Saturday, 14 September 2013

Welcome to Kalymnos: a climbing paradise!

Summer finally seemed to have come to an end in England; the balmy sunny weather giving way to chill winds and rain with an ‘unsettled’ forecast for the rest of September. It was a perfect time to escape to an Aegean island for good food, sun and of course, amazing climbing.

Kalymnos is not the most straightforward climbing venue to get to. The most popular route is to get a flight to Kos, a taxi to the harbour and then a ferry over to Kalymnos. This all sounds fine, but you have to take into account that this is Greece, and everything works on GMT (Greek Mean Time), which is....flexible...

The last ferry to Kalymnos is officially 22.30. Our flight was delayed in and faced by a huge queue at the airport for seemingly non-existent taxis, we could do nothing but wait impatiently and hope that the ferry would wait for us. Eventually we made it down to the harbour to find a group of people waiting and a dark, shut-up ferry. Consensus seemed to indicate that the 22.30 ferry hadn‘t departed but no-one seemed to know when, or if a ferry would be leaving.

We waited, resigned to going with the flow, whatever the flow might be. A friendly cat purred round us, angling for some dinner; it was less than impressed by N’s offered of marinated tofu, but more impressed with the chicken R fed it. Eventually some local people turned up and it looked promising that we wouldn’t be abandoned to a night on the pier. Tickets bought and bags loaded, we took some seats on the top deck and waited. And waited some more. Finally, a taxi sped up the pier, depositing a group of laughing climbers clutching kitbags and beer, the ferry engine started and we pulled off into the inky blackness.

Speeding through the night, tasting the salt of the sea spray, it felt like the holiday had really begun. After another wait for a taxi in Pothia, we eventually arrived at our apartment in Armeos at 01.30 – fourteen and a half hours after leaving home! 

After getting to bed at 2am, we decided to have a lie in the next morning, before heading out for a late breakfast. One thing I had forgotten about Kalymnos is just how friendly the local people are. This was N and H’s fourth trip to Kalymnos and they were greeted like long-lost cousins by the restaurant owners and shopkeepers. Sakis, the laid-back owner of the Climber’s Station greeted us with almost genuine amazement.

“You came back?!” he wondered, as if a few trips were enough to fully explore everything that Kalymnos has to offer. Which is far from the truth; new crags are being developed all the time and there are still hundreds of fantastic lines waiting to be bolted.

Decor at the Climber's Bar

Stoked up on coffee and crepes, we headed down to the pier and splashed out on a ferry direct to Irox; a crag on Telendos, an island that nestles close to Kalymnos. This definitely added an extra bit of adventure to the day's climbing; speeding across the blue sea, jumping off at an idyllic, rocky inlet to gaze up at the rock above. Climbing psyche quickly kicked in and we gradually ticked off the 6a-6b+s, with H and N putting in a great effort on an intimidating 6c+. R made friends with the local goat, who appeared to have the art of wheedling food out of soft climbers down to an art. Fingertips and muscles feeling suitably sore; we ambled along the well-marked path back to Telendos village for dinner and beer before getting the ferry back to Kalymnos.

The Irox goat - grateful for water as well as food!

We felt a bit more able to make an early start the next day, so headed up to Odyssey; one of the more popular climbing sectors. Climbing in the sun is strictly for the hardcore / insane at this time of year so early starts are mandatory for most crags to get some decent climbing in before the sun comes round. I had spent a couple of days at Odyssey on my last trip to Kalymnos, and remembered being disappointed that the route grading didn’t feel as soft as I’d been led to believe; this time was no different!

I’m not sure I can really blame the steepness of the rock, or the polish on some of the routes, but I think we all found this day pretty tough. After warming up, I had a good go at a great 6c, Lestrygon, but my arms gave out at the crux, proving my lack of fitness! Finished off the day by clipping my way up Lucky Luka (7b); a steep route with a boulder crux low down and some massive tufas near the top. I managed the moves, but got some tufa fear at the top – not sure if I’ll be going back for the redpoint!

Working the moves on Lucky Luka (7b)

Having had a couple of days walking to crags, we thought it was probably time to get scooters, something N and I (the designated drivers) were both slightly apprehensive about; N because he had never driven a scooter before, having only passed his driving test a few months before, and me because I have an inbuilt fear of anything remotely motorbike-like. 

Mike at Mike’s Bikes, looked dubious at N’s less than positive assertion of his ability to drive a scooter, but reluctantly handed over the keys. We decided to pick the scooters up on the way back from dinner, thus avoiding the potential embarrassment of crashing Mike’s scooters in front of Mike.

Fortified by veggie Mousaka, and having googled ‘how to drive a scooter’, we arrived back at the scooters and wobbled off into the night, H and R developing a sudden desire to walk back to the apartment...

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