Where to smash your sport grade barrier

Posted by Sarah Stirling on 11/04/2017
Kalymnos: home to your first 7a? Photo: Shutterstock.

Dreaming of big numbers this year? We reveal six sizzling holiday rock destinations that will send your grade through the roof. Whether your sight is on 6b or you're aching for 8a, here are Steve McClure's top picks.

It doesn't matter if it's your first 6b+ or 8a, breaking into a new sport grade is a huge step, says BMC ambassador Steve McClure.

To reach the next level, play to your strengths by choosing a specific area that suits and motivates you. Plus, if it's an awesome route on a world-class cliff, with good weather, great accommodation and a holiday feel, you'll remember it forever.

1. Climb your first 6b/+ 
At Abella De Conca, Spain


Photographs: Steve McClure Collection

One of the most beautiful little villages you’ll ever see, nestled into cliffs and ridges high up on the mountainside. At this grade there is a huge array of excellent technical wall climbs that will please both the mind and body. The incredibly well-positioned Abella Climb climbers' refuge is the perfect venue, a home from home you’ll come back to again and again.

BUY: Lleida Climbs: Catalunya from the BMC Shop

Guidebook: Lleida Climbs: Catalunya by Pete O'Donovan and Dani Andrada. Also see www.lleidaclimbs.com.
Get there: It's 2.5 hours from Barcelona airport.

2. Climb your first 6c/+    
At Verdon, France

OK, so you’ll not get any soft touches at the grade, but what you will get is some of the finest sport climbing in the world, on the best quality limestone with incredible exposure, position, views and atmosphere. It's perhaps the best climbing area in the world, so routes here will be a memorable experience regardless of whether you are breaking barriers. However, for the range of 6c - 7a there are some of the finest pitches in Europe.

BUY: Aiguines, Verdon Rive Gauche topo climbing guide from the BMC Shop

Guidebook: Aiguines, Verdon Rive Gauche topo climbing guide by Philippe Bugada
Get there: Fly to Marseille or Nice then rent a car for the two-hour drive to La Palud.

3. Climb your first 7c/+
At Ceuse, France

Only the best sport crag in the world. The entire cliff just oozes quality, from the purity of the lines to the rock itself. Towering high above the surrounding countryside like a frozen wave, just being at Ceuse is special. The only thing to avoid is school holidays, where whole classfuls of school kids will burn you off by onsighting your project as a warm up.

Guidebook: Rockfax France: Haute Provence
Get there: There are several low-cost routes to airports around Ceuse. Fly to Nimes, Marseille, Nice, Grenoble or Turin. You should drive though, it's only 10 hours from Calais!

4. Climb your first 7a/+
At Kalymnos, Greece

One of the few ‘must go’ climbing destinations in the world. It is the complete package: amazing climbing, perfect climate, cheap living costs, great food, a real holiday feel, and all the climbing a lovely stroll from both your low cost apartment or the sandy beach. Kalymnos used to be thought of as softly-graded, but some re-grading has made it about right. The low to mid grade 7’s found in Grande Grotta and Panorama are world class.

BUY: Kalymnos guidebook from the BMC Shop

Guidebook: Kalymnos by Aris Theodoropoulos.
Get there: There's a direct flight from Athens to Kalymnos, or you can fly via Kos.

5. Climb your first 7b/+   
At Geyikbayiri, Antalya, Turkey

An amazing collection of cliffs make up the area of Geyikbayiri, with the central point being Jo-Si-To camp ground. This cool hang out with camping, simple rooms, caravans and an awesome restaurant is the perfect place to base a trip around, with everything taken care of, leaving you to simply go climbing. The cliff of Trebenna is dry in the rain (if it ever rains) and sheltered from the sun (which it will be) and has the most amazing selection of three dimensional 7b+ routes I’ve done anywhere.

Guidebook: A Rock Climbing Guidebook For Antalya, by Öztürk Kayikci
Get there: Fly to Antalya.

6. Climb your first 8a
At Bruixes, Teredettes, Northern Spain 

For the grade range of 7c+ to 8a+, this could be the best cliff in the world, with loads to go at. But it’s not just the quantity, it’s the quality, with every route being an absolute three-star classic. Long and pumpy on tufas and perfect rock there really isn’t much that comes close.

BUY: Lleida Climbs: Catalunya from the BMC Shop

Guidebook: Lleida Climbs: Catalunya by Pete O'Donovan and Dani Andrada. Also see www.lleidaclimbs.com.

Get there: Fly to Barcelona, then it's a two-hour drive.


Summer Rocks! 

Get 15% off rock insurance. Bag a bargain this summer with our fantastic deal on all single-trip BMC Rock Insurance policies. That works out at only £37 for ten days!

We've been insuring climbers like you for over 30 years. That's why all of our policies come with:

  • 24-hour emergency assistance helpline
  • £10 million emergency medical cover
  • £100,000 search, rescue and recovery cover
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  • £5,000 cancellation cover
  • £2,500 baggage cover
  • No age loading until you're 70

WATCH: BMC Insurance: Get out there

Want to know more? READ: 5 reasons why you need BMC Travel Insurance

*Policy details: £37.38 for 10-day rock insurance. Discount is valid on all single-trip European Rock cover up to age 69. Offer ends 31 October 2017.


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