Pursuing adventure activities overseas, especially when you don't speak the native language well, can be a daunting prospect and can often put many off. But it shouldn't. The rewards that can be gained by pushing your natural comfort zone a little further can be really rewarding.
As a keen amateur adventurer myself and a father of two young kids (now 9 and 11), I'm always trying to find new things that not only challenge them, but also challenge my wife and I.
Prior to a recent trip to Sardinia I'd read many articles and had chats with like minded friends about the quantity of good quality sports climbing venues on the island, so decided to have a go at some routes while there. I'd not call myself a climber among my peer group (but all things are relative), so opting to go climbing in the first instance over other activities was pushing my comfort zone.
First thing I had to do was establish where the crags were and how close they were to our accommodation. After a quick search I'd discovered that there was a guide for the whole of Sardinia, but at €35 it wasn't cheap. Instead I worked out which was the nearest crag to where we were staying via a map service on The Crag website, which was identified as Domusnovas:
I then discovered that a new guide to the area had just been released in English via a local climber:
The author, Maurizio Oviglia, produces guides for across Sardinia and was very helpful over email with extra information.
The next challenge is kit. We were flying to Sardinia, so managing luggage weight is an issue. We had thought about doing some canyoning while in Sardinia, but it wasn't the right time of the year and all the locations were relatively far from where we were staying, so decide to not pursue this any further. Sports climbing generally requires less equipment than traditional climbing, so reduced the weight requirement for the flight.
The rope is the heaviest item amongst these, but a 8.9mm rope is quite flexible and really as light as it will be for use as a single rope and the length ensured that most routes would be achievable when we got there.
On the day we'd planned to go, we used Google Maps to get us to where we'd identified we needed to park near the crag, via the guidebook that I'd now received in the post - thanks Maurizio! Just approaching the area got us all excited as a family, it was off the beaten track and we love going to new mountainous areas. It seemed that the day was a local celebration day, as under all the trees in the area by the river were long picnic tables set out by local families with food and wine to last all day; it all added to the atmosphere.
We parked as described but finding the crag from the parking wasn't straight forward, we walked a lot quicker than the expected 15-20 mins walk in as per the guide and had to work our way back to find the crag. Once there you then need to match up small photos in the guide with reality, again a bit of exploring before we tied it all together.
From the crag, you can see down the valley to other crags and other groups of climbers, everyone was very welcoming and delighted to see us there as foreigners with kids. The routes we'd selected were straight forward, relatively easy routes around 5a/b. I'd not led for a while, so didn't want to push myself up routes that I'd get stuck on!
The Spring sun baked down on the route and it was great to be up in an airy position overlooking the wooded valley and hearing the other climbers and walkers. I had a minor incident with one hold having a soft bodied reptile in the pocket when I'd first put my hand in, but it shot off without reply!
The kids all got up the route without a second thought, with my daughter complaining that they were too easy, I can see my leading level being surpassed without issue. I retaught myself threading descending bolts while sweating at the top of the route, always good to relearn something under a little pressure.
We drove home later that afternoon basking in the warmth and glow of having taken ourselves out of our comfort zones and doing something that challenged us all, from planning to execution.
All the ingredients of what great family memories should be made of. Give it a go next to you're on a trip, with a little extra effort you can achieve a lot more.