Punta A Biciartula and Bavella climbing in Corsica
Maurizio Oviglia reveals Punta A Biciartula at Bavella, Corsica; pure pleasure climbing up some of the most beautiful and unique granite in the world.
Even after numerous climbing trips to Bavella I still get excited every time I take the ferry to Corsica. Perhaps it's because the ticket to California always costs too much, or perhaps because we're in the middle of a recession and we have to make do with some areas closer to home... They say Bavella has changed, that "modernism" has reached these rocks, too, but for me it continues to be as wild, rough and tough as always. Fortunately time travels more slowly on islands than elsewhere and changes are sometimes imperceptible.
At the start of the millennium a group of French climbers from Marseille put up a host of new routes based on the Chamonix-style that was very much in vogue in the nineties. Bolts on slabs and some Friends in cracks, in search of maximum beauty. Despite the fact that Friends are far less useful here than in Chamonix, and despite the fact that the new climbs turned out to be splendid plaisir routes, Bavella's reputation never made its way across the sea. Climbers still don't flock here and adventure hasn't been domesticated yet, despite the approach paths having finally been marked with cairns.
Apart from Quilici's guidebook we now have the one written by Jean Louis Fenouil. Embellished with beautiful watercolour paintings, the route descriptions continue to be, probably on purpose, not particularly detailed. So most climbers head out to repeat the usual routes while the other lines, perhaps less obvious, continue to remain unpopular. And that's not to mention what goes on at the more distant rock faces.
A case in point is Punta A Biciartula, that gets its name from the splendid lizard-shaped gargoil that defends its summit. Located immediately to the left of the more famous Punta U Corbu and Teghie Liscie, it remains completely unknown to most. From the road it seems like an insignificant slab and the routes certainly wouldn't seem "worth the drive" over. But Alexandra, and even more so Célébration du Lézard, are little gems, true masterpieces of this Mediterranean granite sports climbing. The climbing here is far removed from the basic alpine cracks, while English trad seems light years away. In fact the opposite holds true: everything seems as if it's been conceived to reap maximum pleasure. The rock is clean and motly coloured, festooned with tafoni, the bolts are abundant but never excessively so, the air is light and smells sweetly of heather. Climbing is pure pleasure, up some of the most beautiful and unique granite in the world.
Jean Louis has generously shared the latest routes established on this slab. On the left, on the face close to the gully, lies Kalliste, a difficult 7a+. Two routes have recently been put up to the right of Alexandra, A Tempesta and Canal Inattendu, and they breach the sunny, south-facing slabs. A Tempesta is slightly more difficult than Alexandra and this remains one of the easiest and most recommended routes in the entire Bavella massif. To avoid being cooked in the sun it's better not to climb here in summer but in spring or autumn.
The face is situated on the eastern side of Col di Bavella, circa 15 km from Solenzara along the D268. The slab is located to the left of Polischellu and is also the base of a tower, full of tafoni, called Punta Rossa. All routes are equipped with stainless steel bolts; take 12 quickdraws, slings, two 60m ropes. Some routes, where specified, require Friends.
Approach: from Col du Bavella drive past the Arza forest house and cross the Renaju bridge. Continue for another 200m and park on the left on the old, disused road. Walk into the forest following the path that leads up to the rocks. Exit the forest and traverse left towards a gully, ascend this and reach the base of the face. On the left there is an obvious gully with water (45 minutes).
Descent: from the summit reach the first abseil in a nicht, on the left and above the void looking at Punta Rossa (the exit of Kalliste). Make a 45m abseil into the void to reach the gully. Scramble down this with care to reach another anchor. Another 40m abseil leads to another gully that borders above the face. Down climb this to the wedged block which is breached via a 20m abseil. Down climb easily to the base of the face.
Guidebook: Bavedda, Jean Louis Fenouil and Jean Paul Quilici, FFME, 2010
Thanks to Jean Louis Fenouil and Daniele Moretti
- Corsica: multi-pitch rock climbing
A selection of some of the best multi-pitch rock climbs in Corsica, by Maurizio Oviglia. Routes in the Bavella, Val Restonica and Valle du Tavignano