When Mr Ryan Air started flying into Alghero in northern Sardinia, he did us a bit of a favour (and the locals too) by opening up another of those delightful Mediterranean paradise islands that the area teems with. For sun-rock-seekers a bit bored with the usual mix of the Costa Blanca, Mallorca and El Chorro, here was another 'must-visit- venue' with the usual heady mixture of high quality limestone, mild (though often windy) winter weather and a seaside setting. I was out there in a flash and wasn't disappointed.
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Although the whole island is mountainous, with masses of exposed rock all over the place, it is the east coast, and especially the area around Cala Gonone which had already been developed by climbers from the Rome area, who only lived a shortish ferry crossing away. This was, and remains, the best destination, at least for the first time visitor. The whole east coast has long been a popular (and expensive) summer tourist destination; the winters have always been quiet to the point of the area being akin a ghost town. The recent influx of visitors initially came as a bit of a surprise to the locals; they obviously have no idea how grim northern European winters can be. Gladly, they have risen to the challenge and now there are normally enough shops and accommodation spots open to make life pleasant, though I believe the campsite is still closed in the winter.
The first dedicated guide to the area was produced in 1998, revised in 2000 and again in 2001, such has been the pace of development. To cater for the influx on climbers - mainly British and German - we now have a new version which has details of over 600 routes. The main text is in Italian and there are side boxes for the English and German translations. I am not sure about the German but at least the English makes good sense - nonsense English is a common failing with some overseas guides. The book is well laid out, with some excellent maps and overview drawings (in the Phizacklea mould) to help get a feel for the area, plus a full sell of photo-topos. Also, it is good to see the longer routes on Monte Oddeu listed, with brief notes of what gear is required. The climbs here are up to 300 metres long and make a great change for those bored with short, roadside sport routes.
The book is well spattered with adverts offering accommodation in the area, from campsites, through apartments, all the way up to hotels; always a useful feature. Interestingly, the back cover is an advert for some of the excellent local wines - certainly makes a change from the latest 'hot' gear.
All in all, I can recommend this guide to the first time or returning visitor to the area, it looks like I might need to get a flight booked sharpish!
UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by Chris Craggs: