Western Sicily: A rock climbing guide

The coastline of Western Sicily is a real amusement park for climbers. Learn about some of the must-visit crags.

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THE PLACE

The rustic sicilian countryside



An aqueduct in the Sicilian countryside


Sport climber cutting loose in Sicily


Sport climber on a striped wall, Sicily


A path in the Sicilian countryside


Rock climbing in Sicily


Climber heel hooking a boulder in the Sorace Forest


A fortress in the Sicilian countryside



The coastline of Western Sicily is a real amusement park for climbers. The protagonists here are the Mediterranean sea, the golden tufas, and the laid-back Sicilian vibe. Besides the world-famous Salinella cliff near San Vito lo Capo, Western Sicily has so much to offer. Nature is still the protagonist here, creating countless possibilities for exploring off-the-beaten-track, and for finding yourself alone on cliffs with extraordinary rock quality and scenery. Near Custonaci, you will find impressive red-white-and-black tufas on the majestic overhanging Never Sleeping Wall; drive only 10’ south, and you will be climbing stunning limestone amidst the natural scenery of Erice and its hidden bays. A short drive towards the countryside, and you will be exploring the lush Scorace forest with its numerous sandstone boulders: true diamonds in the rough. 

The development of climbing in the area started with the crags near San Vito, on the Salinella cliff. Multiple bolters, both Italian and foreign, opened routes on this spectacular wall (which now results in many styles and uneven standards). The SanVito Climbing Festival, which occurs every November since 2009, had a significant role in placing Western Sicily on the international climbing map. However, there is still incredible untapped potential in the area, with hundreds of new routes bolted every year. The most active bolters in the area at the moment are Daniele Arena and Davide Cata Catalano. Davide is particularly busy with Scorace boulder: a boulderer at heart, he found in the Scorace forest a gem of incredible beauty, with perfect sandstone blocks, mostly covered by ancient vegetation and surrounded by dry stone walls and pristine pastures. Now there are more than 200 lines, with more popping up all the time, making it an incredible and unexpected bouldering destination.

But Western Sicily offers much more than astonishing rock: ancient ruins dot the island’s dramatic coastline, imposing castles tower above hilltop towns and crystal-clear sea calls for a swim for more than half of the year given the low latitude. The Saline di Trapani national park offers unique views of decommissioned mulini (windmills) and saline (shallow salt pools), which in summer turn rosy pink and make the salt heaps shimmer. At Trapani, you can hop in the cable car and head up to the medieval hilltop town of Erice for jaw-dropping views of the coastline and the Egadi Islands.  Then wander through the town’s maze of cobbled streets to explore its numerous churches and two castles, and, most importantly, stop at one of the many pastry shops for the best paste di mandorla in Sicily. And a 20’ speedboat ride will get you to the pristine island of Favignana, with its glorious crystal-clear waters, relaxed vibe, and lovely coastlines. All this is made tastier by the incredible Sicilian cuisine: you cannot miss the raw Mazara prawns, busiate pasta with pesto trapanese, pane cunzato, cous cous (yes, in Italy!), and of course the symbol of Sicily, the arancine.



THE CRAGS



topo of the rock climbing crags in Sicily




hand drawn topo of the crags in Sicily


topo of one of the sport climbing crags in Sicily



hand drawn topo of the boulders in the Sorace Forest





Once you land in Palermo, rent a car and drive towards the Trapani area. If you are staying at local climber Cata's B&B, you can enjoy a massive aperitivo overlooking the countryside and get some tips on the newly opened routes in the area.

For your first day, you can go to the stunning Parco Cerriolo crag near Custonaci, a small jewel with compact rock offering fantastic climbing on pockets and cracks with sea-view. If you are there in summer, when, at 2pm, the sun hits to the wall, you can stay here for a swim in the crystal-clear Cornino bay overlooking the crag

Another option is to go to the classic Salinella cliff: there are more than 500 routes of any grade, making it an excellent warm-up area. And of course, the place is breathtaking. The impressive 3km-long sea is filled with tufas and other limestone formations. A few words of caution: avoid it in summer and beware of the condition of the bolts.

For summer, a wonderful hidden gem is the Mannara crag - which means the old cattle’s shelter in the Trapani dialect. With a northern exposition, this unique wall offers short and bouldery climbing  on compact grey limestone with red and yellow stripes, filled with crimps, holes, cracks, and massive erosions. Movements are technical on the vertical lines and aerial on the overhangs. The real beauty is a 7m-long 45° overhang with stretches, clamps, and jumps on good holds and delicate finishing cruxes. A perfect mix of strength and precision, all in the cool shade, and for every taste! Our recommendations: Intelligenza artificiale (5c), polvere di stelle (7a), and Drugo (6a+).

If you are looking for a hard project, you are spoilt for choice. The Never Sleeping Wall is an almost surreal leaning wall up to 90m tall, with incredible tufas and grey- and orange-stripes. Here we recommend the route Tears of Freedom (7a+), a 40m long climb on a single tufa, described by PlanetMountain as “one of the most fascinating 7a+ in the world”. Grades range from 6a to 8a+. If you are on the 6b-grade, you definitely must go here.

Another interesting option is Point Break, on the south-east face of the San Giuliano peak, summitted by the medieval town of Erice. This small crag is named after the “perfect wave” of rock in the central part of the wall and is ideal for half-seasons and summer afternoons. You will find compact yellow and grey limestone, with a double roof that forces you to look up and will make your jaw drop. Despite being again another Sicilian overhanging cliff, you will not find the usual tufas, but instead, pockets, slopers, and crimps, creating a never-banal strength climb, with explosive movements and important final cruxes. Here we recommend Pietra Rimbalzante (6c+), Morto di Figa (6b), U Fattu (7b).

Let’s not forget another classic near San Vito lo Capo, Crown of Aragon. A beautiful and scenic crag with the usual Sicilian overhanging walls full of concretions, it offers a continuous and athletic style. Given its south face, avoid it during hot summer days.

Even if you are not a boulderer, you should check out the incredible Scorace Forest and its sandstone blocks. Huge bowls with perfect holes, mainly slopers, delicate slabs requiring precise foot movements and strong fingers, together with regular (but never banal) overhangs requiring surgical heel-hooks, await to be freed. There are roughly 200 cleaned blocks with grades ranging from 4a to 8a and in most cases soft landings. The area is also cool in summer, given the 600m of altitude, and very beautiful also for families.

Last but not least, a climbing holiday in Sicily is not complete without some Deep Water Solo. The best place in the area is Cala Firriata. The cliff is not too tall, and the deep waters make it good place for beginners to climb. There are more than ten routes between 6a and 7b, and some harder routes 100m west of the beach. And once you have bruised your hands and body completely, drive 10’ further east to see the incredible Faraglioni rock-formations in the Riserva dello Zingaro bay!


THE LOCAL COMMUNITY



Cata and the local climbers

The continuous development of the area has been carried out by a handful of experienced climbers coming to and from Sicily, who decided to dedicate time and effort in cleaning and setting up hundreds of routes, while working for or running a couple of shelters for climbers. Lately the most prolific figure has been Cata, who is running a B&B in the beautiful countryside near Trapani with his partner Giorgia. Other honorable mentions are Daniele Arena and Ivan Savoi, together with a multitude of Italian and international climbers. What is particularly interesting to see is the growth of local climbers: we really hope that in the coming years it will be them who lead the development and exploration of the many untouched walls in the area!


Davide Cata and the B&B in the Trapani countryside

Born in 1981, Cata grew up in the province of Varese in Northern Italy, but with Trapani blood from father’s side. He started climbing in 2003, as bouldering arrived in Italy, and it was love at first sight. A boulderer at heart, he has used rope climbing professionally, having worked in the field for 15 years, first establishing Vertical Solutions, and once he moved to Sicily as instructor. In Sicily, he has been passionate about developing all the crags with a great potential and high quality rock, but slightly denuclearized with respect to the most popular climbs near San Vito lo Capo. Thus was born in 2017 Point Break, the first crag at the foot of the medieval village of Erice and in 2019, inside the majestic Cornino Bay "La Mannara", a crag with a short and obviously bouldery style.

The passion for travel led him to climb around the world, but the sunny cliffs on the sea led him to reinvent himself in 2014, leaving the North to move to the deep SOUTH. Together with his partner Giorgia they renovated a stone farmhouse from the early 1900s and opened a cozy B&B, with the idea of promoting the countless beauties of the area both from a naturalistic and a sport point of view. They didn't of course forget to add an hot tub and a small outdoor boulder gym!!!

Main developer of the new Boulder area of BOSCO SCORACE, a jewel of pure sandstone set in the heart of Western Sicily, Cata is mainly engaged in the search for new lines and in the promotion of this sport,  trying to unspoiled beauty that this area can still offer. 

So friends if you want to challenge yourself with new projects and support the birth of an all-Italian jewel, come to Sicily and as Cata would say "In the meantime ... FATEVISALIRELAVOGLIA !"