If, like me, you are a person for which many a climbing trip has involved trudging up a hill in the driving rain then read on my friend, you are doing it wrong.
Kalymnos gained fame for rock climbing in 1996 after it was discovered by an Italian couple. Prior to this the main source of income for centuries was the harvesting of sea sponges which you can still see evidence of today with the occasional shop selling only sponges in various sizes. In 1986 tragically the sea sponges were impacted by disease which must have had a devastating impact on the local economy and its people. With this in mind it is easy to imagine why the explosion of sport climbing on the island has provided a much needed and welcome boost to the local economy.
I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting from my first overseas sport climbing experience but I could not help but be slightly taken a back. First of all there is the barren but stunning scenery with turquoise seas and beautiful sunsets cascading shades of orange over the limestone cliffs with their intricate cave systems. Then there is the surprisingly vast array of climbs in the lower grades making sport climbing accessible for a wide range of physical abilities. I found myself able to easily lead at grades that I would certainly have struggled on in the UK. Not to mention the routes in the lower grades where I have climbed at home tended to be a bit uninspiring.
Steph agrees;“I enjoyed Kalymnos a lot; as a 4/5 climber there were absolutely loads of really great climbs and it was also inspiring to be able to watch some of the spectacular 7s and 8s in action. Apart from climbing, the rest of the trip felt really relaxed, it was lovely to be able to chill on the beach with a beer then going out to eat and getting tips on where to climb next. On a personal note, it really kick-started my joy of climbing and I couldn’t wait to get to the climbing wall when I got back.”
On my first day I discovered at the bottom of the lines, someone has thoughtfully daubed all the route names in red paint, along with the grades, and the occasional love heart if you are luckily. No need to waste your time meandering around at the bottom of the crag, guide book in hand, trying to interpret a photograph taken from a curious angle.
The omnipresence of climbing in the area is highlighted by the stack of guide books on the counter in the mini market, nestled between the cigarette lighters and the Haribos. Then there is the fine array of shops selling climbing T-shirts, climbing mugs, climbing bracelets. I bought all of them.
So let’s see what the rest of the group loved about Kalymnos…
What about you Helen?
“1. Climbing the long multi pitch route ‘Wild Country’ with Chris on Telendos. We had such a great day out! Endless pitches of perfectly bolted limestone; slabs, corners and even a thuggy last pitch. Endless conversations of equal quality. With increasingly painful toes in our sport shoes we slowly but steadily made our way to the top to be rewarded with the most amazing view. Our day was perfectly Completed with a beautiful walk round the island and a cold beer in the Rock Bar. Thank you Chris for being the perfect multi pitch partner!
2. The best day out with Kate. We set off on our scooter at a break neck pace of 15mph and kept this eye watering speed going (Impressing other male climbers with our ability to ride uphill so slowly) until we reached the parking spot for the crag ‘The Beach’.
The beach is the most idyllic spot. A crag at the beach! We climbed non stop all day, with Kate and I leading some brilliant and varied routes. Feeling pretty pleased with ourselves, we braved ourselves for the return on our scooter. Riding into the sunset like Thelma and Louise we cruised into the village in time for some shopping at the E9 store before sleepily heading home.
I 💕 Kalymnos “
One of the most exciting things that happened. Joe proposed to Kate at the top of a climb while she was all sweaty and with bits of not rubbed in sun screen all over her face. It sounded very romantic. Congrats guys!
What did you think of kalymnos Kate?
“There were many highlights on this amazing trip! But some in particular:
- Climbing a multipitch route (Wings for Life) on Telendos then walking down with amazing views to have drinks and tzatziki on the beach
- Eating fresh fish or gyros every night
- Cragging with Helen (and goats) on the idyllic North side of the island
- Being spoilt for choice for climbs in my grade range and leading my first 6b outdoors!”
Thanks Kate. Glad you mentioned climbing with Helen since she mentioned you. That could of been awkward.
“Day 2 on Telendos, me and Steve climbed a route called Eterna (6b+), we wanted to get the boat to the start but the driver wanted too much money to drive around to the side so we opted for the €3 ride to the main port, not all bad as we got to have a coffee and stroke a few cats. The walk to the start was then around about an hour. The route was great with the crux on pitch 2, 3 more pitches of 6a and a load of easyer pitches, 11 in total, it was great to move super quickly and not have to place trad gear, the type of multi pitch we are more use to. we took 3.5hrs to get to the top, being south faceing we thought it would be a good idea to top up are tans and climb topless, it was not and we both got burnt. We had brought a beer with us to have on the top before the long decent (probably 2 hours) back to the bar for more beers and more cats.
Another highlight was on the Friday when I went to Olimpic wall with Mike for him to try his hard (7c) project, fogo fogo, the area had the best climbing I did on the trip in an amazing location while also being much quieter than other crags (30min walk up a steep to stop the crowds) Mike put the draws on his route and climbed the crux sections and clipsticked the pumpy middle section, it looks hard! I then jumped on Kalyty (7b), my favourite single pitch climb of the trip, awesome not to tricky climbing for the bulk of the routes leads to a unstable finish, I got It on site, the psyche was high and Mike went for fogo fogo, while watching him climb it he looked super smooth, efficient and got a great rest at the 2/3 hole, better than he had on previous attempts. He then set off, disappearing over the lip and a minute later a scream of joy as he reached the lower off.”
Chris: “ I was blown away by how good kalymnos was – personal highlight being able to swim in the sea every day before and after climbing (although ticking my first ever 7a felt pretty good too)
Robyn “Highlight for me was: the all-day 9 pitch multi-pitch sport climb ‘Wild Country’, not what I was expecting for a sport climbing trip! And the beer with feet in the sand at the end of it.”
Sources: National Geographic; https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CAQQw7AJahcKEwjQiPzBtpT7AhUAAAAAHQAAAAAQAg&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nationalgeographic.com%2Fadventure%2Farticle%2Fhow-sport-climbing-is-helping-to-revitalize-a-greek-island&psig=AOvVaw2j3nEJdf0Xug5X6edANdTD&ust=1667647842348600