'This could be Heaven or this could be Hell'
The Supramonte Mountain Range on the Italian island of Sardinia between the provinces Ogliastra and Nuoro, is home to the famous Gola di Gorruppu. With up to 500-meter tall walls this gorge is one of Europe’s deepest and most impressive canyons, consisting of completely vertical, in parts even overhanging limestone walls. In the overhanging rock part there is an alpine sport climbing route called „Hotel Supramonte“, which was established by Rolando Larcher and Roberto Vigiani in 1998. It ranks among the most difficult sport climbing routes in the world. Pietro dal Pra managed the first completely free ascent of Hotel Supramonte in 2000 and Martina Cufar was the first woman to ever free climb this route. This year, Hotel Supramonte was repeated by Barbara Zangerl.
Text: Barbara Zangerl
In the fall of 2009, I went for the first time sport climbing on Sardinia. Together with a few friends I spent most of the time at classic rock climbing spots like Cala Luna or Calagorize. One day we had planned an easygoing multi pitch route vis-à-vis Supramonte at Gola di Gorruppo. When I stood with Didi, Ambi, and my brother Udo, completely sweaty after the long approach, in front of the 400-meter tall, overhanging rock face, the Hotel Supramonte, I knew instantly trying a project like this would be amazing. But at that time it was certainly wishful thinking.
After I had spent most of the summer of 2010 on lime rock in the Rätikon, I became desirous to go to Sardinia the next spring and climb at least a few pitches of Supramonte.
On April 16th, I travelled together with Marco Köb, a strong climber of the Vorarlberg climbing community who was just as highly motivated as I was, for twelve days to Sardinia. Marco is from Dornbirn. He studies Chemistry and Biology in Innsbruck and wants to become a teacher. His most difficult sport climbing routes to date include Reifeprüfung 8b+ or Have fun 8a+. He is certainly one of the strongest climbers in the Vorarlberg region. Even prior to our Sardinia project we were climbing together quite a lot and I thoroughly enjoy climbing with him. We are well attuned to each other, which certainly comes in handy when climbing a multi pitch route.
Right on the first day we wanted to start with Supramonte. Our plan was to reach “the hotel”, a small niche in the sixth pitch. However, we were facing a crux right away, and that was not in the wall. Our key and all of our climbing equipment were locked in the car. So after breakfast we had to wreck the window of our brand-new rental vehicle… After that nothing stood in the way of our Supramonte mission
The entrance of Gola di Gorruppo is located approximately 18 kilometres south of Dorgali. You can reach it over a winding gravel road that turns off SS 125 and leads to the valley floor of Valle di Oddeone. You can do the first 11 kilometres by car, the final 7 kilometres you have to walk. The path is quite varied and runs alongside the Flumineddu River, partly through forest, which is nice for some cooling.
It was already 11:30 a.m. when we got there – quite late to climb a 400-meter tall rock face. We only got up to the 4th pitch. And since we were both tired from the physical, overhanging climb, we decided to abseil before it was getting dark.
My first impression: climbing so many difficult pitches at once? Very difficult. It doesn’t leave room for many climbing mistakes. You cannot save your energy anywhere! First doubts lurked in my mind, whether I had aimed too high…
Over a total length of 400 metres, Hotel Supramonte comprises eleven pitches. Approximately 80 metres are overhanging. The difficulties: 7b+, 7c+, 8b, 8a+, 8b, 7c, 7a+, 7b+, 7b, 7b, 6b
On our second day in the wall we were again taking turns in the lead. This time it went much better for both of us. Though I had a few problems with the crux in the second pitch, I was able to redpoint the first 8b. Marco climbed all passages free with a few breaks, though. This day we made it up to the hotel.
Two days later I was leading without dropout all the way up to the 5th pitch. In the final 8b I still had to puzzle out a proper solution. Afterwards Marco was leading the last ethical pitches. This day we ended up one pitch below the top. I knew then and there that with a bit of luck and lots of fighting spirit I would be able to link all pitches in a day.
After two days of constant rainfall, chilling in a blues bar, and many cappuccinos, we used a 24-hour fair-weather window on Easter Sunday to get on the wall for the fourth time. Both of us were highly motivated to give it a last final try. Up to the 3rd pitch it was a huge fight for me. After two rainy days, the conditions weren’t perfect at all.
In the 4th pitch I took a fall during my last move, right before the saving final jug, which cost me a lot of nerves. I went back down to the stand, pulled the rope and did it again right away. In my second try it worked like charm. At the stand prior to the final 8b I was extremely nervous and had to cool down and fight it out before reaching the crux.
It went like clockwork. Elation. The worst was over and it was as if a heavy burden had been lifted from my shoulders. Now I wasn’t allowed to miss out, I still had four tricky and quite hard pitches ahead of me.
When I finally reached my goal I felt drained from the strain, I was physically exhausted, but overwhelmed and happy to have made it. Achieving what you aimed for and knowing that it was a perfect day that could have not been any better is an incredible feeling. First and foremost I would like to thank Marco Köb, because without him this would have never been possible!