Winter is well and truly upon us, and the cold days are interspersed with mild, wet ones, making it pretty hard to get on the rock outdoors.
Some of you might be perfectly happy with training at an indoor climbing wall (check out our reviews of indoor climbing walls), while others are donning their waterproofs and digging out their ice axes for a season of ice climbing.
But ice climbing is expensive, and indoor training may not be for everyone. Besides, the dark and dank winter months take their toll, making us yearn for some sunshine and dry weather.
Luckily, living in England we are just a short flight away from a number of ideal winter climbing destinations, and it doesn’t even need to break the bank. Here are five places not too far from home where you can escape for some winter sun and rock!
Only a four hour flight away, Morocco is a rather exotic choice and feels like a real adventure. Yet it is pretty affordable, with return flights from London available for under £200 during the winter months. Lots of budget airlines fly to Marrakesh now, so it’s just a case of searching Skyscanner for the best deal.
For sport climbers, Todra Gorge in Morocco is a winter heaven, with temperatures easily reaching 20 degrees during the day. The only downside is that it’s a bit of a trek from Marrakesh – an eight hour coach journey, to be precise, so it makes sense to go for a long-ish break. The coach goes directly from Marrakesh to Tinghir, where you can get a cheap taxi up to the Gorge, and there is accommodation both in the town and around the Gorge itself.
The climbing books can be a bit hard to find, but don’t listen to anyone trying to sell you anything off the street! The best guidebook is available from a climbing shop, situated on the way from Tinghir to Todra Gorge, from a man called Abdul. We told you it would be an adventure…
For the trad climbers out there, Tafraoute is a popular destination, and it’s not quite as much of a trek. You can fly to Agadir and hire a car to drive to the crag, which is around 3 hours away from the airport.
2. Costa Blanca, Spain
Costa Blanca is another classic winter spot, with the added bonus of really cheap flights to Alicante, a popular holiday destination. The airport is served by a number of budget airlines, and a return flight in the winter could cost you as little as £50. But this does mean you will have to travel with hoards of “conventional” holidaymakers, which is not everyone’s cup of tea.
There is everything from an abundance of single pitch sport climbing routes, to sport multi-pitches, trad, scrambling adventures and deep water soloing in this area. You also get a beach holiday added in, so don’t forget your sun lotion!
Being a popular climbing destination, it is also far better equipped for climbers than Todra, with guidebooks and gear available from local stores. UKC recommends The Orange House for guidebooks and local maps. Accommodation is also cheap and readily available in the off-season winter months.
3. Kalymnos, Greece
The island of Kalymnos is known to pretty much all climbers, even if you have never been there. Situated near the Greek holiday island of Kos, Kalymnos has become a sport climbing mecca over the years, with around 2,000 routes of all grades scattered around the island.
Majorly convenient in terms of getting around (you can rent a scooter once there), Kalymnos tends to be slightly more expensive to fly to. The easiest way is to fly to Kos, which can cost around £200 or more, and catch a ferry to the island from there.
The best time of year to climb here is September-November, or March-May. It is possible to climb during the winter months too, but it is known to get quite wet, so you may be best picking somewhere else for your January trip.
4. Tenerife, Spain
Tenerife is one of the canary island and another popular holiday destination, with an abundance of beaches and hiking trails throughout the island. Like any other popular holiday destination, this is served by many airlines. The flight, which takes around four hours, can be as cheap as £50 return if booked in advance. And on top of that, the time zone is the same as the UK!
The rock is volcanic rock and there is a huge amount of sport climbing, interspersed with some trad, as well as a bouldering area which can contend with Font, from the accounts we have heard.
The climbing guide for the island is Tenerife Escalada deportiva by Javier Martin-Carbajal & Juan Carlos Zamora, and there is also a climbing shop on the island.
5. Sicily, Italy
Last but not least, why not head to the south of Italy, to the largest Mediterranean island of Sicily? The island has three main climbing areas – San Vito Lo Capo near Trapani; and areas around Siracusa and Messina. The first area is covered extensive in this climbing guide and is around two hours drive from Palermo, which has an international airport served by many budget airlines, with flights starting at around £130 return. There is also another guidebook, Di Roccia Di Sole, which covers all of the island.
There are plenty of accommodation options in the area, and also a climber-friendly camp ground called El Bahira, which is situation within walking distance of the rock. For recommendations of routes and further information on the region, we found this blog to be particularly useful.
October to April are the best bets for this region if you want to be certain it will remain dry, but the temperatures remain mild throughout the winter, and the rock dries out pretty quickly after rain. Plus, the tasty Italian food can save you from an afternoon of boredom should the rain come!