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Climbing in Ogliastra

The Ogliastra region is in the east of Sardinia, and is bounded to the north by the Supramonte, to the west by the Gennargentu and to the east by the sea. It's a mostly-mountainous area, with mountains, high crags and deep gorges. The plain of Tortolì seems to offer the only relief from the tormented form of the land, where often villages are built on rocky hillsides, and much of the territory is uninhabited. This is a true wilderness, where the visitor can really rediscover the pleasure of entering into a world of primordial beauty, with few signs of being previously explored.Morphologically Ogliastra is very varied. If you look closely, the northern part is part of the Supramonte, and very different from the more southern part, known as the area of the tacchi, limestone formations which resemble upturned shoe heels, tacchi in Italian. Also the rock is varied. In nearly all of Ogliastra we find limestone, but this is replaced by granite and porphyry in the comunes (municipalities) of Villagrande, Talana, Lotzorai and Cardedu, to form a small heart of pink granite, which looks like the mountains of Texas, in a region whose vertical walls remind you of the Dolomites.Ogliastra presents a remarkable variety of countryside. After having visited Seui's woods, you feel like you're entering another universe when you look over Passo Arcuerì towards the area of the Tacchi. In the same way, the countryside of Baunei and Urzulei is different again, and reminiscent of the French Pre-Alps and the Calanques, with high sea cliffs, slender limestone pinnacles and deep gorges eroded by water.Apart from the few comunes by the sea, the villages of the interior are off the beaten track. Up to now surviving on agriculture, sheep and goat herding and handicrafts, these villages are discovering today new forms of tourism based on the area's natural beauty. Trekking and walking, mountain bike, canyoning, but above all climbing, represent development opportunities which don't require massive interventions and which make the most of an area which otherwise is being progressively abandoned.Climbing in Ogliastra If today Ogliastra is one of the preferred destinations of climbers from all over the world, we owe it to a handful of pioneers who, starting from the 1970's, abandoned the traditional climbing grounds of the Alps to explore the cliffs of Baunei, Urzulei and Jerzu. And without doubt the positive interest in the last decade of local councils towards this relatively-new sport has made a big difference compared to other areas. It's not easy, if you've not seen it with your own eyes, to believe that a sport defined as no limits by TV advertisements can bring visitors and generate wealth in traditionally-depressed areas.The climbers you find, in all seasons, on the crags of Jerzu and Baunei, the two most famous centres, demonstrate that you don't need high mountains to attract climbers, but rather good-quality routes, meaning good lines that are bolted well.To the first Ogliastra crags equipped at Jerzu, which was at the time, without other crags around, was rather isolated and out-of-the-way for the visiting climber, have now been added many new crags in the surrounding villages. So now you can genuinely talk of an extensive climbing area and the possibility to visit the various climbing zones, enjoying a road-trip among the Ogliastra crags, and the countryside and culture of its villages.Ogliastra, compared to the Sardinia known for its sea, is not disadvantaged as was always traditionally thought, but rather has something other areas don't have. It boasts an uncontaminated natural environment, when such places are gradually disappearing all over Europe, and that tomorrow's visitor will be increasingly be looking for, to escape from the stress of frantic everyday life in the built-up cities. And up there, between the high limestone walls and with the traditional Ogliastra hospitality, you will feel you are getting near to Paradise.Baunei The Baunei area seems to have been made for the climber. There are cliffs and crags everywhere, while the famous Aguglia, a limestone obelisk 147 m high, has become the symbol of Mediterranean climbing in Europe and has been climbed thousands of times by climbers from all over the world.In climbing terms, the Baunei area was first explored in the 70's, but only in the following decade were the more difficult walls overlooking the sea climbed: Aguglia, Monte Ginnircu, Punta Giradili, Punta Argennas. Sports climbing arrived in Baunei relatively recently. The first sports-climbing crags were equipped by Maurizio Oviglia (Campo dei Miracoli) and Marcello Cominetti (La Balena). Later Giampaolo Mocci started to bolt Villaggio Gallico, on the road down to Pedra Longa, and this crag has been a great success from day one. The work was picked up again in 2003 by Maurizio Oviglia, who with financial support from the Comune (municipality) filled the last remaining blank spaces of Villaggio Gallico and equipped two new crags, Creuza de Ma and the Porto di Santa Maria. In the last few years numerous crags are being developed, by the guide Roberto Vigiani, and the UK-born climber Peter Herold who lives in Lotzorai.Jerzu At Jerzu, climbing is certainly the outdoor sport which attracts the most visitors. Jerzu's crags are famous world-wide, thanks to the quality of the rock, with finely-chiselled pockmarks, almost like the weave of a carpet. Maurizio Oviglia started the equipping of the Jerzu crags in 1989. By 1996 there were about 70 routes, when a project of the Comunità Montana took the number of routes to 200 to make the area of Italy's most interesting climbing areas. The Jerzu crags have been given fantasy names by the climbers: il Castello (The Castle), Il Palazzo d'Inverno (The Winter Palace) and L'Isola del Tesoro (Treasure Island). Spring, summer and autumn are the best seasons for climbing at Jerzu and it's in the summer, when other crags are too hot, that Jerzu receives most visits.Lotzorai Even Lotzorai, which seems at first sight to have no mountains, has its crags. They are right above Tancau, and made of good granite. A small crag, called Lucertole al Sole (Lizards in the sun), has its first routes bolted a couple of years ago by climbers from the Campidano. Others followed, and the area is being developed at a rapid rate.Osini The climbs on the walls of the Gola di San Giorgio came into being in1996 thanks to Luigi Scema and Gianluca Piras, with the support of the Comune, probably one of the first in Sardinia to have financed bolting in this way. The routes are all short or of medium length, with a super-easy access (right above the road) and are in one of Sardinia's coolest places temperature-wise.Seui The only crag with bolted routes in the Seui area is found on the east side of the long wall of Monte Tonneri, with routes set by Maurizio Oviglia and Giampaolo Mocci in 2005. It's fun to climb here, ideal for summer mornings in a very panoramic spot with great mountain views. This area will certainly see further development in the future.Talana Talana's only climb is found above the road which from Lotzorai leads to Urzulei, a multipitch route on granite reminiscent of the Val di Mello, one of the world's sanctuaries for alpine rock climbing, near to Sondrio. The route, equipped by Enzo Lecis and Simone Sarti, was in fact named Mello-Sarda.Ulassai Although the crags are right above the houses, and Ulassai could be defined as the climbing town, climbing at Ulassai has been developed only relatively recently. The Pro Loco (tourist information office) sponsored the recent development of two separate crags, the cascate Lecorci and the canyon Sa Tappara. With these crags, Ulassai presents itself as one of Ogliastra's most interesting climbing venues, considering that it is not very hot even on the hottest summer days. In the last couple of years a new crag right above the town, the Torre dei Venti, with the route names being suggested by the local artist Maria Lai, creating for the first time a parallel between art and climbing.Urzulei In addition to the huge face of Punta Cocuttos in the Gole su Gorroppu, world-famous thanks to the very difficult super-route Hotel Supramonte, Urzulei also offers two recently developed pearls. The crag of Genna Croce was bolted by Gianni Cattaino, Eugenio Pinotti and Maurizio Oviglia and is one of the island's highest crags, at over 1000m altitude. In the summer you find here climbers from Baunei and Cala Gonone looking for cool conditions. Also interesting are the multipitch routes of Serra Oseli, yet again on great rock and in a setting of primordial beauty, as well as the crags underneath, again made of rock of exceptional quality.Ussassai Despite the many possibilities, sports climbing came late to Ussassai and only recently are the crags being developed, with financing from the Comune. Worth mentioning are also the two splendid pinnacles at Niala, with spectacular routes of up to 100m in length bolted in 2008 by Mocci and Oviglia. The two new crags, with over 40 routes, will be inaugurated in 2009.Villagrande Strisaili In 2005, thanks to financing from the Comunità Montana, the crag of Praidas, with its porphyry rock offering, for Sardinia, an unusual style of climbing, was bolted. Maurizio Oviglia and Giorgio Caddeo created some fifteen routes which remind you of climbing in the Alps or on Corsica, a rarity not to be missed for those used to Sardinia's limestone, not to mention the beautiful colours of the rocks and the panoramic position overlooking the Gulf of Arbatax.
Text by Maurizio Oviglia

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