Moonbears is a great introduction to climbing long routes. It has the right length, the right difficulty and the right setting for a first experience adventure on multi pitch rock climbing
‘Moonbears’ (5c, 5b, S1) is a 200 meters, nine pitches sport climbing route in Arco Valley near the village of Sarche in the Trentino region in northern Italy. The route is a great introduction to multi pitch climbing with a nice length, short approach and a nice descent as well. Finding the route is not as easy as ascending it. From the parking lot at Orvea Supermercato follow the Via Caffaro westbound for about 300 meters until you reach small dirt road that turns right. The Via Caffaro leads into a bridge that crosses the river, and if you pass onto the bridge you have walked too far. Follow the dirt road for about 500 meters onto a narrow dirt trail that follows the river and leads towards what looks like a hydro plant. You should follow the trail until you reach a fence with a huge, locked steel door. You would think you have missed a turn, but you are actually at the right spot! Look to you right and you can see a bolt. This is where ‘Moonbears’ (5c) starts!
Introduction to multi pitch climbing
‘Moonbears’ (5c) is an obvious choice if you want to introduce yourself or a climbing partner to multi pitch climbing. I visited Arco with some friends from my local climbing gym, where some were lesser experienced multi pitch climbers. We took them to the Parete del Limarò, which is the west face of Piccolo Daín, the mountain that ‘Moonbears’ (5c) amongst other great alternatives are located.
The route is grade 5c, 5b, S1. This follows the French grading system and the S grading system for Severity, which is a grading system that tells about how well bolted a certain sport route is. According to Arco Plasir, the guidebook I used to map out the range for climbs we would do during our stay, ‘Moonbears’ (5c) is a sport climb, where you are supposed to clip bolts along your way. Being a S1 the route is bolted quite well – there are maybe 2 meters between bolts, so there are no need to bring a trad rack. The 5b grade indicates the overall grading based on route length, crux and the sustained difficulty, while the 5c indicates the crux passage. I would reckon that even through the crux is graded 5c, you can still as second even if this is your limit. I would probably not lead the 5c pitches if you are a newcomer to multi pitch rock climbing as there is a significant mental game to play being 300 meters up the route and fighting to stay focused on your next move.
The difficulty of ‘Moonbears’ (5c) is pretty sustained throughout most of the climb. The difficulty is mostly within the grade 5 range with a few shorter 4c passages.
The route starts from the fence mentioned above and traverses left. There are several alternative routes along this traverse, but you should look for the first belay station after about 50 meters. There is a belay station after the about 20 meters, but this is very easy climbing and if you bring 60 meters ropes, then you can skip this belay station and save some time. If you continue traversing further you will reach the lines of ‘Orizzonti Dolomitici’ (5b) and ‘Amazzonia’ (5b). They are great climbs as well, but ‘Moonbears’ (5c) is very rewarding and a very varied climb with a really nice chimney and a near vertical section.
Counting from the two first pitches that traverse left mentioned above, the third pitch starts gentle following a wide long dihedral up the south face of Piccolo Daín. The difficulty is sustained 4c/5a with excellent holds along the way. This continues through the fourth and fifth pitch. Each pitch is between 25 to 30 meters giving you enough time to get into a flow, but not too long for you to fatigue.
The difficulty of ‘Moonbears’ (5c) increases somewhat as the route enters its’ sixth pitch. You start breaking left onto a slab with several crimp holds. Climb the slab with focus, moving slowly and place your feet gently on the tiny holds. The S1 grading is not very forgiving at this point of time as there are about 3-4 meters between bolts.
The route eases up again as you move into the seventh pitch, but with the eight pitch the route really rewards you with a near vertical section of about 10 meters on excellent jugs, where you battle ‘Moonbears’ (5c) with an athletics sequence of climbing, followed by as narrow chimney that ends at a ledge with a tree and the belay station. This pitch is by far the most interesting and definitely a tick that you will remember. This is also the crux pitch and is graded 5c.
The ninth and final pitch starts from the tree and goes near vertical up a corner for about 3-4 meters until you reach a ledge. From here you scramble the rest of ‘Moonbears’ (5c) until you reach a dirt trail that takes you the last meters up to a plateau, where you can rest and get ready for the descent.
Essential gear needed on ‘Moonbears’ (5c)
Bring two 60 meters half ropes, a 120 cm sling and four screwgate carabiners, a breaking device with guide mode (Black Diamond ATC Guide or Petzl Reverso) so you can build a dual point anchor. There are bolted belay stations between pitches with pretty good places to belay from.
Have you climbed the ‘Moonbears’ (5c) in Arco Valley in northern Italy? Please leave a comment below and share your experiences.