Pecorino, Cannonau & Calcare Part 2

Rock Climbing in Sardinia, Baby-Friendly

Families can’t really go wrong when choosing Sardinia as a destination for a vacation. There is plenty to for everyone to do, from fabulous beaches to quaint villages, sail cruises to inland hikes, plenty of cultural interests and all sorts of activities for visitors looking for an agri-tourism experience, trad climbing, deep water soloing and long multi-pitches. On our hand, we kept our exploration of Cala Gonone pretty simple. Our stay was filled with our daily share of sports climbing, hanging on the beach, eating gelato …and changing diapers.

We had done our homeworks and had researched some climbing spots ahead of time online. The website www.climb-europe.com was, as usual, a great place to start gathering some info when planning a climbing trip in Europe! On day one, we also invested in Pietra di Luna, 5th edition 2011, by Maurizio Oviglia, a very good guidebooks covering over 1,400 routes everywhere on the Island. Bear in mind that this newer edition doesn’t include as many multi-pitch routes as the older versions. We purchased the book at the small climbing store in Dorgali, along with a pair of new rock shoes, which proved to be way to painful to wear and ended up being replaced by a second pair purchased the following day. Yes, we were in Italy and I was decided to take advantage of the traditional Italian excellence in shoemaking.

Families also can’t really go wrong when choosing a crag to spend the day. Around Cala Gonone, all of the crags we visited are fairly easily accessed and offer flat shaded spots to set up a blanket or even a tent for the kids to safely play and nap. Since we were there in May, the weather was also most favorable to spent the days outside with little ones; plenty of sun but moderate temperatures and the usual breeze cooling the air just enough.

Some of the crags we visited are:

  • Budinetto: located 5 minutes drive from town and 15-minute approach, this site offers moderate slab routes from 3c to 6c. It is mostly south facing and offers a spectacular view on Cala Gonone and the sea. We picked this location for our first half day on the rock. Probably the least baby friendly of all because it’s fairly bushy and doesn’t offer that much flat areas at the bottom; it is less than ideal for a clumsy toddler.

 

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Slaby limestone that has lots of grip in Budinetto. Great way to start clipping bolts again.
  • Cala Fuili: This site is also located just outside of town and requires a 10-30 minute hike, depending on the area. Some easy climbs are just off the beach and therefore very busy and quite polished. As you walk deeper in the canyon, you find more interesting routes, graded from 5a to 8b+. It is the largest sports climbing site in the area with over 110 routes, mostly single pitch with some multi. The beach is ideal to hang out with kids, however, since climbers will have to wander out of reach to find interesting routes it’s best to split the group…
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Cala Fuili is an easy-accessed, popular beach just outside of town
  • Biddiriscotai: A very cool cave accessed by a scenic 20-minute walk right from town. Nudists love to soak the sun on the rocks near the cave, which can be a little surprising as you come around the corner…It boasts about 50 routes from 5b to 8a+. The sea mist definitely makes the holds a bit greasy but the location is well worth the trip. It was a great location for small children who are not too mobile but could be a challenge for busy 2-3 year olds. The cave itself is like a giant sandbox and offers plenty of shade. The routes feature neat tuffa and stalactites.
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The coolest approach ever…minus the naked Sards (not shown on the pic)

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Baby catching up on zzz’s while papa and his buddy tackle a greasy 6c
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Look who’s climbing steep stuff in her socks!
  • Buchi Arta: Our Cala Gonone favorite. After a slightly longer drive up and down a narrow mountain road, you have arrived! This site offers 35 routes from 5c to 7a, vertical and crimpy and lots of flat spots nicely shaded by the ancient pine trees. While you won’t get a seaview, it’s ideal for a group with lots of space for the kiddos to roam. We spent two full days there and I think what makes me emotional about this spot is that it’s where I led my first 6b!

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A napper’s guide to Sardinia
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Giving this first 6b all my attention
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I could write a post only about bread, cheese and wine in Sardinia…so could my baby
  • Cala Luna: I personnaly did more beaching than climbing at this particular site, but I can say that the approach is definitely the coolest of all. While you can access it by hiking severals hours, you can also rent a power boat at the port for the day for about 80 euros plus gas. We were fortunate enough to be a group of 10 (8 adults) and were met by friends of friends so it was all well worth it and quite affordable. The boat ride was exceptional on a sea so blue and so clear you can see all the way to the bottom. Along the shore are many caves to explore, which get very busy with larger tour ships later in the day. You can also take a taxi boat to Cala Luna. The climbing there was good, with routes from 5c to 8b+ including some multi-pitch. Hubby and I were able to leave baby girl to our friends and do the classic very photogenic 2-pitch route. The beach was beautiful although it was much harder to find shade so bring your own tent or shelter or umbrella. Be aware of wild pigs who love to steal your food.
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A classic 2-pitch route is right on the prominent pillar

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All Aboard!

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Setting up base camp at Cala Luna

The boys in our crew were also able to squeeze in some quality multi-pitch routes, in Margheddie and Supramonte (in-land). Our thought was that the climbing was overall excellent, on solid limestone, well bolted and the grading relatively on par with other major european climbing destinations. We were happy to go early season and found the locals very hospitable and nice and the prices quite a bit lower than during the peak summer season. Many locals speak French or a bit of English and we found communicating was never an issue. I am sure Sardinia has a lot more to offer than what we just experienced but, so goes life when you want to balance a family vacation with a baby and destination climbing…can’t do it all! That being said, I wouldn’t mind going back to Sardinia has it has printed on our minds very sweet memories.

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Some more napping, just for the beauty of it

5 Reasons Why You Should Go On A Climbing Trip With A Baby

Friends and family who are not climbers have often asked us: “When you take your baby climbing, do you strap her onto your back and climb?” Hell, NO!

Rock climbers are, by definition, in the eyes of non climbers insane irresponsible beings who risk their life every minute. I get it. The concept can seem a little vague for someone who has never tried climbing before. Now, don’t only take my words for it, do you research. Sports climbing, when done properly is very safe. When planned responsibly, and of course when you have a third or more responsible grown-ups on hand, it can also be a great activity to take a baby along. I never used to be much into sports climbing before kid and now I am learning to love it more and more, especially when sports climbing is one of the main components of a family trip. Here are 5 reasons why it’s so awesome:

1- It’s all about your family

With a newborn, life gets a little bit crazy. To me, the domestic life has appeared at first to be like a prison. At home, the first two months of my daughters life, I would easily get overwhelmed by all there was to do and get distracted from what really matters: bonding with my baby and as a brand new little family. In an 8-foot truck camper in the middle of the Sierra Nevada, the home-related chores are pretty much reduced to none. Once you’ve figured where you’re going to sleep and what you’re going to eat, your time is all for your family and this is pretty fantastic. Sipping your cup of coffee in the desert morning sun with a sleeping baby nearby pretty much makes you forget about the the pile of dirty laundry, the mail to pick-up, etc.

At home at the Buttermilk boulders near Bishop,CA

2- It’s a great way to recconect with your postpartum body

Physicians recommend to wait at least 6-week after birth to gently start exercising again, and this should be done after medical consultation to ensure the recovery is underway. I personally followed this guideline and maybe waited even more. I also consulted my family doctor before starting climbing again to ensure I didn’t have diatasis recti. After doing weeks of soft physical rehab exercises and lots of walking to regain strength and endurance, I finally felt ready to climb again. I was by no mean a strong sports climber before pregnancy so I really had no pressure when I picked it up again and was therefore able to enjoy a very gradual, easy reconnection with the rock…and with my core muscles and my upper body. The pace that my baby’s routine would impose on us suited me just fine; a little walking, a little breastfeeding, a little climbing, eating some snacks, walking the baby some more so she could sleep,hanging out in the sun, climbing a little more and the day had gone by!

finding a nice shaded spot for baby’s nap near Bishop, CA

3- It’s a great way to reconnect with your partner

No, your romantic life doesn’t end the day you pop that baby out, although it sometimes feels like a remote memory, especially when that little being is sucking up all your attention and your energy. On our family climbing trips,we’ve always been fortunate enough to also have wonderful friends joining us, which has first allowed us to take turns climbing, belaying and taking care of the baby. But what makes our friends even more wonderful is that, wether or not they have kids, they’ve offered to also take care of our daughter for shorts periods of time. This is allowed Hubby and I to take a few moments to ourselves… to soak in some hot springs, to tackle a route together just like in the old days, or even to catch up on sleep or get organized with groceries…yes, you’ve heard me; with a couple-of-months old, even grocery shopping IS a romantic activity.


4- It opens your climbing perspectives

As mentioned earlier, before being a mom I didn’t care all that much for sports climbing, and to me, bouldering was not even something I was considering as climbing! My husband and I would spend any opportunity we had to go alpine climbing or climb multi-pitch routes. The odd bit of sports climbing I would was early season to get into alpine climbing shape. Well, because we don’t simply strap our baby onto our back and climb (for goodness sake! Seriously!) being new parents who didn’t want to give up on our passion, we had to adapt, and it proved wonderful. The beauty of sports climbing is its relatively simple logistic and the fact that the time commitment can be much shorter ( yes, we’ve had a few around the clock epics in the alpine before). You usually sports climb in fair weather, and in very pleasant environments. It also didn’t take long before we started realizing how much bouldering is adapted to climbing with a baby. Especially when you don’t have friends on hand to take turns belaying. I must even confess that since I have become a mom, I even picked up indoor climbing and I love it. It has become my weekly “me time” I get to spend with other mom friends. Although alpine climbing is still very dear to my heart, I love how easy crag, Boulder and indoor climbing is to juggle with a young family.


5- You create long-lasting family memories

I strongly believe people who say that there’s no point traveling with infants because they will never remember a thing or even says that traveling is detrimental for children are so wrong. Traveling, exploring new places, being exposed to new smells, new sights, new flavours ( even through breastmilk) will for sure imprints on babies soul and will contribute to who their are as humans. Openness is something intrinsic to children. Fear of differences is a learnt state. Tolerance, kindness, curiosity, adaptability are values that can be passed on right from birth. If a baby won’t have memories of a journey she was on when she was 2-months old, she will certainly have acquire sensations from it and will relate to your own memory of it as a parent, through stories and photos. To us, the very first trip we did as a family is closely linked to the wonderful memory of our daughter’s early age. Something that’s truly amazes me about young kids is that, when their basics needs are met and they feel safe and surrounded by the most important aspect of their little world; the presence of loving care-givers, they are really at home anywhere in the world.

And, finally, to anyone who asked me “why do you do this?”, my answer has always been “why not?!”

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Rock Climbing in Sardinia, baby-friendly

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Mountains are great but the sea is pretty sweet too. Here is a view from Cala Fulli
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our daily fix of Mediterranean

Pecorino, Cannonau & Calcare Part 1: A long journey to Cala Gonone

At the exact same date 3-years ago we were embarking on a memorable trip to Sardinia.

Even with a 7-month baby in tow, we were convinced this trip would be a relaxing getaway made of chillin’ on the beach, reconnecting with climbing on perfect seaside limestone cliffs and drinking wine with a bunch of friends. After the fact, I can say that we certainly had underestimated what traveling with a young baby would entice…and overestimated the amount of climbing we would do. But other than that, our trip to Sardinia was absolutely amazing and we recommend the destination to any climber novice to expert, bachelor to a family of 8 and everything in between. Here’s our story.

My in-laws have generously lent us their car for our trip. We’re all packed and ready to go. I thank the Lord for only having one kid. There’s so much stuff in that car that my daughter seems to be buried in her car seat. I hope she’s still able to breathe. As realistic parents of an infant, we’ve decided to do the drive over 3 days between Saint-Etienne, France and Livorno, Italy. Our ferry ride is booked for 2 days later. Our goal is to drive to Serre-Chevalier to spend the first night at our friends who are coming with us on the trip and then together make our way to Livorno, spend the night near the Port and then embark on the ferry. Fortunately, our 7-month old is a well-traveled baby who travels well. Yeah, this can sounds odd, but at 7 months she’s already spent 1/7 of her life on the road, has flown 9 airplanes and traveled across 3 countries on 2 different continents…She’s a trooper. The only minor thing is that she breastfeeds a lot…and often! So, well, we take our time and make a lot of stops.

Who said that distances in Europe are short? Certainly not the parent of an infant. Driving 600km takes us 2 full days. However, the drive is uneventful and quite pleasant even, especially on the second day when we rally with our friends, Antho, Tif, their daughter Kenza and the dog Naumai. We took walkie-talkies along and we’re able to communicate and coordinate our stops as we drive at what seems like crazy fast speed on Italian freeways, which are all stupidly narrow and all underground and where fancy Alpha Romeos pass you nonchalantly at 160k/h. Other than being quite stressed and worried that my in-laws’ car mirrors get ripped off at every turn, we’re all excited about the trip and finding some nice Mediterranean weather. We spend the second night near Livorno in a cute little inn where the staff is absolutely charming and we get to enjoy our first wood oven thin crust pizza and a cold beer in the lounge while our little angles are snoozing in our nearby guest rooms.

The next morning, we casually make our way towards the port but quickly realize that Livorno port is huge and we have one idea where our dock is. After driving in circles for a while following Antho who seems to know where’s going (not!) we finally board the ferry just before the door closes. Booo for the Frenchies, you almost earned us a two-week vacation in Livourno. The day-time ride from Livorno to Olbia on Mobylines is about 8-hours. Mobyline ferries are very well set-up for families with children, with Disney-themed play areas, well-adapted washrooms, plenty of space to move around, several cafes and food outlet all serving delicious espresso for less than a dollar, uh, well, euro. Okay, a dollar fifty. From the deck, we sail along the rugged coast of Corsica on a calm see in a gray and relatively cool weather.

After reaching Olbia, there’s only 2-hour drive to reach our destination of Cala Gonone, a small fishing village on the east coast of the island, turned into a prime tourism destination which the German visitor market particularly affectionate. It seems like early May is still considered off season there so we’re hoping to find some peace and quiet and are ready to handle cooler temperatures.

We are meeting 3 other friends who took a different ferry from Genoa: Sophie, Raph and our 75-year old badass climbing legend friend from Marseille, Elie. The villa is right at the heart of the village just half a kilometer from the beach and has a gated garden and 2 patios with atrial view on the sea. It has a large dining room with a massive table, four bedrooms and two bathrooms. The kitchen is incredibly tiny and very poorly appointed which seems the weirdest thing in a villa that size in a country that claims to be the most food-loving in the world. It will prove challenging some nights when there are 4 of us in there; the two moms trying to mush of some veggie to feed the babies and the 2 others on dinner duties. With limited kitchenware, our cooking ability is somewhat limited, but fortunately, we live off divine charcuterie (salami and prosciutto), pecorino and other fabulous cheeses, olives, and wine.

Reuniting with our long-time friends in this very special place on that first night feels wonderful and it sets the tone for a great time. After too many glasses of wine for my husband my family and I settle in our little bedroom for a very poor night for all of us. Actually, for all sorts of different reason, every of the nights for our entire stay will be poor, more specifically because baby girl has started waking up every 2 hours. One other reason is that Kenza, Tif and Antho’s 18-month old daughter is an early riser. One other reason is that Italian people never sleep and like to go about their duties at night, such as signing, picking up the garbage, using power tools, arguing, etc. All the sudden, being in the place at the heart of the village doesn’t sound like a good idea anymore.

In my next post, I will talk about the serious business..rock climbing in Sardinia. Stay tuned!

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Papa showing her baby girl the monster wild pigs eating our picnic in Cala Luna
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Solid limestone, deep-blue sea and sunshine…heaven
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Sleep deprived but so happy!
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Road trip baby…in papy’s car on top of that
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La grotta, accessed by a scenic trail along the shore

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My Awesome Cat-Skiing Weekend

It’s 4 am and I am wide awake. I am so excited and anxious I have barely closed my eyes all night. The eight-hour road trip from Kimberley to Monashee Powder, near Cherryville, should have exhausted me (in fact it has!) but the anticipation is just too high. The temperature, which was very high yesterday, has dropped a lot and the rain turned into snow early last night. I look out the window. The sky is clear and I can see some stars. The snow has stopped falling.

Warm and cozy between the soft flannel sheets, I can hear my sister’s regular breathing. I smile. I am here with her for 3 full days to experience cat skiing for the first time and to see with my own eyes what her job is all about. It’s her second season as a Tail Guide here. Her alarm should ring soon; the days start pretty early for MPS’ staff. I smile some more and think about the day ahead. It’s the first time that I will be away from my family for so long. 5 long days of “me time”, which is so precious when you’re a young mom. I feel so grateful to have a wonderful husband who also understands the value of it and also welcomes some alone quality time with our daughter. 

6:30 am. I am granted access to the guides’ morning meeting. I hear them talking temperature, wind, new snowfall, avalanche rating, weather forecast, what runs are “safe” to ski and which ones are to be avoided. Truly fascinating. The guiding team is very knowledgeable and professional and listening to them makes me feel like I am in good hands.

After assisting my sister with some preparation tasks such as checking avalanche beacons, filling up the water bottles for the guests, etc. we fill up on a hearty and delicious breakfast buffet. Not far from there in the dining room, another buffet is set up for the guests to prepare their lunches. Salads of all sorts, meats & cheeses, baked goods, fruit, vegetable sticks, dips and different types of bread make up a very inviting selection. It seems like no one will go hungry today, unless one forgets to take his own lunch bag to the cat!

By 8:30 am sharp, the beacon search training begins, following up to an informative avalanche safety and research technique refresh provided the night before by the Lead Guide. In my group, everyone seems fairly savvy on how avalanche beacons work, yet everyone listens carefully to the instructions and welcomes the refresh.

Then we all load the cat after a few more safety instructions. Once again, guests on my group all listen carefully to the Tail Guide’s speech. As she says, the snowcats are big hard machines with lots of blind spots and we humans are small and soft in comparison…no one wants to be crushed under their oversized tracks.

A 15-minute ride up a steep road takes us to our first run. The other 13 guests in our group are not on their first experience at Monashee or at cat-skiing in general. A few of them even mention they are celebrating their 15th anniversary visiting MPS this year. Now that’s loyalty!

Unloading the skis and poles happens very quickly and within minutes of reaching the “drop off”, we’re all clicked into our bindings and ready to go, smiling with excitement. Our guide assesses the slope and drops in. The fresh powder, nearly 15 cm, flies light and fluffy behind him. This sets the tone to our day.

After one, two, three runs of effortless turns in pure “blower”, we all realize our group is made up of solid and experienced skiers so we are able to step it up a notch. Everyone is paying attention to the Guide’s instructions, staying close by and making the transitions very fast and smooth, which will allow us to link

the runs faster, ski more vertical and more challenging terrain. The visibility being fairly low at this point means steep tree lines will be on the program for the rest of the day.

Monashee Powder’s tenure is huge, 17,000 acres total, and the terrain extremely varied, although the visibility doesn’t allow me to gauge the extent of it on that very first day. The Lodge itself being located at 1600m of elevation, the rain and warm temperatures has only had a moderate effect on the snowpack above it so the skiing is absolutely fabulous. At the end of the day, I am in awe and so stoked about what I just got to experience. I am even happier thinking that I have two more days of this ahead of me. As the forecast predicted, it’s snowing hard again!

Back to the Lodge, guests disperse to soak in the hot tubs, take advantage of the Registered Massage Therapist and Acupuncturist on duty or enjoy some Après in the bar where some tasty appies and cold beverages are served.

A little later, a gourmet 4-course dinner is casually served in the dining room by the Lodge’s friendly staff. Helping bringing the plates really works up my appetite. To the sound of chatter, laughter and tales of the extraordinary day, guests and staff all replenish their energy with a fine albacore tuna tartare, split pea and roasted garlic soup, bison tenderloin cooked to perfection and sweet delicacies crafted by the on-staff pastry chef, all paired with a selection of fine BC wines.

Jokes and stories are flying around and I can tell that a long-lasting friendship links Carolyn and Tom Morgan, the owners of Monashee Powder, to their guests and staff. This extraordinary couple, originally from the oil & gas industry in Calgary, literally got addicted to cat skiing and to this little corner of the Monashee mountains back in the 90’s. Back then, guests were hosted in prospector-type tents (Tom would tell you the exact make and model of those tents!) heated by wood stoves…and skiing long straight skis. The Morgan’s have invested all their heart in this unconventional business, making this place unpretentious, warm, authentic, and extremely welcoming, where people gather around a true passion for skiing. This is certainly the reason why their guests return over and over and the Lodge almost sells out a year in advance.

While guests and staff make their way to the bar for some after-dinner drinks and live music, I head right for my cozy little bed. One thing is certain, tonight my eyes won’t stay open and my dreams will certainly involve some white, fluffy snow and steep untracked lines…