Millennium Bug at Cala Gonone, new route by Luca Giupponi and Maurizio Oviglia in Sardinia
On 19/10/2011 Luca Giupponi and Maurizio Oviglia freed Millennium Bug (7b+, 110m), their new multi-pitch outing established ground-up across the beautiful Millennium cave at Cala Gonone in Sardinia. A particular route, perhaps unique even. The report by Maurizio Oviglia.
How on earth can you establish a multi-pitch route through a cave which is a mere 40m high? I'd mulled over this question for three or four years because although the Millennium Cave is certainly one of most spectacular places in Sardinia, in effect it isn't all too high and adding more than 2 pitches here seems pretty much impossible! Truth be told, in recent years the tendency has been quite the opposite and the single pitches have become longer and longer. Yann Guesquiers set the ball rolling with his 45m Lion de Panshir (8b+), Rolando Larcher then continued with his 60m Il vecchio e il mare (8b), while Arthur Kubista's Kubomaladia (8c+) is 70m long and requires, he says, at least an hour and a half for each attempt. My ideas were diametrically opposed. I wanted to create a route which climbed through the weakpoints of the cave, which began from inside, from the darkest point to climb its way out to the light. If possible without touching on difficulties as high as 8a, but given the angle this in itself seemed like a real challenge. Five pitches were certainly feasible, but the real problem wasn't establishing them, but unearthing the link between the rock formations in one particular section which appeared very problematic indeed. There were serious doubts as to how sound the numerous stalactites were and I really did not want to destroy them. So while waiting for the right solution to come along I put the project off to a later date.
Summer 2011. I met up with Luca Giupponi and our respective families in Cala Gonone and we felt that a few days of freedom, away from our wives, could be best spent on a multi-pitch route, perhaps even establishing a new one. So while we ate our ice creams I talked to my partner about the dream I'd stored away years ago. Faced with either a 200m slab or a cave, I was certain that Luca wouldn't opt for the grey rock and so there I was, resigned to exploding my biceps on the "Millennium issue". We reached the cave at 7.00am, eyes peering upwards, examining the possible line I had glimpsed, uncertain as to whether it was feasible or not. On closer inspection and above all according to my authoritative partner, the problem was that, even should we manage to climb it... it certainly wouldn't be easier than 8b! We began to search for an alternative and after an hour and with a pretty stiff neck Luca found the solution: instead of climbing from the inside all the way back out, we could try to climb from left to right! But we hadn't done our maths properly? The original plan had been to start deep in the cave and consequently climb in the shade all day long. But now, being June, we had to wait for the sun to dip behind the mountain which meant, in practice, 7/8 hours of doing nothing at all! Seeing that returning to our wives would have meant wasting our bonus, I resigned myself to climbing the first pitch in the sun! Despite the litres of sweat I managed to ascend up to a first belay but then had to descend and recover in the shade. When the sun finally turned Luca established the next two pitches and, the next day, we alternated leads and finished off the last two pitches, exiting above the lip with the absolute void beneath us...
To free the route we were obliged to wait for October, when the temperatures dropped and became more humane. It turned out to be less difficult than we had imagined and this, at least for me personally, was a good thing. We succeeded in my aim of climbing the cave's weakpoint and the name of the route couldn't be anything other than Millennium Bug. But if you're interested in repeating the route accept a word of advice: Millennium bug isn't a macho line but if you don't like traverses, or if you don't want to go there with your girlfriend who hates them, then don't try and repeat it! Even if she survives she'll certainly dump you, since there is 7a climbing from one bolt to the next, much of it in traverse which means that it's often more dangerous for the second than the leader. But if you're not worried by traverses and an absolute void give you a kick, then this is a climb which will no doubt provide plenty of fun. And of course there are the surroundings... which need no introduction!
Grottone di Millennium Cala Gonone Sardina
Length: 110 m
Grade: 7b+ (7a obl)
First ascent: Luca Giupponi e Maurizio Oviglia 30 June 2011
First free ascent: 19 Ocotber by the first ascentionists
Note: The route is equipped with stainless steel bolts
Topos and other photos of the route on www.pietradiluna.com