Well and truly knackered

Posted by Peter, The Lemon House
Monday 27th October 2008
Peter recently had a "week off" from his jobs in The Lemon House, spending a week climbing multi-pitch routes where we live in Ogliastra with Robert Durran, an old friend and climbing companion from university, and then participating in the climbing festival at Roccadoria on the weekend of 25-26 October.

The multi-pitch routes in Sardinia are both trad and, more commonly, bolted. The "modern" multi-pitch routes, though bolted, provide all the ingredients for making long days out you'll never forget, much more similar to the Alps in style and feel than the climbing wall: spectacular approaches and settings (we climbed overlooking the sea, at 900m at the wild Serra Oseli, and in Europe's deepest gorge, the Gola su Gorroppu) and challenging climbing. Typically the bolts on these routes are spaced as on a crag, or almost so, on the most-difficult sections, with a bolt relatively-near on the crux, or with sections you can aid, but with the bolts much further apart on the easier sections. You need to pay very careful attention to the "obligatory" grade, meaning the grade that you have to climb to get up the route, even pulling on the bolts. Normally you will have to climb this obligatory grade quite a way above bolts. The number of ° in the Pietra di Luna guide (°°° normal, bolts up to 3m apart; °° bolts well-spaced, 5-7m apart; ° dangerous bolting, bolts more than 7m apart) and "S" grade (S1 bolting as in a crag, bolts no more than 3-4m apart, max length of fall a few metres and falls are not dangerous; S2 well-spaced bolting with obligatory sections. Potential falls around 10 metres but without consequences;...) are more important than the max grade which you can aid if necessary. For example: Peter can currently onsight about half of the 6c's he tries after warming up on a 6b and a 6b+; he can red-point 7a in between 2 and 5 goes. However, his max grade with °° bolting is 6b/6b+, and after a pitch like this he feels a bit drained psychologically.

The best guide to the multi-pitch bolted routes is Pietra di Luna, supplemented by topos and the DB of long routes from sardiniaclimb.com (Italian section). Peter has prepared an analysis of all the routes in our area, by max/obl grade, and he's gradually working through this. Getting psyched up for the challenges of these long routes is part of the game.

 Jackie in front of Punta Giradili, with Mediteranneo shown in red

When Peter started climbing again 2½ years ago after a 20-year break, one of his dreams was to one day climb a route on the 400m pillar of Punta Giradili which you see as you come out of the door of our flat at Porto Frailis. He realised this dream on Monday 20 October, climbing Mediterraneo (250m, 7a+ (6b obl), S2) together with Robert. Peter had psyched up to lead the first 50m 6b/6b+ slabby pitch with its °°/° bolting after going to inspect the route in the afternoon, after having  climbed in the morning Pilota Incivile at Serra Oseli to get used to spaced bolting (this route is also S2, max 6b+/6a+ obl). This preparation didn't go entirely to plan, since Peter fell off the 6b+ crux, but maybe this was a good thing as he was even more determined to go for it on Mediterraneo and climb to the point of falling...and he duly obliged with the odd dyno and power scream.

Robert at end of 6a pitch, Mediterraneo, with Pedra Longa in background

We climbed the 8 pitches in 7 hours. Robert led the crux pitch (7a+ or A0/6b) with a couple of rests and onsighted the last two 6c pitches in fine style, as well as the 6b pitch after the crux pitch when Peter was too knackered to lead through after seconding the 7a+ pitch, which for him meant pulling on the quickdraws as well as sitting on the rope then climbing up it to the next quickdraw...all very tiring when carrying the rucksack. With the 6a+ second pitch, Robert led 5 pitches and Peter 3: the 1st and 3rd 6b pitches (given 6b+ in Pietra di Luna, but 6b on the latest topo on Sardiniaclimb, and 6th 6a pitch ). That evening Anne had cooked us a nice meal to celebrate and planned a rest day for the Tuesday, although Robert did do a bit of cragging with Peter belaying.
As it turned out, we had a second rest day when 360 mm of rain fell on Wedneday morning causing flash floods and 4 deaths near Cagliari as cars were washed away, before heading down to Cala Goloritzè, 1-45 from The Lemon House, on Thursday where we climbed Sole Incantatore (S1+ 6c max/6b obl). Although the route faces north-west, it was free from seepage, with the only water being puddles in a couple of the marvellous pockmarks. This route was supposed to be polished and hard for the grade, but the only really polished pitch is the first, which should be graded 6a/6a+ rather than 5b... The 6b+ pitch is hard for the grade, the 6c slab is brilliant and not too hard, though it'd be hard to aid, while the second 6c pitch has a very bouldery start which can be aided. We were up and down in time to go kayaking in the afternoon.


The next day saw another 6am start, with plans to climb Su Bribanti (230m 6c+/6b obl S-grade not yet published) on the south pillar of the Gola su Gorroppu. However, we lost 90' after the car stopped dead in Urzulei and we had to find a garage who diagnosed and replaced the worn alternator brushes, so we switched objectives to Movrdi (170m S1+, 6c max/6b obl) inside the gorge itself. The first pitch is much harder than the others, with awkward, off-balance climbing. It starts with a desperate clip (there was once an oleander to climb up) before °° 6c/6b obl climbing. A very good lead by Robert, and Peter resorted to pulling on a bolt as he got more and more tired trying to work out the sequence in the little groove. Above this the route is easier, although the 6b°° section up fantastic diagonal flakes is quite exciting.

Robert abbs off Movrdi with wall taken by Hotel Supramonte behin

From Gorroppu we walked out for an hour towards Dorgali and then drove 2½ hours to Roccadoria Monteleone, a charming little Sardinian village 30km from Alghero airport, where that weekend there was the 3rd edition of the annual meeting "L'Acqua e La Roccia". We went to the restaurant in this tiny village of only 135 inhabitants imagining we'd have to eat pizza for the second night in a row, only to find the organisers of the meeting tucking into pasta, roast lamb, and fruit, all washed down with very drinkable red wine. There were no other guests, and so we were invited to join the two big tables, and started wolfing down the food. At one point the Sards watched, amused, as Robert swallowed a big lump of casu marzu, (wikipedia: Casu marzu is a traditional sheep milk cheese, notable for being riddled with live insect larvae. Although outlawed there for health reasons, it is found mainly in Sardinia, Italy on the black market). Fortunately, there were no grubs in these bits, and wikipedia probably exaggerates a bit. At the end of the meal we asked how much it all cost, and were told, "Don't worry, it's on us." Typical Sardinian hospitality.

On the Saturday we dropped Robert at the airport, with him already planning his next trip in February, and went to do some easy routes at the crag perched above the lake. The crag is a cross between Jerzu, Isili and Bouix, with steep routes on big holds, and has 70 routes, with 7 5's, 27 6's and the remaining routes grade 7. For the weekend of the meeting, when people climb, canoe, walk and mountain bike, with (Italian-speaking) organisers helping with all these activities, the town's population increases fourfold, and the town turns out to make the visitors welcome, from cooking the sausages in the main square on the Saturday night and tasting local delicacies to encouraging the climbers on the crag. For the climbers, on Sunday morning there was the "endurance competition" where teams are awarded points for the climbs they climb without resting (i.e. onsight or flash), with prizes donated by the sponsors being awarded at the end of the day on Sunday. The points system (6a 15, 6a+ 21, ...6c 36...7a 45) is designed to reward those who climb continually for 5½ hours without getting too pumped rather than redpointing one hard route. Peter had "local" Graziano as a partner, and they did 8 routes each, mostly 6a and 6a+, to amass a total of 260 points, to finish 7th overall. The winning pair amassed 503 points and won a rope each.

Peter and Graziano after the final whistle

So much for Sardinian climbing being an sunny outdoor version of the climbing wall! 








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