The Toughest Trek In Italy

Article by Gavin Baylis
Monday 28th July 2008


A stunning October dawn on the isolated beach of Cala Goritze, in the heart of the Selvaggio Blu.


I was in my own little world, sitting in front of the computer at home, when my mobile rang.

“Gavin, what you doing in a couple of weeks?”

It was Per, a Mountain Guide who I’ve known for ten years, calling me up from his home just outside La Grave in the Massif des Ecrins, deep in the French Alps. Now if it was mid winter - or even early Spring - I’d suspect a quick ski tour was on the cards, but this was mid September: what could Per have in mind?

When I said that I was relatively flexible he went on to explain that a good friend of his, Andrea Enzio (a guide from Alagna) had wanted to do this trek that he’d heard about from other Italian Guides. He had discussed the feasibility with Per and some other guides over the past couple of years, and all agreed that it was something they wanted to do as their “holiday”, and to determine if it was viable for future expeditions with clients.

 


An impressive cavern on the first section of the Selvaggio Blu

I questioned him further, as I wanted to know what I was getting myself into. Per described it as a “challenging trek” along a stretch of Sardinia’s east coast called the Selvaggio Blu. We’d be carrying all our kit and sleeping out at night.

As soon as I put the phone down, I loaded Google and started searching. After a bit of online research, I wondered what I’d let myself in for, as the same description was used both in Italian and English: “The Selvaggio Blu, the Toughest Trek in Italy”.


Not a conventional trek, then... several abseils and short climbs are required on the Selvaggio Blu



After flying into Alghero Airport in north-west Sardinia, I met up with Per and the rest of the team, and we made our way down to Santa Maria Navarrese, where Andrea and Bettina from Zermatt had already arrived. That was our group: three UIAGM Mountain Guides and four unsuspecting clients.

We left Santa Maria early the next day passing on the more normal first stage of the trek to Pedra Longa, which is a reasonable six hour hike, with no really challenging sections. Andrea now briefed us as to what to expect. The “Selvaggio Blu” came about in 1989, the idea was to connect an old network of shepherd paths staying as near to the sea as possible going some 40 km from Santa Maria to Cala Luna around the Orosei Gulf. To see a detailed map of the region, click here.

These paths had not been used for many years and were seriously eroded, and covered in the dense, hardy forest known in Sardinia as ‘Supramonte’ (and the namesake of the island's hardest multipitch rock climb, 'Hotel Supramonte'). It is a rugged and untamed country, home to wild boar, falcons and other raptors, and a great number of feral goats.

 
Trekking through the dense forest of the 'Supramonte'

The positive side was that the path had been marked with blue spray paint. The “signs” however, had only been placed in certain stages, and to make navigation more confusing other people had attempted to mark it in different colours!

Andrea had the definitive guidebook for the Selvaggio. Along with our maps, how difficult would this really be? We set off heading for where we’d spend our first night, Portu Pedrosu, a distance of some 7km: we should be there in around 4 hours, allowing for some hold-ups along the way.

A critical issue in attempting to complete the Selvaggo Blu is effective logistics. There is no fresh water on route, nor any roads or tracks to drop supplies off. This all has to be done before hand, and is only feasible by boat. All rubbish must then collected on return.


A short steep climb on the Selvaggio Blue: prior climbing experience or a qualified guide is essential for this trek.

 As we set off, the going was actually quite relaxing, following a recognisable path with the occasional blob of blue spray-paint on the bleached limestone telling us we were going in the right direction. Then, all of a sudden, the obvious path disappeared and there were no signs to follow. Light ground vegetation gave way to dense forest, we’d follow what we thought be the path only to have to turn back as it led no where and just fizzled out. After hiking through the forest, we’d find ourselves more out in the open with staggering views along the east coast. Once we were out of the forest, the going was tough, with no obvious path and the route now went across razor sharp, jagged limestone ‘karst’ eroded by the wind off the ocean. It is impossibe to relax on such terrain, since just one small slip could result in serious injury. Conversation amongst us was almost non existent as we silently concentrated on our feet, apart from when we had to make a call on what direction to take.


The difficult karstic terrain of the Selvaggio Blu


We eventually arrived at Portu Pedrosu, having taken some 7 hours to complete just seven kilometres. Then the fun and games started: we had to retrieve the supplies that had been dropped off by boat, and subsequently hidden (along with the water).

Over the years I’ve always been amazed as to how Mountain Guides are so adaptable and creative when it comes to cooking with limited resources. Having three together just exaggerated this, and a fabulous spread was prepared with lightning speed.

The next day, the route to Cala Goloritze was similar to the previous day, but with much of the trek following a narrow precipitous route, with regular 400-metre drops down to the azure sea.



Stunning views down massive cliffs to the azure Mediterranean

Cala Goloritze is quite a location with climbers as it is accessible by car and then an hour’s hike. After a spectacular sunrise, we left Cala Goloritze onwards to Bacu Mudaloru, deemed to be the hardest day. The trekking was quite technical, with a couple of easy climbs and short abseils, as well as the ever complex route finding.

The night’s camp at Bacu Mudaloru was eventful as heavy rain set in. We had to evacuate the camp at around two in the morning for fear of flash floods as we were in a deep gulley. Scrambling up the wet limestone with head torches as we made our way up the gulley wall searching out somewhere dry. Eventually, we managed to find shelter and slept on a sloping shelf with a steep drop to our right: rolling over was not an option, and it certainly made for a memorable night’s bivouac.


Sheltering from the rain on a sloping limestone shelf after we evacuated our camp


The next day saw more of the same, spectacular views, bizarre rock formations, caves, and caverns. The trail was always on the cliff’s edge, and I was never quite able to relax enough to take in all the spectacular scenery. It looked like the rain might return again as we set about preparing the camp, so we opted for a barn just down the track and had a much better night’s sleep.

With the threat of rain, the guides opted for a less demanding route to our final destination of Cala Sisene. So, rather than a couple of tougher climbs following the route north along the coast, we followed a simple track for 10kms, and it was almost bliss after the past 4 days.

Arriving at the beautiful beach of Cala Luna at the end of the trek, where a boat can be taken to the nearby town of Cala Gonone, I reflected on what is surely one of the finest expeditions of its kind in Europe. This superb expedition covers some of the wildest coastal scenery south of the Arctic Circle, yet can be completed in a relatively short time: four to six days.

And, of course, you could always take twin ropes and a lightweight rack, and stop off for some of the world-class multipitch rock climbs along the way, on the towering wall of Punta Giraldi, perhaps, or the majestic Aiguilla at Cala Goritze...

Practical Information:

Climate / When To Go:

Sardinia has a typical Mediterranean climate, with hot dry summers and cool, sometimes wet winters. Midsummer (June - September) tends to be extremely hot, so the best seasons to undertake this trek are spring (April - May) and autumn (late September - early November).

 

Essential Gear:

Gavin Baylis recommends the following kit for the Selvaggio Blu trek:

 

Equipment

- Lightweight hiking boots with adequate ankle support
- Ultralight tent or bivi bag
- roll mat / thermarest
- light sleeping bag
- lightweight climbing harness
- mosquito repellent

Clothing

- light soft shell or paclite jacket
- light and comfortable trekking trousers
- shorts
- a swimsuit for a refreshing end of stage swim most days.
- long socks: you might look like a “numpty”, but they will save your lower legs from getting badly scratched by the fierce vegetation of the Supramonte, if you’re wearing shorts.

 

To purchase any of the above products, click here

 

 

Bookmark: Add to Favourites Add to Google Bookamrks Add to Delicious Digg this Add to Myspace Add to Facebook Add to furl Add to Yahoo Review on StumbeUpon Add to reddit Add to Newsvine Add to Windows Live Favourites
Subscribe to RSS Feed Add to Technorati Add to Twitter Add to Yahoo Bookmarks Add to Aol Favourites Add to Ask Add to FARK Add to Slashdot Add to Mixx Add to Multiply Add to Simpy Add to Blogmarks

Comments

Guidebook to Selvaggio Blue - 04/08/2008
There is a good guide to Selvaggio Blu available in English...we live only 3km from the start of the route and although we've not done all of the stages, we have done the first 3 which don't involve climbing and abseiling and I can vouch for the guidebook. We also did the translation from the Italian to the English edition. The guide (in English) to the Selvaggio Blu was published in April 2008. ISBN 978-88-88776-25-5 Ä16. You can order it from the EdizioniSegnavia website. With this guidebook, and without a guide-person, you can confidently undertake the trek. The major problem of Selvaggio Blu is the lack of water along the route, and itís best to carry the water youíll need and/or leave it half way at Cala Goloritzè Peter & Anne

Add a Comment

Title
Comment
Security Code:


Please enter the security code in the text box below.