Friday, June 15, 2012

Multipitch sport climbing in Sardinia

Every spring Evan and I are faced with the somewhat daunting task of getting back into climbing after a full 5-6 months on our skis. Even though I go through the process every year, it's still hard and at times frustrating. There's always a phase of wondering if we even like climbing anymore, and we find ourselves drawn to running and mountain biking, sports that we actually feel better at after ski season thanks to our strong legs and huge lungs. After cruising around in ski boots for so long, climbing feels uncomfortable, unnatural and really really scary. I find myself checking my knot several times mid pitch and my toes scream for mercy even in my most comfy rock shoes. Even the soles of my feet get sore from walking rocky trails in sneakers after literally months of treading on soft snow in stiff plastic ski boots. As you can imagine, the whining gets completely out of hand, and the last thing I want is to subject my Squamish climbing partners to this pathetic display... the only option is to run away!

The perfect antidote for the early season lack of climbing mojo is a trip to Europe, and we have made this part of our spring routine for the past few years. Clipping bolts on some steep Euro limestone, enjoying good food and wine, and just being somewhere new really helps us get fit and re-psyched for the climbing season. After spending last fall clipping bolts in the Red River Gorge, Kentucky, I was really craving a trip with a bit more of a multi-pitching/adventure climbing element. Browsing our favourite Euro-climbing inspiration source, a book by Stephanie Bodet and Arnaud Petit called "Parois de Legende - Les Plus Belles Escalades d'Europe" we were drawn to the multi pitching possibilities on the islands of Corsica and Sardinia, conveniently located close together in the Mediterranean, but each with different rock types, topography, culture and language (Sardinia is part of Italy and Corsica is part of France).

We flew into the main airport on the north end of Sardinia and hopped into our rental car, an adorable but gutless little Fiat 500 (say "cinquecento" not "five hundred") and made the slow and windy drive to Cala Gonone, a small village on the east coast bracketed north and south by rugged, undeveloped coastline.

Evan dwarfing the Fiat 500

We were warmly welcomed by the italian family who were renting us a studio apartment in their 6-unit building, and it turned out they spent most of the 80's living in Squamish a few doors down from where we live now. The father worked as a pipe-fitter at the pulp mill and his son, who was born in Canada, now runs the vacation rental apartments with him in Sardinia. Their apartments are clean and bright and right next to the beautiful town beach in Cala Gonone - if you are going to Cala Gonone, I would recommend this place completely.

 Our first few days were kind of rainy, but we kept ourselves busy...
Enjoying the local food - this thin bread is a Sardinian specialty called Carta Musica (music paper)
No trip is complete without sampling the local beverages - strictly for research purposes

Evan making friends

 Giant blooming cactus plants lined some of the roads

I love the unstructured but aesthetic details common in many of the places we have visited in Europe

Our first few days we hit up a number of crags in the Cala Gonone vicinity, and even made a 1.5 hour drive to a nice looking area to the south called Jerzu. The combination of super humid conditions, polished rock and the frequency of super rusty bolts and manky anchors left us underwhelmed with the climbing, even if we were loving everything else. 

Cala Luna - a lovely beach with steep climbs right off the sand. Rusty bolts and damp rock detracted from the climbing, but we had a great day complete with a total 3 hours of hiking after we missed the last ferry back to town. 

Cala Luna

We decided to ditch the cragging in favour of some multi pitch climbing and checked out Mediteraneano, an 8 pitch 12a route on Punta Girardili, a 700m cliff on a wild and undeveloped section of coastline. At last, we felt like we were climbing something worth flying over the Atlantic. The climbing was vertical and reminiscent to what we climbed in the Verdon Gorge, but more remote and wild feeling and no one around.

Salami to be, on the approach

Just another crappy Med view on the approach to Punta Girardili

Evan seconding some super tech-ness on Mediteraneano

Higher on the route the rock is steeper and the scenery remains mediocre

Our final day in Sardinia we climbed the classic spire Goloritze, which has many 4-6 pitch routes on it and sits above one of the most scenic beaches in Sardinia, which can only be accessed by boat or a 1 hr steep hike.  We opted for the hike, and snuck in our four pitches of awesome climbing before the heat hit and we had to retreat to the smooth white slabs and round pebbles of the beach for some rest and refreshment. It was quite epic. I almost got a sunburn and the beer almost got warm. 

Evan climbing on Goloritze 

Clowning around near the top of Goloritze

Testing out some Sardinian beer

...and discovering the perfect beer holder

The Goloritze spire and beach

There is even an arch beside the beach. Seriously? This place is too much.

Smooth, clean limestone pebbles at Cala Goloritze - you don't even get sand in your butt crack. Heaven on earth. 

All in all, Sardinia was an awesome place to check out. I would not recommend it for those seeking a sport cragging trip, but from what I sampled of the multi pitches the quality and options on this front are somewhat endless. The hard men and women out there can check out Hotel Supramonte (8b, a bunch of pitches) and there seems to be plenty for 5.11 climbers too. The beaches are beautiful and Cala Gonone is low key, a welcome change from the packed beaches and high prices in some of the other  Mediterrnean beachside towns I have visited.

Although we easily could have stayed longer and climbed more multi pitch routes, temps were climbing into the 30 degree celsius range so we decided to head to Corsica, where mountainous granite and cooler temps awaited. Trip report on Corsica coming soon!


live sports said...

nice pics

Sardinia Accommodation Specialists said...

That is one great adventure trip! Your sport climbing experience in Sardinia is definitely worth it because you got the opportunity to enjoy those breathtaking sights. Thanks for the wonderful images.