Ticino – El Cat Capers

Another of the “Ticino Top Ten” is the crag of El Cat, situated above the exquisite village of Brontallo – a renovation project on a grand scale, the charming stone houses are stacked improbably up the hillside,

The triangular crag is clearly visible on the hillside and to reach it you navigate the maze of stone step pathways, following signs for

… until above the village where a well cairned path breaks of horizontally leftwards and soon you meet the rockface and find a couple of fixed ropes to help you up some slippy bits. This brings you to the “warm up sector” of El Catino, which has just 5 routes of 5b to 6a. We just did the one: Ju and Me, 6a; the central line, giving a really great route on sometimes crimpy; sometimes balancy Gneiss.

We had a couple of local teams for company:

Here’s one of them leading the route a little later.

The “main event” is reached by more scrambling up a rake, protected by further fixed ropes to El Cat (you’d have to be moving at speed to make the guidebook time of 20 minutes).

It’s a really impressive bit of rock: 40m high with the lower half just the right side of vertical, and the upper half the wrong side, so it’s natural that many of the lines have halfway lower-offs giving a 20m 6a-6c or an extension of 6c-7b. It’s also a huge suntrap shorts and shirtless at around a 1,000m in the foothills of the Alps in mid March, and we were hiding under a tree between routes to cool down!

Here’s a Swiss lad on one of the 6a first pitches at the left hand end…

… and the same guy on a 6b in the middle:

Although the rock is Gneiss, (and certainly very NICE!) it climbs like limestone, with plenty of edges and flakes and the occasional pocket. It reminded me of El Falco at Arboli in the Sierra de Prades https://rockaroundtheworld.co.uk/2018/03/08/arboli-sector-el-falco/

We did a bunch of really excellent routes: Lezioni di Cucito, 6b; Le Magre la Caora, 6a+ with a 6c extension; the first pitch of The Last but not the List, 6a; and Tiro Ghiro, 6a+ with almost but not quite the 7a extension. I’d say it’s the best single pitch sports crag I’ve climbed on anywhere in Switzerland.

Somewhat roasted and toasted, we headed down through the village, admiring the Jenga construction of the dry stone walled roof tops.

Fab spot and one we’ll return to (maybe in slightly cooler weather!)

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