck. The main party flew from Aberdeen to Venice Marco Polo Airport and hire cars were collected at the airport for the journey to Arco.
On the return journey, the main party travelled to Venice Treviso Airport while the driving party travelled to Cologne before catching the ferry in Ijmuiden, leaving a reasonable six-hour journey from Newcastle to Aberdeen the following day.
Cheap flights could be sourced if the expedition was authorised early. However, the plan to fly the officer cadets was not finalised to facilitate cheap flights. This resulted in flights being three times the original budgeted cost.
The expedition was based in Masso Mandrea in the Arco area of Italy. This was selected due to the close proximity of several high class rock climbing areas. Sourcing accommodation for thirteen individuals was always going to be difficult, however a property was found on the website, Booking.com, which proved to be extremely economical and provided reasonable accommodation. The 15th century farmhouse was rustic and charming, but lacked wireless internet connection, which proved difficult for providing weather forecasts. The house was reasonably well stocked with kitchen utensils, crockery and had reasonable cooking facilities. There was sufficient outside seating for thirteen people and the host offered her family dining room for morning meetings and for meals if the weather turned inclement. One of the negative points about the house was the unpredictable water supply. The top floor apartment especially suffered if individuals ran water at the same time which resulted in the water ceasing to flow on the top floor. The house was separated into three rentable apartments and the hosts occupied the fourth apartment. Ideally, the whole house would have been preferable, but this was not clear at the time of booking
Supplies for breakfast and packed lunch were purchased by the driving party in the UK prior to departure from Newcastle. A daily duty student was then assigned and cooking groups were then responsible for food shopping, cooking and cleaning for the duration of their allocated time. The duty student was responsible for budgeting and recording CILOR.
There were a sufficient number of supermarkets in Arco and Sarche, which was a drive of around five kilometres and most were open on Saturdays and Sunday mornings.
Unfortunately, the CILOR rate proved to be insufficient and this meant that personal contributions had to be utilised to supplement the CILOR allocation. Food was a similar price in supermarkets to the UK.
There was a Q8 filling station in nearby Sarche which accepted Shell Eurocards. Fuelling vehicles after hours proved to be no issue as the fuel card supplied was accepted in automated machines.
The price of tolls and Vignettes proved to be expensive. Due to experiences from previous expeditions, an allocated amount of Euros was taken to cover the cost of tolls.
Rock Climbing Areas
The expedition plan was based on the concentration of climbing areas, which was found utilising the ‘Find a Crag Map’ on the UK climbing website (www.ukclimbing.com). Two guide books were purchased prior to departing for the expedition: Arco Rock covers single Pitch climbing in the Trentino Area. The Vertical Life guide Multi Pitch Climbing in the Arco area proved worthwhile for finding both single day multi-pitch routes but also for possible two-day routes.
Areas Used – Single Pitch
La Gola – 30 minutes from Arco
Good roadside single pitch venue suitable for beginners. Base of the routes in the trees, which provides shelter from the sun. Slightly polished rock, but good crack systems which enables traditional equipment placements.
Serada – 60 minutes from Arco
High level single pitch crag. Base of routes at 1250 metres, so cooler in summer than Arco. Interesting area due to WW1 entrenchments at the top of the crag. Slightly polished, but provides a range of grades from beginner to expert.
Val Lamasone – 45 minutes from Arco
Beautiful setting high on an alpine meadow. Base of the routes in the shade and aspects of climbing also provides shade until late afternoon. Variety of routes and provides access to top of some routes for demonstrating top-rope set-ups. Also possible to lead reasonable traditional climbs which is valuable for the RSF course.
Celva – 45 minutes from Arco
High crag (800m ASL) which offers shade until mid-day. Base of the routes in trees, so shaded. Good variety of routes, but nothing for the complete beginner. Good Pizzeria at car park in Celva village.
Getting higher on Amazonia, Parete del Limaro
Parete del Limaro – 20 minutes from Arco
Popular venue offering three multi-pitch routes under French 6A in grading. Good bolting and possible to abseil route due to bolted stations. Routes vary from 9-11 pitches and all take an average of 5 hours to complete. Descent is uphill for ten minutes then downhill for thirty minutes. Routes are noisy due to the proximity of the river and weir below. This makes communication difficult.
Placche Di Baone – 10 minutes from Arco
Three pitch slab which provides excellent opportunities for the introduction to multi-pitch sport climbing. Very well bolted and home to routes for the blind, which include brail information boards at the base of the routes. Area faces South with little shade at the base, resulting in exposure to the mid-day sun.
Parete Di San Paolo – 10 minutes from Arco
Multi pitch area which provided the opportunity for an overnight route, which was steep enough to strike the portaledge. This provided opportunities for learning aspects of big-wall climbing including hauling the haul bag, erecting and dismantling the portaledge and for overnight routine. Although only six pitches, this provided a challenge for both leaders and students.
All three participants passed the Rock Single-pitch Foundation course. All ten participants benefitted from further continuation training that will help with valuable logbook experience to progress on to further JSAT scheme courses. This will help contribute to the development of a unit climbing club and will also provide a core of climbers for a future expedition big-wall climbing in 2020.
Officer cadets contributed to the expedition by keeping a daily diary, accounting for food and the expedition budget . A duty student was responsible for the security of the cottage, CILOR budgeting and for punctuality of morning meetings.
The expedition was successful and although some found the activity and the temperatures challenging, everyone contributed fully and appeared to benefit from stretching themselves utilising the developmental models of “Challenge by Choice, Growth Mindset and Kolb’s Learning Cycle”.
Reflective Learning Points
- Plan earlier to maximise cheap flights.
- Smaller group would provide more accommodation choices.
- Flying everyone would save training days, subsistence allowance, hostel fees and would reduce driver fatigue. Overnight ferry with berths proved expensive.
- Investigate accommodation with laundry facilities.