Monte Santu, Baunei, Sardinia. Two new routes by Larcher & Oviglia and Giupponi & Sartori
Two new 8a multi-pitch climbs on Monte Santu, Baunei, one of the last virgin crags in Sardinia: Vertigine Blu" (275m, 8a max, 7a+ obl.) established by Luca Giupponi and Nicola Sartori and "Blu Oltremare" (315m, 8a max, 7b obl.) established by Rolando Larcher and Maurizio Oviglia. Both climbs were established ground-up from on 14/16 and 18 May 2013 and then redpointed on 20/05/2013. The report by Maurizio Oviglia.
It may seem like heresy to state that Sardinia is running out of virgin areas but this certainly is the case. Anyone who is ever been on holiday on this island has always returned home believing that the rock faces in the Supramonte area are infinite and that there's enough limestone for the next two, three generations. Yes, there are still plenty of completely untouched cliffs, but the big faces are beginning to be few and far between. It certainly wasn't like this a while ago, just think about the group comprised of Gogna, Manolo, Bernardi, Beuchod and friends who in the 80's climbed a new route a day, often up hitherto untouched rock faces.
We've always been driven by the vice of climbing in solitude and of course we never resigned ourselves to the idea of failing to find a rock face completely to ourselves, so we set off to find out more about one of these rare gems, there where others had given up, perhaps because of the long approach (1.5 hours!). Giorgio and Michela had recently been on a trek towards Capo Monte Santu and taken some close-up photos and these convinced me that the face I had always ignored might instead prove interesting. The only thing we didn't want to do was climb a route which could only be accessed via the sea as it seemed to us that these routes pose logistical (and financial) difficulties which are often too difficult for those who wish to repeat the routes...
We have always called this immense cliff Capo Monte Santu, but Monte Santu would in fact be a better name since the real head is much, much further north. Well beyond beautiful Punta Giradili and Monte Ginnircu, previously known as Regno dei Cieli for a small group of climbers from Bologna, began the unknown. At least for us climbers. Over two kilometers of rock, between 300 and 500 metres high, completely virgin!
The strip of land at the base tapers off gradually and thins out completely and transforms into a bay with crystal clear water. Beyond this the cliff plunges into the sea, jutting out abruptly and this point is called Falesia dei Falchi - Hawks Crag - due to the colony of Eleonora's falcon). Two trad routes were forged in the '90's by Marcello Cominetti. At their base lies the enchanting Grotta dei Colombi, accessible only by sea. The very same sea in which numerous dolphins and whales were recently spotted. That's Sardinia!
If three is the perfect number to climb a difficult multi-pitch, four is the minimum number to climb two! Stress, fatigue, no excuses possible for all. No days off for being sick... no substitutions allowed, every team must think about climbing and freeing their own route. And with only 6 days "holiday" this is by no means easy, especially when you consider the 300 plus metres of overhangs that lie up ahead!
With the usual tried and tested team, Rolando and myself, Luca and Nicola, we reached the base of the face and studied two lines which would lead us to the top, ideally without messing around on poor rock, bad climbing and impossible difficulties. This is always the most delicate moment, you pass the binoculars to each other, share thoughts and concerns.I'd climb up there, no I'd head off over there, that looks smooth... did you see that tufa, perhaps one can climb up that section? What looks better, the white or red rocks... and at this point all turned to me with a questioning look. Then, the very next day, we split up, each struggling with their own problems, swinging leads. It would have been better had we remained in views, been able to shout out to each other and at least help time pass during the long waits at the belays, but this time we climbed far apart, we were separated by a protruding face and we could only hear the falling rocks...
The hours pass by slowly up on the wall, beneath us the sea makes itself heard, so much so that at times we can't even hear each other. Every now and then a boat passes by, a Canadair plane circles overhead making us wince with fear, but essentially we're alone, from 7 am to 8 pm, high up on this immense face. We only meet the others at night, when eating a pizza and beer... and then we all stagger off to bed. What a great holiday!
But little by little the routes take shape, even with the inevitable uncertainties. The rock is a little bit iffy, maybe if we clean it it'll be better, who knows if we'll be successful... with a touch of luck, so critical in outings like these, we manage to find our way through the seemingly unbreachable, smooth overhangs without having to compromise our first ascent ethics. As usual, Rolly discovered just the right hold in just the right place and this allowed him to climb on. Ability? Luck? The reply can be found in the proverb, fortune favors the bold. And in fact we did dare a bit, suspended as we were on a bow, high above the turquoise sea.
In the wind the ropes flew away almost horizontally, 50m had been run out and we could no longer hear each other. Three tugs, perhaps my partner wanted to let me know I could climb. I let the haulbag spin out into the void and got ready. Frozen still, I'd been here for at least three hours, perhaps even four, hanging above the absolute void. The rope came to an end, I couldn't hear anything, had to trust my partner. but after having climbed together for so long... I untied the knot and set off.
This pitch is perhaps 8a, I know I'll fall sooner or later, but I hope that when I fall I'll have the strength to grab a quickdraw... if there is one... The 8 point whatever Beal ropes string out like spaghetti I'll fly through the air as it stretches. What about you? - Rolando asked me jokingly at the belay - Do you suffer from vertigo?
Now it's all over, things went well. We'd made the first ascent of two beautiful routes, had freed both of them. Unfortunately time had run out to climb each others route. And it was no coincidence that the route names united. We didn't dare to use "Selvaggio Blu", the name of the famous trek, but we nevertheless wanted to use the adjective blue in the name of both routes. Because it's the dominant colour here in Baunei, because we combined both the sea and the sky, because on the summit we reached the Selvaggio Blu trail.
It is for all these reasons that we wish to extend a heartfelt thanks to the Baunei region. As Rolando explained "In all the years I've come to Sardinia to climb new routes, no one has ever greeted me like this, thanking me for what I did to their territory." But lest someone has misunderstood: it's not about money or being sponsored in any way, we paid for the bolts the trip out of our own pocket. No, Rolando referred to the simple hospitality, warmth and kindness. And with this in mind, Sardinians are second to none!
Luca Giupponi and Nicola Sartori, 14/16 and 18 May 2013
Redpoint: 20 and 2013
8a (7a+ obl)
2 x 60m ropes,, 12 quickdraws
Abseil down the route
>> see the route topo of Vertigine Blu
Rolando Larcher e Maurizio Oviglia 14/16 and 18 May 2013
Redpoint 20 and 2013
8a (7b obl)
2 x 60m ropes, 12 quickdraws
Abseil down the route
>> see the route topo of Blu Oltremare