Tai chi and the other crack climbs at Su Sussiu Ulassai in Sardinia
The video by Maurizio Oviglia and Paolo Contini documenting Roberto Vigiani's onsight ascent of the famous crack climb Tai Chi, at Su Sussiu, Ulassai, Sardinia.
In recent times Ulassai in Sardinia has become famous for its sport climbs but, as many may remember, while new routing the Su Sussiu cliff and its incredible tower, tilted like the Tower of Pisa, I couldn’t help notice the perfect cracks that split the overhanging face. Three formidable cracks ideal for trad climbing, marred only by the fact that they’re on limestone and not granite, which makes climbing them a little more tricky. Bolting them would have been unjustifiable and would have made them trivial. So once I’d decided what “not to do”, all I had to do was accept the challenge and climb them with Friends. Due to the length of the cracks and their regularity, they’d require a number of camming devices all same size.
The first to fall was the one that appeared to be the most difficult, Tai Chi, 25 meters fist jam that finishes with a tough off width. Next up was nearby Aikido, shorter but requiring more stamina and fist jams almost all the way up. Personally, this seemed a little easier, but it’s well known that much depends on the size of your hands. Having graded Tai Chi 7a, Aikido was given 6c+. I then turned my attention to two minor cracks located on the boulders at the base of the spire: Wushu, 6a+, and beautiful Karate, a 25m 6b hand crack. Then the time came for the third route on the tower, which turned into a three-pitch climb. Fabio Erriu and I made the first ascent of Ju Jitsu just over a year ago and the pitches are graded 6b+, 6c+ and 5c.
As was to be expected, not many climbers travelled to Ulassai with camming devices (and gloves and tape) in their rucksacks. Having said that, some crack aficionados read the news I regularly publisheon Planetmountain and on my facebook page, and on 1 May 2016 is the mountain guide Matteo Giglio onsighted Aikido and graded it 7a. He then repeated the first pitch of Ju Jitsu and Karate, confirming the grades. A few months ago Belgium’s Mich Zaman repeated the two most beautiful cracks, Aikido and Tai Chi, suggesting they were both half a grade harder, and that Aikido was the harder of the two. It’s worth noting that that Mich, after having seen the cracks on his first trip to Sardinia, went back to Belgium to get the Friends he needed and returned to the Italian island two months later just to repeat the routes! How about that for love at first sight!Last but not least, a few days ago Roberto Vigiani, the Italian mountain guide best known for his first ascent of Hotel Supramonte but also a specialist at crack climbing, onsighted Aikido and Tai Chi, indicating they’re both 7a.
The ascent of Tai Chi and Roberto’s skill is documented in this video Paolo Contini and I made. To avoid any misunderstandings, I’d like to point out right away that this isn’t an extreme crack by any means, there are far harder routes elsewhere! But as those who’ve repeated the line have confirmed, it’s rare to find such limestone cracks in places as exceptionally beautiful as this one! I hope this video does the place justice!
All climbing topos of Su Sussiu (sport climbing, trad climbing and multipitches) are available on the website I made about Ulassai, namely www.outdoorulassai.com