1. Les Calanques, France
France has many great climbing locations including Chamonix and Fountainbleu, but Les Calanques stands out for us. Situated in the south of France on the Mediterranean coast, a range of limestone mountains span from Marseille to Cassis, 20km to the east. A wealth of varied climbing can be found here…steep overhangs in caves? Technical slabs? Multi-pitch routes in the mountains? Single-pitch routes on the sea’s edge? Take your pick. In total there are 8 main rock climbing areas, each with its own distinct feel. Both Marseille and Cassis are towns worth exploring too with their idyllic climates and cultural venues.
2. Devil’s Tower, US
This distinct structure is very popular with climbers worldwide, drawing in more than 1,100 each season. Around 85% of them take the Durrance Route, generally regarded as the easiest route to the summit, but if you want to avoid the traffic then there are over 150 other routes to choose from. Many routes are best done by climbing the first few pitches and then rappelling – fixed anchors are numerous. Hundreds of parallel cracks divide the tower into large hexagonal columns, making it one of the finest traditional crack climbing areas in North America.
3. Cassin Ridge, Denali, Alaska
This is considered by some as a ‘test piece’ for climbers and alpinists as it includes a variation of ice and rock climbing as well as steep mixed terrain, high altitudes and hazardous weather conditions…yet it is still one of the most sought after climbs in the world. The ridge splits the vast south face of the biggest mountain on the continent but the actual climbing is not too difficult; the combination of above factors make it a tribute to the visionary first ascentionists and explain the relatively low number of ascents it has seen. The quality of the climbing is classic and Bradford Washburn wrote that the route had “unequivocally excellent climbing from start to finish.” We agree Bradford! The rock and the ice on this exceptional route are superb.
4. Torres de Paine, Chile
Located roughly 160km south of Fitzroy, the Paine National Park is an incredibly beautiful place to visit and also boasts the ‘Towers of the Blue Sky’ which make up some of the wildest rock climbs in the world. The area is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and home to all sorts of wildlife as well as weather. The locals like to say all four seasons can be experienced in one day in Patagonia, joking “if you don’t like the weather just wait a minute”. Despite the unpredictable conditions, the area offers spectacular climbing of which the Towers are the most famous. The Central, North and South Towers are 8,071ft, 7,415ft, and 8,204ft respectively but don’t let the lack of elevation fool you; these are difficult climbs, especially if you get caught in one of the blizzards that can stay for up to a week.
5. Yosemite National Park, US
Yosemite is the home of rock climbing. Some of the greatest climbs in the world can be found here in an area which made rock climbing popular as an outlet for likeminded passionate and adventurous people. No list of climbing destinations could be complete without paying homage to the endless variety of challenges offered by here. Most climbing in Yosemite is traditional climbing, taking you up the sustained crack routes as you place your own gear, but it’s not all about novices (given the advanced methods you’ll need to employ here). Although there are beginner routes, Yosemite’s crack technique is difficult to learn.
6. Meteora, Greece
Literally translated, Meteora means ‘the ones that stand, hang alone in the air’ and this is an appropriate description of the sedimentary monoliths that make Thessalia, at the heart of Greece, home to some fantastic climbs. Here, shepherds had the first idea and carried their sheep up to the top to graze, ensuring their survival! Now, climbers visit to be among the statuesque and often bizarre rock formations. Routes vary from grade 5 to grade 7 so there is something for everyone, and if you want to venture further afield then Mouzaki, near Trikala, is not far and offers some excellent sport climbing from grade 4c to very hard.
7. The Peak District, UK
Home to many world-class climbers living in and around the area, the Peak District is the place to visit whether you’re an enthusiastic beginner or a world-class athlete. Over 10,000 climbs have been recorded here, the toughest of which is attributed to one of the most famous Peak District climbers, Ron Fawcett, who pioneered the ‘Master’s Edge’ route. The climb is graded E7 6C and rises 19m up the near vertical edge; a true testament to his skill and strength. Don’t panic if this is beyond your abilities. The gritstone rock creates a unique friction which makes it great for all levels of climbing.
8. South Africa
Boasting an ideal climate for outdoor activities, South Africa offers some of the best and most diverse rock climbing in the world. Routes range from scramble-easy to the near impossible, suitable only for the few superhumans among us. Fantastic sports climbing can be found at Waterval Boven and Montagu, but it is the bouldering at Rocklands that is transforming this area into a world-famous destination. The interesting formations, Table Mountain sandstone and beautiful scenery are a winning combination.
The south-east of Australia, in particular Melbourne and Sydney, offer the best rock climbing in Australia. The state of
Victoria is home to The Grampians, Mount Arapiles and Mount Buffalo, all of which vary greatly in diversity. The Grampians is a vast, mountainous and beautiful park where multi-pitch routes provide some renowned adventure climbing. Trad climbing is most common though there are some sport routes, often higher in grade. Mount Arapiles is an island of hard quartzite rock and is considered to be the best trad climbing in Australia, but if it’s alpine-style climbing you’re after head to Mount Buffalo, the granite plateau split into deep gorges and delicately balanced slabs. Closer to Sydney, The Blue Mountains are a worthy visit with everything to offer from steep single-pitch routes to longer climbs across all grades.
10. Alberta, Canada
Alberta has something for everyone…for the alpinists there are easier climbs such as Mount Athabasca, and for the rock-jocks there is the north face of Mount Temple, known as the Eiger of the Rockies. This takes you straight above the picturesque tourist town of Lake Louise and, as you ascend, you’ll watch the lights of the town become ever more distant. For those interested in ice climbing, you’re in the right place as the Canadian Rockies go unrivalled.