Canyoning in Sardinia

Tuesday 23rd: Badde Pentumas

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The previous night we had poured over reports from the caving club trip in 2018, trying to find out the condition of road to the bottom of Badde Pentumas. Dire warnings about steeply humped bridges and deep potholes lead us to frantically google clearances of our vehicles vs those that they had, but in the end we concluded we would just try it anyway.

The road was actually fine – the bridges and potholes feverish imaginings of deranged minds, or a particularly sadistic route enforced by Bobo. Sure, a bridge had been washed away two years ago and not replaced, but, aside from a longish diversion, we were fine. The dirt track was in good condition, being repaired by some of the seemingly ubiquitous green clad Sardinian foresters, and we parked by a refreshment stand.

Badde Pentumas is a large dry canyon near Monte Tiscali. The scenery is stunning and the paths are scarce.

Badde Pentumas is a dry canyon, which is just as well – without neoprene in our packs we were able to force our way due west, uphill through the woods which were broken by long slanting sections of sharp lapiaz, or limestone pavement. Following only a compass bearing, a cave hardened phone and some guess work, we eventually found a line of cairns which hinted at a more formal path. This lead swiftly to a real path with actual blazes, and then relentlessly up.

After a long climb, we reach an alpine meadow with a path running along a low dry valley.

We passed many sheepfolds as the clouds drew in, but the rain they threatened never came, and soon it was sunny again. At the top of the path was a beautiful mountain meadow, and we walked along an exceptionally pretty little path in the bottom of a dry valley, or talweg.

The first pitch immediately to two pools of stagnant, mosquito filled water. Rhys and Susan patiently wait whilst Kevin rigs the next pitch.

The first short abseil lead directly to two stagnant pools of water full of mosquitoes. As I rigged it, I had the pleasure of waiting at the top of the pitch, rather than the bottom. Rhys’ expression said all I needed to know about the conditions down there, and I was pleased to be able to skip lightly by to the next abseil, which lead down into the canyon proper.

Looking up and out of the canyon – the others in the background are at the bottom of the first big pitch. Mr Jack and I press on.

We skirted some pools of stagnant water and headed off quickly. Today we had split into three pairs, each with a rope. I was actually hesitant to do this, as I didn’t think we’d get much of a speed up over two groups of three, but I was very wrong. Canyoning as a pair is ideal – you get a chance for a proper chat, you move quickly and both people get to be involved in rigging and derigging. And you get to move fast through two abseils and then relax for a while at your rigged pitch, watching the world and the other canyoners go by. I was with Mr Jack, Rhys with Susan and Alex with Kevin. I let Mr Jack do all of the actual work under the guise of supervising him, something I’m sure he found reminiscent from our time together at Imperial.

Alex and Kevin catch up with us at the next abseil, and leapfrog to go rig the next pitch.

There were no truly outstanding pitches for me, just a succession of fun, interesting abseils through impressive scenery. One more interesting abseil had a deviation on it, but thankfully above a nice broad ledge so it was very easy to pass without hardlocking your descender. The rigging is much more conservative than in Orbisi, with the bolts set far back from the pitch, which means more rope rub. Rhys found a point where the core of his rope had been damaged, and he promptly cut it to avoid any accidents.

Kevin passes a deviation on a pitch. A deviation on a canyoning pitch? Well, yes. But at least there was a nice ledge to stand on. Hard locking a pirana is tough.

The last section opened up and there were signs that it could be accessed from below. One particularly interesting feature were the massive overhanging ledges on the cliffs walls, which had given rise to calcite formations: stalactites, stalagmites and columns. Birds nested high in the cliffs and were constantly flying over head.

As the canyon broadens, there are vast overhanging galleries on either side, filled with stals and columns. We go to inspect.

We exited at a reasonable time, stopped at the refreshment stand for a soft drink or a beer, and then drove back along the bumpy road to our apartment. I think we had Alex’s courgette pasta for dinner, which was delicious.

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