Sardinia Torri di San Pantaleo, two new rock climbs on Punta Balbacanu
Maurizio Oviglia introduces two new rock climbs on Punta Balbacanu Punta Balbacanu (Torri di San Pantaleo, Gallura, Sardinia): Un granello di sale (VIII-, VII oblig, 335 mt, Maurizio Oviglia, Fabio Erri 03/2015) and I denti del drago (VII+, VI+ oblig, Tomas Krul, Marek Flekal, Fabio Erriu 06/2015).
The San Pantaleo towers are some of the most important, and most striking, granite outcrops in Sardina’s Gallura region. In fact, compared to many other dome shaped peaks, at San Pantaleo the Gallura granite "crystallized" to form beautiful towers, often fringed by large gargoil (ie tafoni) that add to its surreal beauty. This mountain chain has an important mountaineering history: the wide, often unprotectable cracks have been the testing ground for many of Italy’s strongest rock climbers Italians, from Ivo Mozzanica (without a shadow of doubt the driving force behind early exploration in this massif) to Alessandro Gogna, from Marco Bernardi to Marco Marrosu and Lorenzo Castald, the Sardinians who most got to grips with the rudimentary form of climbing needed to get up these towers.
Of all the towers, Balbacanu is certainly one of the most imposing and also mysterious. The routes here are complex and seek the lines of weakness under huge overhangs and between massive grottos; a labyrinth that is difficult to decipher. It comes as no great surprise therefore that the last three routes here were climbed by mistake, for the first ascentionists had set out to repeat an old route but, getting lost en route, established something new. This holds true for the late Marco Anghileri who, on vacation in Sardinia in 2010, reached the bottom of the cliff without a guidebook. He climbed the most obvious line believing that, seeing how logical it was, it must surely already have been climbed. Instead, unbeknown to him, he had added a new route. Unfortunately for him, there was no time to provide a detailed report nor to give the route a name. Of this climb we only have the route line, that I marked carefully according to details given to me by Marco in my latest guidebook Pietra di Luna.
History has a way of repeating itself and, last March, Fabio Erriu set out to repeat T39°, first climbed by Gogna and Marrosu. Perhaps we’re not particularly good at deciphering route topos, but after having read the approach info a couple of times we still failed to locate the start of the route. After scrambling around the starting slabs for an hour not only did we know the base of the tower off by heart, but we also realized that this section of the face was still untouched, despite there being a fairly logical line. It was getting late and we decided to go for it, at worst we’d climb a new variation. And low and behold, after three pitches we reached the diagonal crack on T39°, avoiding the overhangs on the right. But now a thought obsessed me: why not try to climb directly into the heart of the caves? A difficult section forced me to make another attempt before breaching it, then we discovered our line though the maze of roofs, with just one friend, without a hammer and pegs! Just how I like it! We called our new route Un granello di sale, shares just a dozen or so meters with La Scelta nearby and provided us with a nice recollection, dispelling our too hasty prejudices that many of the routes were covered in moss.
The latest route ates back to the summer solstice and was put up by Fabio Erriu, who took his Czechs friends Tomas Krul e Marek Flekal to get to know the Gallura granite. Once again they set off to repeat a route, Il Grottone, but in the end they established a new, far harder climb. Once again the overhangs proved irresistible for Tomas, resulting in I denti del drago. This, like 99% of the climbs in this massif, is strictly trad.
I’m now take advantage of Planetmountain to publish the (I hope) correct route topos since the numbering in my Pietra di Luna guidebook is slightly confusing, for which I apologise. Balbacanu, as mentioned, is a complex formation and deciphering the photos taken from below is not easy. I would like to thank Marco Marrosu for highlighting the mistakes and all those who, in the future will point out any further errors or other routes on this peak.
di Maurizio Oviglia (CAAI)