Pedra Longa, Baunei. New plaisir climb in Sardinia

Maurizio Oviglia introduces 'Marinaio di foresta' (190m, 6a+ max, 5c obbl.) a new climb established in October 2013 together with Cecilia Marchi and Giorgio Caddeo up the beautiful Pedra Longa, or Agugliastra, sea stack (Baunei, Sardinia).
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Pedra Longa seen from the south. Punta Giradili can be seen in the background.
Nanni Mereu

No less famous than nearby Aguglia di Goloritzè, Agugliastra (also known as Pedra Longa) rises proudly out of the crystal waters close to Baunei. It is dominated by the immense Punta Giradili, Sardinia's most beautiful pillar which offers 400m of perfectly sheer and at times overhanging limestone criss-crossed by a dozen beautiful, invisible lines. Perhaps this is the reason why Agugliastra has always been second-best - or perhaps it's due to its reputation for bad rock - the fact of the matter is that this almost 150m high sea stack has always been overlooked by climbers. Yet Agugliastra, which probably gave the name to the entire Ogliastra region, has a vertical climbing history, too.

The sea stack is included in the Monti d’Italia guidebook but, excluding the traverses just above sea level, it seems as if just one climb reached its summit, namely the route climbed solo by Umberto Marampon in 1982. Since then, nothing! Agugliastra has emerged unscathed from the advent of bolts era, probably because of this reputation for poor rock (the horizontal layers were supposedly fearsome and loose and, in part, this is the case). A presumed climbing ban was highly influential, too, in keeping climbers at bay... whatever the reasons may be, until recently the stack was "practically virgin" and had been neglected for over 30 years.

Many years ago I probably repeated, like many others, the traverse "Luce senza memoria" (Gogna / Bernardi 1981) but it was during a rest day last May, while establishing "Blu Oltremare" at Capo Monte Santu, that I rediscovered this tower. Rolando Larcher, Luca Giupponi and I traversed ropeless across the water's edge and there, on the other side of the arête, we discovered a whole new world. The rock, contrary to what we'd heard, seemed outstanding. Who knew whether...

In September, at the end of a hot Sardinian summer, I went to the Baunei town council to receive authorisaton to bolt a new sport climb up the face that looks out to sea and, much to my surprise, I was granted permission. It seems as if climbing wasn't banned on the stack after all, but the council quite rightly wanted to know what was going on within its territory. We handed in our project and it was approved. We had what we needed and off we went! In the blink of an eye Giorgio, Cecilia and I reached the base of the NW Face, or rather, we found ourselves just above sea level, where the traverse ends and you need to start climbing upwards.

The route I wanted to climb was curious to say the least: seeing that I'd decided to start from the end of the easy approach, the summit would be reached via a long diagonal line of ascent. But would the rock allow this? Or would there be some surprises in store? As we began we hit a first problem. At the start there was a fisherman. He could be hit by a dislodged stone, but how on earth could we ask him to go elsewhere? We didn't dare say a thing, he had a right to be there, just like us... I began to climb and was careful not to dislodge any loose blocks, but nevertheless a small rock fell down, inevitably. The fisherman looked up at us questioningly, but then continued fishing. Damn... But after the third rock he finally packed his bags and we felt somewhat freer.

The rock was beautiful but really aggressive. There were numerous water pockets, sharp as razor blades, thankfully though we weren't wearing new climbing shoes and luckily the skin on our hands was rough! The ambien, on the other hand, was absolutely fantastic. We we're completely isolated above the sea, with Giradili in the background... The shadow of our sea stack plunged into the blue sea. Given the well-known problems associated with stainless steel, I'd decided to place 316L 12mm bolts, and this obviously resulted in the batteries running out on pitch four. A long traverse across a narrow ledge led to the centre of the face and the route continued up from there. Unfortunately though the rock was less solid here, there was lots of loose rock. I'd have to return and spend an entire day cleaning the ledge.

On day three Cecilia and I forged the final pitches up superlative yet somewhat ferocious rock... The route was climbed, but what about the descent? As we left the bushes on the summit we discovered, much to our surprise, a small path, recently hacked out. The town council tell me later that this had been done by a Mountain Guide who'd asked permission to sort out the normal route. Excellent! I set up an abseil station nevertheless, for those who don't want to scramble down grade II terrain. And so, after the ritual summit photos, we quickly descended and returned to the car park.

I know, "Marinaio di foresta" is one of those routes that's bound to split public opinion. Some will really like it, others won't. Perhaps because there's a lot of traversing to be done, and many don't like traverses, even though it has to be said that they're an integral part of rock climbing. Pedra Longa isn't Aguglia di Goloritzè, but nevertheless it certainly has its own distinctive personality and character! And as a friend once told me, the simple joy of being in a place like this one, with the blue sea beneath you, and perhaps with the odd dolphin here and there, renders even the worst climbing a pleasure...

I'd like spend these last few lines talking about route name: in 2003 I dedicated a crag at Baunei to the great Italian singer and songwriter Fabrizio De Andrè. One day, while surfing around on the web, I stumbled across a mention of this on the singer's official website, and it was also mentioned on several occasions in Sardinian newspapers. So in accordance with some local climbers I've decided to continue in this tradition, using names inspired from his songs. "Marinaio di foresta" is one of the numerous pieces Fabrizio dedicated to his beloved Sardinia, a place which he himself defined as being a paradise. De Andrè probably refers to a bandit forced to hide in the Supramonte to flee from the long arm of law, or perhaps it's inspired by the beautiful book written by Giuseppe Fiori entitled "Sonetàula". And at this point, everyone can start traveling with their own imagination.

TOPO: Marinaio di foresta, Pedra Longa, Baunei, Sardinia

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