Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sardinia, Italy

Sardinia, an island 150 miles long by 50 miles wide and just west of the Italian mainland, has been on our travel list for a long time.  Sardinia is known for its great beaches, tasty Italian food, lots of rock to climb, and gorgeous views. 

We spent 7 nights at an amazing hotel in the sleepy town of Tortoli, about midway up the east coast of Sardinia. 

We drove north to the coastal town of Cala Gonone.  The drive consisted of 1.5 hours of 25 mph curves, dodging horses, cows, sheep, and pigs as they roamed the fenceless land.

The weather during the first few days were northern California-esque, with clouds and wind.  It wasn't the beach weather we were hoping for.

We were  the two tourists in town.

Rain or not, we decided to go hiking.  This photo below of Cassy pretty much says, "THIS IS NOT THE VACATION I SIGNED UP FOR!"  The wind was absolutely howling and we were freezing.
As we started to hike out of the parking area, a ranger who was hidden out in her car stopped us to give the, "It's dangerous out there" speech.  I guess she saw that we had decent rain gear and day packs, so she just told us the forecast was crappy and then let us go.

The weather got considerably better.  I can't ever think of a time when I decided to go out in bad weather and then regretted the decision and wished I had stayed in a warm house/bed/car.  From sweltering climbing days in Texas and Oklahoma to freezing days in Ohio or Colorado.  It's never THAT bad. 

The hike took us into the Gola di Gorroppu, a narrow canyon with huge (600+ ft) walls.  We had the entire canyon to ourselves.

I carried this heavy tripod all the way here; might as well use it.

This was the furthest we could hike into the canyon without swimming.

And the next day, the weather cleared.  This IS what Cassy signed up for.

On the fourth day, we drove the 1.5 hrs back to Cala Gonone and then hiked with climbing gear for 2 hours to get to Cala Fuili, a sport climbing area right on the beach.  I took the photo below when we were about 30 minutes from the crag.  The routes we did are on the left side of the main rock face.

After climbing a few routes right above the water we walked down the beach and found this awesome cave opening.
What a great opportunity for silhouette shots.  We had fun with these.

We finished the hike back to the car after dark.  The full moon was incredibly bright and left an awesome light trail on the water.  What a perfect end to a day of climbing.

Okay, maybe it does get more perfect.  The following day we again made the long drive to Cala Gonone and hiked a mere 10 minutes to another seaside climbing area.

These fools were climbing in the hot sun.  Instead of joining them, we passed right by and found a spot to hang out by the water until the cliffs went into the shade.

Big rock.  Note Cassy at the bottom left of the photo.

And notice Cassy's bottom in this photo.

Above - the steep sport climbs lit by moonlight.
When the sun set, all the climbers took off, but we decided to stick around and climb another route.  I did a steep 5.10 sport climb by headlamp, which was way exciting.  Then we hung out and watched the moon rise over the water.  

A parting beach shot.  We did spend a couple hours of one day hanging out on a true beach in the sun.  Not too bad for a vacation in November.

Chamonix, France

For years I had heard about the legendary town of Chamonix, France.  This place is revered by rock climbers, alpinists, and skiers alike.  It's a cool mix of down-to-earth locals, visiting yuppies, and dirtbag climbers and skiers.

Chamonix lies in a valley at around 3,500 ft above sea level.  But in only 20 minutes, you can be at over 12,000 ft elevation by taking the Aiguille du Midi cable car (gondola).  

Near the summit of Aiguille du Midi

These dudes were in a perfect spot for a silhouette shot as they hiked for some fresh tracks.

Hikers stop for a break at a mountain refuge overlooking Chamonix.

After riding the gondola to the summit, we rode halfway back down the mountain, just below the snow line, and went on a casual hike, where we were rewarded with extraordinary views.

A French snack

The Petit Dru towers over Cassy.  This formation is so aesthetic that I literally took over 100 photos during the 30 minutes it was visible during our hike.  Luckily for everyone reading this, I'll only share the highlights here.

See the lighter gray color on the right side of the Dru?  The scar is the site of massive rockfall in 1997, 2003, 2005, and 2011.

Our hike ended with a ride down the mountain on the Montenvers Railway, a train that operates year round on a steep track from Chamonix to Montenvers.  In the winter, a special train is used to plow up to a meter of snow from the track, an impressive feat considering the track has a gradient of up to 22%.

Fall colors

Cassy and Jess enjoy fall weather in the Chamonix valley

One of my favorite photos of Cassy during another Chamonix hike we did the next day.