Text and pictures © 2012-2014 Guillaume Dargaud
Last updated on 2012/12/13
"It's not in the mountains that one stumbles, but on tiny pebbles." — Anonymous.
Well, no, that's not our first contact with Sardinia. Jenny has climbed there something like 6 times years ago, when it was no more than a boat ride away from Rome. And we went together 15 years ago, climbed the most famous rock on the island, l'Aguglia di Goloritzè, got rained off the Cusidore and caught diseases in the non-running waters of a canyon descent. I must have some dusty slides somewhere from just about the same time I started this site, but I have no idea where. That's one thing to say for the internet: at least it helps in finding you own pictures...
Left: Approach trail fraught with perils at the Paretina per Lodè near Siniscola. I even had to take my trusted swiss army knife out to cut some cactus like a machete... To be fair, that's not the approach trail, but the trail linking the two main cliffs. Some shortcut... in sandals.
Right: Our first week wasn't too lucky with the weather. We had some rain daily but still managed to climb every day. Here we are climbing in the rain at Lode (Siniscola) under a big roof.
Left: Rainbow on the east coast of Sardinia as we drive from the ferry terminal in Olbia to Cala Gonone.
Cala Gonone is the center of hostility for climbers on the islands. To be fair there are rocks everywhere, but there the concentration and the quality reaches a maximum. Also there are plenty of sites with easy routes, short approaches and comfortable bases which make them ideal for families.
Left: Trying to pass the 1st hard move on the 1st pitch of Oceano Mare.
Right: On Oceano Mare, with the cave of Millennium visible in the back. Higher up on the route the bolts are not so rusty and the climbing is slightly easier.
Ocean Mare is a a recent but already classic route protected by stainless bolts... which must not have been of the highest quality as they are now rusty to the core, at least on the 1st pitch. After looking at the rust flakes I decided to neither fall nor rest on those things. Which would have been an obvious decision if the 1st pitch hadn't been a tough 6b+. Halfway up there's an overhanging high reach on big holds which I tried a good 10 times, coming down a few meters to rest each time. That was pumpy enough but near the end of the pitch there is a very technical section for 5 meters on the tiniest flakes and still overhanging. I ended up well over the bolt, unable to retreat, forbidden to fall, hyperventilating and seeing stars before finally finishing the section.
I still ended up marginally better than Vincent who climbed it a week later and right at the crux remembered what happened to a colleague of his, another guide from Briançon who broke 7 of those rusty bolts in a fall in Thailand, coming to a rest 2 meters off the ground, with brown pants and all.
Anyway it's a beautiful route but it needs to freshen up.
Left: Rest day for Jenny: yoga session at Bidiriscotai while we climb...
Right: ...and the result after a freak wave an hour later!
Left: Surprisingly easy 6a roof traverse inside the cave of Bidiriscotai.
There are plenty of seemingly minor cliffs around Cala Gonone and some have excellent sustained climbing like the recent one at Buchi Arta.
The guidebook of climbing in Sardinia, titled Pietra di Luna, is written by the prolific climber and writer Maurizio Oviglia. There's been plenty of editions since 1988 but the latest (5th edition, 2011) only has sport climbing routes, probably meaning that a guidebook of long routes is in the works. In other words, get an older version if you want to climb long routes. And yes, it's available in italian, french, german and english edition. Although for 10 days all we saw were french climbers.
Right: Greasy 6c+ roof in Bidiriscotai. Some days the sea winds soak the rock turning even some grade 5 completely impossible.
Right: Vincent on the 1st pitch of La Mia Africa, a tough slab route at Monte Oddeu.
Left: Jenny on La Mia Africa.
The Supramonte is the area inland from Cala Gonone. In only a few km you reach an altitude of 1000m and indeed on the first days there was a bit of snow up top. Supramonte has some of the most famous climbing in Sardinia: the easy classic slabs of Surtana, the incredibly tough routes of Gorropu Canyon, and the highest of all, the Cusidore.
Right: Pocket holes like in the Verdon. The bolting is a little uneven at times and it can be a lot easier to go some meters around the bolts than straight up. You just have to find the pockets that suit you.
Left: Gorropu Canyon, on a very windy and rainy day. I actually waited for 15 minutes on a bolt halfway up the first pitch for the rain to abate right before doing the delicate 6c move. On the other side of the canyon start several very long grade 8 routes and it was funny to see a bail binner on the 2nd bolt. A presumptuous party ?
The Supramonte is known for many things, among them the long held tradition by sardinians to kidnap people and keep them hidden in the mountains for months or even years until a sufficient ransom has been paid. Fortunately they finally figured out that you can extract a lot more money from tourists by selling them access to the beach, olive oil and Cannonau wine.
Right: Well, with all this rain at least we find plenty of 'shrooms around. Fill the heads of those Lepiota with some good sardinian sausages and stuff in the oven... The locals dip them in batter and fry them.
Left: Gorropu canyon seen from the Dorgali road, right where I took off on mountain bike. The big wall of the incredibly hard Hotel Supramonte is in the deepest part of the canyon. The climb we did, Movrdi, faces it on the orographic left.
Right: The Punta Cusidore, with the NW ridge on which the route goes up still in the shade and ominous clouds moving fast overhead.
Left: 1st very tough pitch of L'ombra della mia mano on the Cusidore. It's cold, windy and there are brief showers every 10 minutes.
Right: The route follows the ridge visible above the tough 1st move on which Vincent battles for a while.
Left: Vincent and Cecile on the 2nd pitch of L'ombra della mia mano, Cusidore. Starts slabby and finished rainy.
Right: Hasty retreat after being rained on once too many times. 4 pitches done only, we'll be back.
Left: Jenny on the 3rd pitch of L'ombra della mia mano the next day with a weather hardly better. Maybe this is not the day to start a 700m route, what with only 8 hours of light during the day.
Right: Higher up on the Cusidore. The blotches of sun are rare and far between on the ground below.
Left: Easier pitches near the end of the route. Easier but exposed: you are right on the pillar.
Right: At the end of the route, we join the North-West ridge and decide to continue after the sun comes out.
Left: It's november and the days are short to do something like 12 pitches...
Right: North-west ridge of the Cusidore.
Left: View towards the north of the island.
Right: There's a lot more rock right next to the Cusidore.
Left: Next to last pitch on the final headwall, a very delicate and long diagonal between crack systems, with old gear hanging just about anywhere.
Right: Summit of the Cusidore. Now we have only one hour to get back to the car before it gets dark. Fortunately the descent is pretty quick if you don't make mistakes in the first 100m.
Right: Scenic approach to the Punta Girardili.
Left: Vincent on the 1st pitch of Mediterraneo at the Punta Girardili. Several routes up there are famous and doable, such as the Güllich or 7 anni di solitudine.
Right: Mediterraneo seen all the way up from below: starts slabby and ends overhanging but it's always sustained.
Left: Jenny on Punta Girardili. The small rock sticking out of the sea is Petra Lunga and is reachable by car.
Right: End of the 3rd pitch, next to the huge cave.
Left: Me and my new helmet which looks like a cross between a Kippah and a condom. I broke my previous helmet in a series of falls at the Pizzo del Diavolo during the summer... Oh yeah, that's a 7a+ pitch, with only one rest. OK, ok, Cecile had left me the quickdraws already in place and I had seen where Vincent had done wrong and fallen off.
Right: End of the easiest pitch of the route, but still 6a.
Left: High up on Punta Girardili. The smile is for getting back on the rock after 6 months without climbing due to a damaged ankle.
Right: Summit of Punta Girardili. More routes in the background, just like anywhere you look in Sardinia.
Right: 6b (only!) overhang at Isili. Lots of big holes but requires big arms to match.
Left: Jenny on overhang at Isili.
Right: Different cliff at Isili.
Located in the center of Sardinia, Isili is particular: it's short (hardly more than 10 meters), but it's full of pockets and very overhanging. So this is the kind of cliff beloved by indoor climbers who can pull as hard as usual. For us ordinary climbers it's just a way to kill our arms off for the next few days.
Left: The first cliff of Isili. Unfortunately all those cliffs are pretty small, topping out at barely 20 meters.
Right: The island of the Pan di Zucchero at Masua. Several routes reachable by boat.
Left: The cliffs of Masua in the morning and the Pan di Zucchero.
Right: 2nd pitch of Pista Ciclabile (6a+) on the sea cliff of Pranu Sartu.
Left: A party at the end of the tough 6b pitch of Litri e Litri di vino cattivo which we later climbed.
Left: Summit of Pranu Sartu.
Right: Bouldering at Capo Testa in the early morning.
Left: Bouldering at Capo Testa. So we got up early in order to have a good light from the sun. Here are the results. Sorry, it was too cold to climb in bikini...
Right: Highball. Some of the higher boulders have bolts on top and sometimes even along the more obvious lines.
Left: Sitting on my ass looking at the scenery.
Right: Jenny bouldering as well.
Left: Waving down the passing boats.
Right: The boulders are very carved but not on a small scale: there are no holds to peak off, only bulges and rounded cracks.
Left: Smearing bulges.
Right: Boulder running...
Left: Passing boat behind the boulders.
Right: If anybody with a geology degree can explain this strange line of 5cm deep holes in this boulder, I'm curious. From what I could tell it seems natural and I saw something similar, with bigger holes farther apart on a sea cliff.
Left: Same line of holes for the hands... or the feet.
Right: The biggest boulder of all is a good 3 to 5 pitches tall and requires trad gear rather than crash pads. Or many many crash pads then.
Left: So one day under attack by kittens and piglets and the next by puppies belonging to an hermit living among the rocks.
Right: Puppies attached to Jenny as she tries to start the approach.
Left: Second pitch of a long route named Uccellacci Uccellini at Capo Testa. Trad climbing here and large cams welcome in a style reminiscent of Vedauwoo.
Right: Also some slab moves between the cracks. The scenery of the beach of golden rocks below is breathtaking with Corsica easily visible when the clouds open.
Left: An interesting double crack for a 3rd pitch.
Right: The same crack seen from above.
Right: The summit is a bungle of large boulders without obvious way to go from one to the next, so some have old rotten gear on top to get off. I didn't know aluminum could rust to the core.
Left: There are about 10 routes on that cliff. My tip to get off is to reach the tower as the trail starts from there. And before you get to that tower, get on top of the tallest boulder you can see. From there you'll figure it out even if that means going up and down for a while...
Right: ...or doing some unprotected moves on slabs (yeah, it's higher than it looks)...
Left: ...and a possible short rappel at the base of which we found a horde of delicious mushrooms.
For more about Sardinia, look at the biking pictures.