|Page Type:||Trip Report|
|Lat/Lon:||36.98994°N / 26.93608°E|
|Date Climbed/Hiked:||Apr 20, 2015|
When Ken told me that he and his brother Peter were planning to go Sport climbing in Greece and asked if I wanted to go with them, I was taken aback somewhat. Our usual annual outings were to the mountains and did not in any way include the type of gymnastic exercises to be expected at their proposed destination of the Island of Kalymnos in Greece.
Although it was a few years since I had been seriously rock climbing apart from on indoor climbing walls and on a recent visit to Trevor at Llangollen with the guys, the idea appealed to me very much and I was soon booking up my flights to match up with their one.
As their outgoing flight from Gatwick to Kos was at ‘sparrow fart’, Ken and Peter drove down from Liverpool in the middle of the night to collect me from Billericay. The four and a half hour EasyJet flight got us to the Island of Kos at 12:00pm, 2 hours ahead of UK time. A short taxi ride from the terminal got us to the local ferryport of Mastichari where we checked the time of the next ferry to Kalymnos. The ferry wasn’t due for a while so there was time for a beer and a sandwich.
We didn’t have too long to wait and were soon on the ferry for the short somewhat bumpy half hour crossing on the non-stabilised ferry to the port of Pothia on Kalymnos. There as previously arranged by Peter, our landlord George collected us from the port and drove us at breakneck speed in his venerable old car to our high level apartment named Melina on the outskirts of the town of Masouri. We were given a twin bedded room with another bed crammed in but compared to our usual Pyrenean refugio accommodations we were definitely in a more luxurious space.
As Peter had been to Kalymnos many times before, he led the way to an Italian Ice Cream parlour some way down the single main street of Masouri for us to choose from the delicious selection of homemade flavours.
On the way there Peter was soon recognised by some of the locals and his health and that of his son Adam another regular visitor was enquired after. Whilst Ken had also been to Kalymnos before (being a miserable bastard nobody enquired about his health), it was my first time there but as I’d previously been to Crete, Pireas and Skiathos I soon recalled the very welcoming nature of the Greek peoples.
Many of the climbers staying there transported themselves around on scooters which they could hire for €10 aday. We had ‘Shanks Pony’ initially but Peter had arranged a hire car for €20 a day that we had to collect later on in the week from the port of Pothia.
After we had been back to the apartment to sort out our gear and change our clothes for the evening we returned to town for dinner at Prego. The temperature was quite cool then so we needed to put on some extra layers for the walk back after dinner.
On our way out of the apartment we spotted these amorous Lepidoptera on a side wall of the adjoining property. (names on a postcard please)
This was our first experience of seeing the local fauna which was very abundant. Around the crags we saw many crickets, grasshoppers, butterflies, spiders, ants and beetles. I also had to shake earwigs out of my washing.I’d expected to see some lizards too but curiously these didn’t seem to be as numerous as the great variety and numbers of insects.
An exciting introduction to Dolphin Bay’s crag access was provided by an abseil down from the roadside trail to the foot of the crag, all good fun to start the day off.
Being a newbie and also not up to the climbing grade standards of Ken and Peter I was obviously nominated as team photographer. Dutifully fulfilling my obligations during our 12 night stay I took over 1700 fotos. Ken and Peter took some fotos too and some of these are included within this report.
Anyway, back to the important stuf, Our first selected route was Flipper, graded F5c led by Peter and Ken and top roped by me, followed by Blooming F5b, Too fat for Tufa F6a and Lavraki F5b all led by Peter and Ken and followed by me on a top rope. The climbing grades use the French system which is also followed by the British technical system. See link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grade_(climbing)
After doing the four routes at Dolphin Bay we all agreed to move to Kasteli where we could take advantage of shade on the north facing crag. As you can see in the picture below, around mid-day, the right hand side of the crag where the main routes are was in full shadow.
Rather than prussic back up to the top of the crag (the ropes were pulled down anyway) we took a traversing line along a goat track to join a shoulder that connected the volcanic plug of Kasteli to the main landmass.
Trekking around the trail to the crag we followed a narrow track with dense vegetation hemming us in on both sides. Thick bushes of Thyme and Rosemary lined the path and required a careful traverse through them. (more on this later).
Pete and Ken also did Hokla F5c before we left Kasteli although Ken had to rest on a bolt.
After our first days climbing we headed into town for refreshments, Fatolitis Bar seemed to be the favourite meeting place for climbers. Peter was greeted in a friendly fashion by Ellena and more formerly by her boss who never seemed to let a smile pass over his face.
Not long after we had started supping our first Mythos beers, Andy a friend of Peter hove into view and joined us for a chat. Peter made tentative arrangements to meet up with him over on the island of Telendos the following Friday but it didn’t pan out that way.
On leaving the bar on our way back to the apartment, in the scooter hire shop next door we spotted a string suspended weather forecasting stone with an explanatory prediction chart.This caused us great merriment, no doubt aided by the copious Mythos beers we’d supped.
As we’d noted on our first day, it could get very warm on the crags when they were in full sun, so we planned our climbing days by deciding which crags were in shade at any particular time. So, on day three we walked out of town for around three kilometres towards Arginonta and climbed up the hill to the crag called Odyssey but it was a bit too cold there so we soon moved on to School after Ken and John did Argo and Peter did Argo Navis.
It was quite a steep drag but made more pleasant by the sweet aroma of the native herbs covering the hill in a blanket of vegetation.Thyme was the most in evidence but also Sage and Rosemary. The guys had advised me that the plants thereabouts were no soft touch and I had already discovered this on the previous day walking back from Kasteli.
As I had pushed my way through the undergrowth on the narrow track one bush pushed back and hurled me into its neighbour which due to a broken branch gouged my hand as I tried to re-balance, extracting its fair measure of blood. Obviously it was then ‘one – nil’ to the veggies. So suitably forewarned and admonished the next day I treated all the flora with much more respect. (I guess it was what our USA friends would have called bushwacking).
The map (from Suunto) above shows the route to School which overlooks the crags of Dolphin Bay and Kasteli.
These can also be clearly seen just left of the trek end marker and it also provides a good impression of the comparatively close position of Kalymnos to Telendos which we reached in the following days via short ferry rides. The small ferries charged 2 euros each for the crossings and they operated to a 30 minute schedule. Although we only used the short crossing, the ferries would also go further if requested to the location of the Irox crag for 6 euros each. We went to the Irox area twice as will be told later on in this report but not by ferry.
As usual we were not alone on the crags, several other parties were taking advantage of the cooler environment. With a strong breeze coming off the sea from the west it was actually quite chilly for all the belayers.
Route finding around the crags was fairly easy. A good durable map available locally for €6 (www.anavasi.gr :10.32 - 1:25000 Kalimnos) shows the locations of all the main crags which can also be found in the local guide book by Aris Theodoropoulos (€35) and most times at the crags themselves are markers to help those that are lost as shown below.
Also milestone type markers at the roadsides identify the general climbing areas. In most cases, individual routes are also marked with a variety of methods which are illustrated in parts of this report. All in all it’s quite difficult to get lost on Kali.
After these few routes the sun was beating down on the crag and we considered that we’d done our duty for the day and so we headed back into town to cool off.
As it was our last day on foot before we collected our hire car, we decided to take the local ferry to Telendos and walk around to the crag of Irox, As mentioned before we could have been dropped off almost at the crag but in true trekking style we wanted to walk in. As we boarded the little ferry we were surrounded by a crowd of Czech climbers who were taking the longer voyage. We got dropped off on a jetty at the northern end of the small village of Telendos and we walked southwards along the shoreline to find a café. Ken was ahead and he hollered out when he discovered the little taverna ‘Rita’ (http://www.telendos-rita.com/site/) which lay alongside another jetty. Peter soon ordered up three café Americanos with separate hot milk which became our staple drink of the week (apart from Mythos).
Being served by Iaonnis we soon got into conversation about climbing with him. As he is a born and bred local and a climber himself we were soon brought up to speed on local happenings, one of these being that his lodger, an Italian climber called Mauro was bolting up new routes on the island. As mentioned before the local organisation vet new routes and Mauro told us that he had to cross over to Kalymos and have his methods checked by them. They also manage the bolt fund and provide bolts for new route setting.
Mauro asked us if he could go with us to climb on Irox and we readily agreed seeing as how he was such a friendly guy. From the little village, this takes about a 45 minute easy walk to the crag along a well marked trail across the verdant north slopes of the island as shown on the map and picture below.
Once we arrived at the crag we got on the rock right away and we climbed the routes called Anastasia F5a+,Moan F4c, Sevasti F4a, Evangalia F5b and Captain Jack F4a, Ken and Peter leading the 5s and me the 4s.
Peter and Mauro also did a few harder routes including Magic Circle F6a, Sole Fish F6a+, White Rose F6a and Swordfish F6b+.
It was another rather cool day, so we were able to enjoy both the climbing and the sunshine. Eating our sandwiches below the crag we could also admire the views of Kalymnos and see the other crags that we would also be climbing on in the coming days across the languid turquoise sea. During our lunch break Mauro told us about his life in the Swiss / Italian alps, where he provides mountain and skiing guiding services at the town of Lugano.
All the routes we climbed on were excellent and some earned star ratings in the guide book. The bolts and the lower-offs were all in very good condition and so provided a high level of confidence in their protection. I must admit that when I first had to lower off with no other safety means than a single Karabiner at the top of the routes it did cause some initial tremulations as coming from a trad climbing background it was not my custom and practice. If I had to abseil, I used my own kit and made sure I found a good solid anchor. However, after a few routes I soon got more comfortable with it. Ken was very solicitous when I was top roping in ensuring that I clipped my rope to the lower off before removing the upper quick draw so that I was never un-protected.
Leaving Mauro to carry on working on his new route we trudged back to see Iaonnis in his café and revive ourselves with a coffee before taking the ferry back to our own island at 5:00pm.
As we had to travel to Pothia to collect our hire car, we decided to get breakfast in town first. We’d noticed a nice tavern called Ambience earlier in the week and headed there for a slap up plate of egg and bacon and a delicious coffee before catching the local bus to the port.
Peter had located Suzuki car rental on the net and we collected a small Suzuki Alto from there. Spiros the manager was a very laid back guy and the handover was quite painless. After we collected the car, we parked alongside the port and found ourselves a quayside tavern for lunch.
After a few tasty Greek tapas such as Buffalo, Hummous and Taramosalata and some drinks we were soon away in our hire car back to the crags. With our transport settled we could travel more easily further along the island and so we headed off to the crag of Arhi Left which was one of the crags we could see the previous day from the location of Irox on Telendos. On Arhi Left between the three of us we did quite few routes including Pegaso F5b and Teseo F5b+, Stanislas F6a, and Europa with Pete and Ken doing the leading and Johnnie top roping as usual.
On the shaded crag of the aptly named Summertime I managed to do another lead which was the very nice route of Dorian F4c.
After a strenuous afternoon we deserved a well earned refreshment so we went back to Masouri and found a pleasantly located beach bar where we were soon supping some cool Mythos beers. After downing his beer, Peter was inspired with an idea to make up the name of Kalymnos with our bodies for a novel way to label this trip report as you will have seen above. We had a laugh doing it and it probably caused some consternation with the other punters in the bar who might have thrown a bucket of water over us if they had misinterpreted the purpose of our actions.
On Saturday we headed back to Arginonta to climb on the crag of the same name where I upped my game a bit by leading the nice little route of Victoria F5a. Ken did Clean at F5b and Tufa Slab F5b+ as well as ‘And now for something completely different' F5c+ whilst Peter climbed the harder route of Wild Sex F6b and Adonident F6a.
In the evening we headed to ‘Fatis’ bar as usual for a beer before dinner and met up with Emma and Ian who we had first seen on the ferry crossing from Mastichari. We had a good old chat about the crags and routes climbed on Kalymnos and also compared notes on crag locations in the UK.
They came from the town of Milton Keynes and their closest crags were in the Sheffield area, near to the mountain limestone found at Stoney Middleton and other Derbyshire locations so we had a lot of common climbing experiences to chew over.
Peter suggested that we used our ‘day off’ to visit the unusual sight of a deep hole in the ground at Sikati and from there also drop down the hill to a beach for a laze about and a picnic. This sounded like a reasonable idea to Ken and I, so after a nourishing egg & bacon breakfast at Ambience we set off in the car and drove up a steep road to an altitude of 300 metres and passed over a coll to the head of a winding descent where we parked up at the start of the walk-in.
The view from the coll back down to the south was very fine and the crag of Kasteli and the island of Telendos clearly visible in the crisp morning air.
The trail to Sikati was reasonably well marked from a wooden gate in a rickety old fence and we didn’t have any difficulties locating the unusual sight of the massive hole in the ground.
As we arrived at the Cave, we noticed a guy messing around near the top of the cliff inside the hole and we’d assumed that he was climbing out. We found out after talking to him later that he was just exploring.
As we were standing at the top admiring the ‘pittomless bottom’ there was a shockingly loud bang that sounded like a shotgun going off. As it turned out, it was the American guy chucking his rope bag down into the pit.
We weren’t that impressed with his treatment of gear but everyone to their own I guess.
After a while spent admiring the view into the cave and seeing the rather ragged rope for aid on the descent into the hole we decided to pass on the hole and get down to the local beach to chill out.
I would have liked to have said that the beach was pristine and clean but like all beaches these days it had its own share of detritus. However, luckily for us at least there were none of the gobbets of crude oil that we usually find on our own UK beaches. We soon settled down to beachcombing, swimming and sunbathing but when that got boring we had our usual stone skimming and target throwing skill contests using plastic bottles that we had found lying on the shore.
After we got back to the car we decided to drive down to Vathis via the Arginota road. The large town of Vathis lies on the eastern coast of Kalymnos and looks out to a peninsula on the mainland of Turkey near to where the city of Bodrun is located. We stopped at a tavern at the extreme end of the harbour for a late lunch and ordered some small plates to share. The small plates of ‘starters’ turned out to be massive and it took us a great deal of effort to manage them but they were freshly prepared and delicious anyway so it was no chore really.
During our first week on Kalymnos we had managed to climb on many of the worked up crags but one that we hadn’t yet been to was called ‘Styx’ located above Emporios. So we decided to travel back there and see what we had been missing.
We trudged up a dead end road from the harbour past a crowd of builders renovating a large house and passing through a fence, bushwacked our way up the hill to the crag. On the way back, we found out that we had actually missed the correct trail which would have meant a lot less bushwacking for us on the way up.
After Peter and Ken had done Poco Loco, I had a go too and was doing quite well until I fell off on the last move.
Offered a tight rope to stay on the rock and climb the last bit, I declined as my old trad climbing ethos didn’t allow it (ha ha!).
I managed a little better on Harmonie F5c on a top rope after the other guys had led it. Also we did Publo Lucu F6a and again my reserves failed me although Ken and Peter managed to climb it.
Ken and Peter enjoying their routes too.
After these great routes we descended on the right trail, got back in the car outside Captain Kostas and drove around to Summertime again to cool off. As soon as we got there Ken led off on Yeraki F5c and we followed him up.
After a bracing breakfast and coffee at Ambience we drove through the town towards Kastelli for routes in the morning shade. By the time we arrived, the crag was already busy but we picked out a few nice routes to climb without having to queue up.
We warmed up on Psomi Ko Elles F4c led by Ken and also led by me using the quick draws left on by Ken. Then we did Geoerckhe F6a and Brandung which I failed to complete. I redeemed myself later using Peter’s quick draws to ascend Gizis F5b+.
Another brilliant day dawned as we headed down to Ambience again for our breakfast of egg and bacon washed down with coffee. Then we drove off to ‘Arhi Left’ where Pete did ‘Monolith F6b+, Ken led a three star route called Pares at F6a which I failed to complete, followed by Sacco F5c (***) which I top-roped after Ken and Pete had led it.
With the increasing heat we decided to retreat to Summertime as usual where the cool shade was very conducive to a few more climbs before refreshments were needed.
Peter and Ken did Didi Hermana de Alba F5c and I top roped it and then we repeated this formula on Bikini also F5c. Suitably pumped we then decided to head back to Masouri for an Ice Cream at the Italian parlour.
Sitting outside watching the scooters go by we contemplated the popularity of the sport climbing locally. The way we assessed the international nature of the location was to log down all the different nationalities that we had spoken to or heard during our visit. I suppose we missed a few who were there at the time but the list below we thought was quite impressive:
Nationalities of climbers around us at Kalymnos
At least this gave us a chance to practice our small range of European phrases as between us three we could understand a bit of French, German and Spanish as well as ‘good morning’ in Greek.
As we had previously agreed between us that we would go back over the briny to Telendos on our last climbing day, on this the penultimate day we sought out a crag on Kalymnos that we had not yet been climbing on. We had plenty to choose from but we settled on the crag of Noufarou which lies above the road past Arginonta in the direction of Emporios. Flogging our way up the steep hillside to the foot of the crag we scattered the local resident goats which rapidly plummeted down in the opposite direction. Obviously they wanted to avoid our company although I don’t know why we are quite harmless to nature’s fellow creatures. One of their number (pictured) did give us the once over as its fellows rapidly passed by. We could see the attraction for them near Noufarou as the vegetation was quite dense and varied and included a rather curious black Lily (also pictured).
As usual the boys were pushing the boat out on two 6 grade routes, Cha cha F6b, and Rhumba F6a. I had a crack at the latter but didn’t manage it. Instead, I managed to lead a couple of easier graded routes: Quarte F4c and Quinte F5b.
Suitably tired we then tucked into our delicious and restoring homemade ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches and then completely nourished we decided as usual to make our way to our favourite afternoon crag of Summertime for some more fun. Unusually, Summertime seemed quite quiet, unlike our previous visits when we were surrounded by other climbers. Peter and Ken kept the standard high with ascents of Andromo F6b and Shiva and Dimitri (??) which I managed to get up on the top rope.
Someone had the mad idea of giving ourselves nicknames, where it came from escapes me but it caused some merriment. Being a cockney from London it was obvious that I should be Geezer and Top Rope seemed quite an apt sobriquet bearing in mind my usual performances so Geezer Toprope was born. Of course the other guys couldn’t escape the naming ceremony so Ken became Flasher Onsight and Peter Rusty Loweroff although Pete and I suggested that Kenny Koffin would have been more suitable as Ken was still struggling with a virus and the crags echoed to his regular spates of coughing.
We ordered our coffee and English breakfast and we had a chat with Ioannis whilst waiting for our grub and we enquired about Mauro. Ioannis told us that he had finished his bolting and gone back home to Lugano. We were sorry to have missed him as he was a great climbing companion. A few local cats were still around though and they wanted to make friends with us and share our breakfast.
The first time on Telendos we had climbed on Irox, this time we walked on a bit further to the nearby crag of Pescatore. After our 45 minute trek in, we arrived just in time to see a local ferry landing some other climbers who had taken the easy option.
As we passed by Irox on the rocky trail towards Pescatore, we heard a seagull making a loud racket but as they are normally noisy anyway we didn’t pay too much attention to what it was trying to achieve. On the way back though, it was still there and making the same noises. As I walked through a gap in some boulders I heard another quieter noise that caught my interest more. I looked down in time to see a dark spotted, fluffy white seagull chick trying to hide from me amongst the boulders. By the time I had taken my camera out the chick had disappeared down a gap between the rocks so I unfortunately missed taking a snap of it.
The lads suggested that I should have a go at Rita F6a and this seemed to be preordained following our visits to Rita’s Taverna and the fact that Rita is the name of my wife! So after watching Peter lead the route and leave the clips on, I followed up and managed at least one 6 grade route, yah!!
After our efforts on Rita we were a bit miffed at the attitude of some of the german climbers on adjacent routes. Unusually for our trip we found them quite surly and not like those we had met on previous days. So we packed up and went back to Irox where the atmosphere was more pleasant.
Peter led up on ‘28 at 40’, F5c+ a tasty little route that Ken and I followed on a top rope.
Magic climbing on Irox !
In the evening Peter suggested that we went to what he considered as the best local restaurant in the village for our last dinner on Kalymnos. Of course, we had also to get our souvenir shopping done for our families so we split up and went hunting in the local supermarkets and stores,
Peter had booked us a good corner table at Agean taverna that looked out onto the bay and we met up there around 7:30 for dinner. Luckily for us pre booking was a good choice as the place was packed out with hoards of other hungry climbers and a Kalymnian wedding party.
After our last visit to Ambience for breakfast we got back to the apartment and packed our kit into George’s car as we had already returned the hire car after our seven day rental period. He took us back to the port to catch the ferry to Mastichari.
After we arrived there we went for lunch at Cafe Kardia where we reacquainted ourselves with the waitress who we had spoken to on our first day and mistakenly thought to be Australian. She told us that she was born on Kalymnos and emigrated to Australia as a child,returning to Greece when she was 17 still with the aussie acent. After lunch we stayed at the café until 6:15 pm when the bus arrived and transported us along with hordes of other climbers to Kos airport for our flight home.