What was once a hidden gem is now a growing hot spot in Sardinia. Backed up by a strong, motivated community and jaw-dropping potential, Ulassai is aiming high. A stone's throw away from the sea, it may well be your next climbing destination. Slab, dead vertical or overhanging. You name it, Ulassai has it. Not only amazing in the summer, but great all year round. Bolting started in the late 90s but the area's appeal has recently boosted. New lines are popping up at a daily rate and the potential is, frankly said, enormous.
Grades go from 4a till 9a (question mark), all on high quality limestone. Most of the sectors are east-facing, which means slow mornings and heroic afternoons. Don't worry, colder days are also covered with the new development of south and west facing crags.
The Canyon Sa Tappara towers over the village of Ulassai, with the most available lines and a wide range of grades from 4s to 8c+, it's the main and unmissable sector. It's perfect for those seeking all grades, so if your climbing duo consists of a beginner and an advanced climber it's the best place to be. From slab to slightly overhanging, the lines are mainly technical and sustained. The rock is limestone but it has a sandstone feel to it. Once you have climbed classic lines such as "Non luogo" 6c or "La danza del maestrale" 7a, your fingertips will be itching to climb some more.
Go to sector Cave of Dreams if you want your yearly tufa-fix or sector Lecorci for the classic "Canna Cinese" 8a. Sector Marosini or Su Casteddu sorts you out with long 40 metre trips through vast grey seas of limestone. Another great sector for all grades is Torre dei Venti - Ulassai, it goes from superb grey to pumpy orange limestone and, hence the name, always has a bit of breeze going. There are 10 sectors in total, each with a different character - yes, a one week stay is simply not long enough.
For those interested in bolting, Nannai Climbing Home offers free beds and bolts for motivated bolters. Make sure to seek their cooperation, since some rock is strictly off limits! Do not use plated steel or inferior stainless steel. The sea might be a few kilometers away, but the environment is marinal. So only stainless steel 316 L or Titanium is allowed!
It's hard to find bad lines in Ulassai, but here are a few of the crown jewels nonetheless:
Every year at the beginning of June, Ulassai hosts The Ulassai Festival. A long weekend packed full of outdoor activities including climbing, highlining, biking, yoga, mountain running and more. With plenty of local food and drink available and a party on the Saturday evening to celebrate the weekend's affairs, it's an event not to be missed.
Over 500 good quality lines are within walking distance from the village centre, so you can get away with not having a car. Access to all the crags are clearly indicated in the guidebook. Jerzu, the village next door, also offers a couple of beautiful crags with good-quality lines. Baunei is only a 50 minute drive for those itching to get on some stunning multi-pitches and of course the entire island of Sardinia is jam packed full of sport, trad and bouldering.
The Surrounding Area
Ulassai is not just about climbing. There's plenty to discover here with beautiful walks and mountain bike trails through the rugged natural surroundings. The local people are incredibly welcoming and you'll probably find yourself struggling to refuse a drink from them whilst they show you their local traditions. Many rest days can be passed simply embracing their hospitality. La Grotta Su Marmuri is the main tourist attraction; guided tours are available throughout the day, and even if you're not interested in a tour, the restaurant there is open for lunch and offers delicious local homemade dishes that are definitely worth a try! Relaxing days can be spent by the sea, within 30 - 40 minutes drive you'll find idyllic beaches, far from the crowded built-up tourist areas around Olbia and Cagliari. There's even some Deep Water Soloing at Su Sirboni. For your historical and culutral hit, Sardinia is scattered with Nuraghe, ancient buildings from the Nuragic civilisation, the closest are in Osini, just next to Ulassai. The Cooperative Tessile is run by 5 talented women, who have been making traditional textiles for over 30 years and will happily show your around their workshop. During the summer there are sagras (folk festivals) almost every weekend in the surrounding villages, where you can taste local food and be entertained with the traditional sardinian dancing.
When to go...
The most reliable weather is from April to October and the finest sending conditions are in Spring and Autumn. With the majority of sectors being in the shade in the afternoon and at an altitude of 800m, it is even possible to climb here in the hottest summer months. However, you'll find something to climb throughout the whole year as the development of sunny winter crags started in early 2017 and continues.
How to get there...
Sardinia has 3 airports that connect the island to the rest of the world, Cagliari, Olbia and Alghero. There are plenty of cheap flights throughout the year. If you're planning to take public transport once you're in Sardinia then Cagliari is the best option. Olbia and Alghero have bad connections to Ulassai and require a rental car.
Ferries are available to Olbia, Porto Torres, Cagliari and Arbatax from mainland Itlay, France, Spain and Corsica. It's best to book in advance during the summer months but cheap last minute deals can be found in the spring and autumn. The main ferry lines are Moby lines, Terrenia and Sardinia Ferries.
Cagliari is the only place that offers a good public transport connection to Ulassai. There's a train every 20 minutes from Cagliari airport to Cagliari bus station. From there you can take a 3 hour bus to Ulassai.
Airport Pick - up
Nannai Climbing Home offers an airport pick-up serivce. Contact them for details email@example.com.
Where to stay...
Nannai Climbing Home is in the heart of Ulassai just minutes on foot from the rock and offers private rooms as well as dormitory beds in shared rooms. There's a large communal space and a peaceful roof terrace with a beautiful view of the sea and rock. Run by climbers for climbers. Other good, reasonably priced B&Bs are also available in the village. For those with campervans or tents, free camping is tolerated, but please take all your litter away with you and don't leave toilet paper around. The best place to camp is at Campo Sportivo, from there you can walk to most crags.
What gear to take...
Although an 80m rope is very nice to have, you can definitely get away with 70m. Except for the odd line, a standard rack of 15 quickdraws and 1 carabiner will do fine. New lines are constantly being developed, so occasionally there might be some rockfall and a helmet is therefore recommended.
Guidebooks and information...
The guidebook (which is updated annually) is available for €10 from most of the local shops and B&Bs in Ulassai. By buying the guidebook you will support the local bolting. For any extra information about the climbing in Ulassai the team at Nannai Climbing Home have extensive knowledge of the area and are happy to help.
There's a fresh water tap just above the church, on the right side of the old lavatory building. Small rubbish bins are close to the water tap. Ulassai has a few small supermarkets, a butcher and a Pasta Fresca. The local fruit and vegetable market is on the main square on Tuesday mornings. Beer, free WIFI and good vibes can be found at Aldo's bar on Piazza Barigau. There's a pharmacy and ATM on the main street as well as Pizzeria Batista where you can eat decent pizza for a very moderate price. The local hospital is in Jerzu, the village next to Ulassai, although the closest A&E is a 30 minute drive to Lanusei.