German climber Alexander Huber has established two new rock climbs on the sea cliffs at Capo Monte Santo in Sardinia, Il Capitano and Solemar. The peculiarities: a boat start, difficulties up to 8b+, trad protection.
Earlier this year Alexander Huber, climbing with Michael Althammer, established two difficult new routes at a cape called Monte Santo, located along Sardinia’s east coast between Cala Gonone and Baunei. The first climb is called Solemar and, graded 8a+, acted merely as a “warm-up” to see if the second, more direct line with a massive dyno at 2/3 height would be feasible. In the end this almost 40m line of perfectly sculpted limestone, dubbed Il Capitano, went free at difficulties in the region of 8b+. The peculiarity of both: before scrambling down the path after having climbed the route, you need to start directly from the boat. And the routes aren’t protected by clipping bolts, but by placing Skyhooks and Friends…
IL CAPITANO by Alexander Huber
Il Selvaggio Blu – the wild 50 kilometer stretch between Cala Gonone and Santa Maria Navarrese – is one of the best coastlines Italy has to offer and is quite simply unique. Here in eastern Sardinia the island often soars vertically out of the sea. Large sea cliffs, small walls, broken by small coves and their famous, sandy beaches.
One of the outcrops located in the Selvaggio Blu is world famous, namely the Aguglia di Goloritzé. The climbing up the simplest route on this freestanding needle is no easier than seventh grade. Two years ago Michi Althammer and I set off to climb Aguglia di Goloritzé and so we hired a boat. During the trip towards Goloritzé we took the opportunity to scutinise the impressive sea cliffs through the eyes of climber and in doing so I was struck, as definitively as “Amen”, by Capo Monte Santo. The cliff is breathtakingly steep, rises out of the water for a good 40 meters and is so compact that we simply couldn’t tell whether it was climbable.
This spring I returned for closer inspection. And what I discovered was better than all other similar things I’ve seen so far. Right through the middle of the cliff, at its most exposed point, a line of tufas that then stop at 20 meters height. Six meters higher there is a huge hole, the first four meters seemed to have holds while on the remaining two: nothing. A huge, brilliant dyno on a par to its famous counterpart Two Smoking Barrels at Mallorca.
Another feature of Capo Monte Santo is that you have to climb directly from the boat, you have to be belayed from the boat and as such you need an extremely experienced captain who can maintain the boat in position while the waters continue to swirl around Capo Monte Santo. I realized that having the right captain represented the key to success. Vincenzo runs Bar Centro at Baunei and when we asked him for a place to stay in Baunei, he became not only our host, but also our “capitano”.
On 23 May the three of us – Il Capitano, Michei and I – set off in Il Capitano’s boat for the cape. This time I think I stand a good chance of climbing my dream of stone. It’s not just a question of physical form though, it’s also a psychological challenge: due to its location, right above the sea, I’d decided against using bolts. And four days earlier I’d climbed the first line up the face using trad gear: Solemar – the path of least resistance – that avoids the huge dyno with a 15-meter variation to the left. This had given me the confidence that the direct line with the jump could go. The dyno is no less than 8 meters above the last Friend, placed behind the tufa, after which there are two Skyhooks and then the name of the game is: blast upwards.
Il Capitano is calm at the helm, Michei has already got me on belay and the dinghy slowly glides towards the overhanging wall. I need to time the waves perfectly, grab the starting holds at just the right moment, place my feet on the footholds immediately as the route starts in earnest with two ferocious moves. Then upwards, 20 steep meters, the last tufa, place the last Friend, have a short rest before pushing on towards the featureless section. Two Skyhooks, another two meters and the last holds. High above lies the enormous hole, the ultimate goal.
I crimp the holds tightly and pull myself in close to the wall, sag down completely to give my body the maximum distance to accelerate. And then up I go, like a wave my body swells upwards, first my left hand unlatches, then my right, my left foot detaches as does my right before the fingers on my left hand curl onto the big hold. The jug is a dream, the entire project is a dream and my friends down below, Il Capitano and Michei, rejoice as much as I do!
There are few routes I’ve established where the name seems as logical and clear as this one at Capo Monte Santo: Il Capitano