Trad climbing at Capo Pecora, Sardinia
Maurizio Oviglia introduces a new seaside trad climbing paradise: 25 routes from 5a to 7a at Capo Pecora in Sardinia.
I dreamt about a place like this ever since the year 2000, when I first set out in search for trad climbing areas along Sardinia's coast. I had to wait a decade but in the end I finally found it. To the north of Capo Pecora, on Sardinia's western shores, there is a section of coastline which cannot be accessed by car, only on foot along unmarked trails. Someone (Giorgio Enne and Flaviano Bessone) had noticed some splendid granite boulders but (almost) no one had realised that the coast here is long and made up of incredible granite with abundant holds and excellent cracks.
At the start of February I began systematically exploring the coast along with Giampaolo Mocci with the aim of developing it, as mentioned, into a trad area. Given the rock formation the idea was to create single pitches which rely only on camming devices (or possibly nuts) for protection. No pegs, no bolts, that was the game. What interested us, seeing our (modest) ability and unfortunately no longer tender age, wasn't to create cutting-edge pitches which would make it into the magazines... Instead we wanted to develop this climbing style which, here in Italy, I'd define as being alternative or even, if you prefer, "underground". To do this we needed, first of all, to find an ideal playground (so as not to get in anyone's way). This didn't prove easy. And then of course we needed to establish a fair number of routes, above all with easy grades (otherwise only a select few would be able to accept the invitation).
At first we concentrated our efforts on a 40m wall above the bay, unaware that the area is extremely vast and that there are at least 10 sectors. Furthermore, the cracks which ran up this grey granite blackboard formed a grid which meant that the potential for routes was enormous, possibly a hundred or so... Shouts of amazement soon followed the photos on facebook and our site pietradiluna.com and someone even compared it to a sort of Mediterranean Stanage on the seashore. I immediately thought this was exaggerated but fun nevertheless, and every time I return I'm surprised by the incredible potential of this sea cliff. 10 visits and circa 25 routes (from 5a to 7a) later, we haven't even completed the first sector!
After our first visits we headed slightly further south and discovered a beautiful, 60m high tower we called Big Ben. While climbing the easier arête we stumbled across an old U-shaped peg and realised that it had already been climbed before, probably 10 or more years ago. This is unsurprising as those who sail along the coast cannot fail to notice the tower. For the record, it's worth noting that in 2007 a sea stack was climbed further to the north called Nido dell’Aquila by Marco Marrosu and Sebastiano Salaris.
So there is plenty going on in this area and much is being explored, but it's no big secret and everyone can contribute. The next issue of Vertical International (September/October) will include an article which describes the ascent of Big Ben with some topos, and in the future the routes will be updated on pietradiluna.com
For those who in the meantime want to check out the area, the crag is easy to get to. Park at Capo Pecora and follow the path north up the coast for circa 30 minutes. Scramble down to the sea (Grade I scramble) and there, seeing the quality of the rock and the water, all you've got to do is decide whether to climb or take a dip!
A final word of advice: the granite is often wet. The mistral wind creates strong tides which means that, with wind blowing from the NW, conditions might not be good. The rock remains in the shade in the morning and if it is wet just wait for the sun to dry it out. None of the routes have any in-situ gear, while some belays have been bolted for topropring. Yes, a compromise between the British and Mediterranean ethics.
I'd like to thank all those who accompanied me on this umpteenth adventure. First of all Giampaolo Mocci, with whom I shared the joy of the initial exploration. Then Massimo Gessa, who offered us some memorable days climbing and sailing. And, last but not least, my daughter Sara, Mauro Florit, Gianluca Piras, Andrea Mannias and, naturally, my wife Cecilia.