Isili, with its famous 45° overhanging routes, is 2hrs+ drive from The Lemon House on windy roads and, with so much rock around where we live, we'd never been there. This week, with a good forecast for two days, Anne and Peter set off to check it out, also arranging to meet there Maurizio Oviglia with whom we work a lot on developing Sardinian climbing and, more recently, climbing journalism. We needed discuss some things, including the DVD On Sight with whose producer Alastair Lee Peter had done an interview for UP, the beautiful yearbook of European climbing which Maurizio edits...don't miss it.
We arrived to meet as well Carlo Abis, who teaches French in Isili and has bolted many of the routes there. After saying Hi to Maurizio and doing our business talk before he had to leave to go back to Cagliari, we went with Carlo to the vertical sector called Pietra Filosofale to warm up in the sun. Here's Anne:-
We then went to Urania, the famous steeply overhanging sector where you climb on holes of all sizes, some big enough to get inside. At the RH end of the crag, some big cairns allow you to bypass the roof under the crag so the routes are "only" 6b-c. Peter did the easiest one, Ziggurat, and was very happy to have "started" at Urania:
Many people who come to Sardinia "only" climb and don't take time to learn about the island's fascinating culture. In Isili, a very good place to visit is the Museum of Copper and Textile Craftwork, where that evening we bought nice Xmas presents for our two Mums as well as a jigsaw of Sardinia's archeological sites.
The next day (today) the weather was overcast with rain forecast later in the day, so we rushed to get some routes in. Peter couldn't quite on sight Voom (6c) at Urania, but did it easily on the second lap. When he got home, he entered the routes he'd done in the Shardrock site - a sort of Sardinian 8a.nu - and was (once again) amazed how few on-sight ascents there are here. Admittedly the site is used mainly by younger climbers, for whom (and Yes it is a competition with prizes!) the "grade" is all-important, but even with people RPing 8a and higher, you find very few on-sight ascents at 7a or higher...people learn Red Pointing as the only climbing style, it seems. For someone like Peter who started climbing aged 10 in the mid-1970's, this is very weird, so it's not surprising that he does much better (relatively) in the on sight rather than the absolute (RP) rankings. In Italy (like anywhere else) there's lots of discussions of grades, and one recent topic has been trying to "level the playing field" between different RP ascents: you can red point a route next go after failing on the on-sight and having put on your own quickdraws, like Peter did today, or you can have 20 goes over several months, with quickdraws pre-placed and people coaching you. Each to his own, but the competitive nature of climbers means that they want to compare their performances. Peter personally prefers a skin-of-the-teeth onsight (preferably on a multi-pitch route in a fantastic setting), or failing that a quick redpoint, to a drawn-out RP, but then he only RPs max 7a...each to his own. What's nice about Sardinia is that you can do all of these things, and no-one takes all this grade and points stuff TOO seriously, especially since at many of the crags you could well be the only people there!
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