Meteora (Μετέωρα) is not the name of a single rock. It is an area, a charming and suggestive climbing site located in the Thessaly region of Greece, including about 170 summits of various shapes and types, as massive mountains, rocky pinnacles, minor peaks and spires, some of which are truly amazing and bizarre. The whole region is divided into several groups with more than 670 routes. The difficulty varies from II to VIII+ (UIAA).
Meteora is also famous in reason of the surprising ancient monasteries, with some of these latter actually located on top of the rocks. Despite the peculiar rock - a kind of conglomerate which can be found in few places in the world, such as Montserrat in Catalonia (Spain) - and the particular climbing style, which requires a bit of training and a certain amount of experience, Meteora in my opinion is truly a magic place to stay and climb.
Probably the first people to reach the easiest summits were the shepherds with their sheep. There are also certain news according to which hermits started to climb these extraordinary towers since the 11th or 12th century, in search of solitude and spirituality in nature. The construction of the monasteries dates back to the 14th century. By the end of the 15th century, 24 monasteries crowned the summits of Meteora. The first hermits climbed up by using scaffolds, later rope ladders and net was used, until the first wooden ladders took over in the early 20th century. Currently, only six monasteries are inhabited.
The history of climbing at Meteora is instead relatively recent and begins with 1958, when the physicist and alpine climber Dietrich Hasse was fascinated by the image of some stunning rock towers used as a backdrop for a tobacco advertisement and discovered that the area was in Greece, that it was called Meteora and that these towers had not been climbed. Actually the climbing trip was postponed almost twenty years later, to the year 1975, when Hasse, together with the photographer Heinz Lothar Stutte and some others Eastern German pioneers, went to Greece and began to explore the mountain range climbing all the most important summits, with the exception of the five towers on which lie the monasteries. Their background from Sächsische Schweiz explains the reason of their climbing style by using only very few protections and with a very rigorous ethic. The first routes to be climbed were the cracks and chimneys similar to those climbed in the area of Saxony in East Germany. A summit climbing-notebook was left in a metal box on the summit of every peak. The same East German pioneers realized two climbing guides of the area.
Meteora is situated in the Thessaly region of Greece, Northern half of Greece, approximately 25 km NNW from Trikala, and immediately North of Kalambaka and Kastraki, the two main towns in the area, both located very close to the rocks. The closest main town is Larissa. The distance to Kalambaka is about 360 km from Athens and 237 km. from Thessaloníki.
Some rocks are in a short walking distance from Kastraki and Kalambaka, other ones are further away, however it is always possible to climb without a car. You can reach Kastraki and Kalambaka:
By plane - Meteora can be approached from Athens Eleftherios Venizelos airport or from Thessaloniki airport. From Athens airports you can:
- take a domestic flight to Larissa (about 85 km from Kalambaka)
- rent a car, useful once you are in Kastraki, but not essential
- use public transports (bus or train). Getting to Meteora without a car is easy thanks to the train from Athens that stops in Kalambaka.
From Theassaloniki Airport you can:
take the bus to the train, the take the train to Kalambaka. There is also a bus going directly to Kalambaka (it is more expensive, but faster)
Some of the most beautiful routes, as given by the Hasse & Stutte guides, are the following:
Holy Ghost - "The pillar of Dreams" V+ 250 m
Sourloti - "Hypotenuse" VI 225 m, "The line of fallen drop" VI 170m
Kelch Tower Eiertanz "The eggs dance" VI- A1 130m
Alyssos Community Route" VI A2 320m
Glocke - "Glockenspiel" VI 125m,
Bàntowafels - Swiss cheese" VII 125 m.
Doupianifels "Dickes Ende" VII- 145m
Holy Ghost - The corner of Madness" VII 180 m
Caucasian Tower - "Roussanou End" V+ 160 m
Meteora Tower - "Dohlewand Direct" VI- 145 m
Kumarieskopf - Hartetest VI+ 160 m
Basically Meteora is not a place for the lovers of sport climbing. The nature of the rock is very peculiar, the pegs often spaced, especially on the classic routes of the pioneers, every routes ends on a true summit that involves rappels. The magnificent surroundings and the ambience make the climbing in Meteora a singular experience. All the towers and spires in Meteora, even the smallest, have a summit book and as a rule usually have two names (and sometimes plus the English version): the local name in Greek and the German name. The genesis of the German name is explained by the broad activity of East German pioneers. The rock is a gray-brown conglomerate. It is believed that the needles began to form in the Tertiary - about 60 million years ago - starting from the materials deposited at the border of the Thessaly plain when the prehistoric sea waters, which previously covered the plain, withdrew. Slowly the conglomerates needle were then sculpted over the millennia, by water, wind and earthquakes.
The texture of Meteora rock results from a mix of pebbles, cobbles and larger stones, packed into a rock surface which appears like concrete but actually is a mixture of conglomerate and sandstone. Sometimes cobbles have come loose from the rock to leave shallow holes in their place. What emerges is a peculiar climbing style, mainly slabby and balancy on cobbles, consisting in exploiting small or large pebbles protruding, or otherwise the holes remained where the same pebbles were formerly located. As soon as you get used to it, the climb will provide fun and generally little tiring.
There are no fees and no permits required, but there is an important rule saying that the rocks having inhabited monasteries are not to be climbed. A lot of people visiting Meteora do so for religious and site-seeing reasons. Actually this is the majority of visitors, compared with the climbing-related visitors. Also the influence of church in politics in Greece is very strong, so the monasteries tried to ban climbing in Meteora in general. Fortunately the climbing community managed to stop such a restriction.
Anyway we have to understand that this place is shared by some completely different groups of people, so we have to respect each other habits. Please try not to be provocative, especially near the monasteries.
In theory it's possible to climb all year round (snowfalls are rare), but summer and winter are less advisable because temperatures may be unpleasant, unless you are very lucky. The best months are late March, April, May, September and October. Spring is the best season to climb in Meteora when the rainy days are very rare. Easter time is a very popular time in Meteora and it is probably very crowded. Autumn is another good choice until the end of October, when the days should still be moderately warm and dry. Later on, the weather gets more changeable, wet and colder.. It is very hot in Summer, but you can still climb in the early morning and late afternoons.
There are several camping places in Kalambaka and Kastraki. Camping Vrachos in Kastraki has a swimmingpool, communal barbecue site, cooking facilities and a small shop and restaurant:
Vrachos Camping in Kastraki.
Tel: ++30 432 22293 or 23744
Fax: ++30 432 23134
There are also lots of rooms available in hotels or pensions.
In addition to the personal equipment like harness, climbing shoes, belay/rappel device, lockers and helmet, it is recommended to have:
- two 50-meter ropes (half or twin)
- about 10 quickdraws
- 5-6 slings and 1-2 prussik cords
- 1 set of nuts
- 1 set of friends (big friends are usefull for cracks and chimneys)
- some hexes (big hexes, like WC Rockentrics 7-9 and Camp 9-11, are very usefull in Meteora cracks)
The appropriate equipment for each route is given very well in the Hasse/Stutte guidebooks. In general face climbs demand only quickdraws and crack/chimney climbs demand a good rack of nuts/hexes/friends. Have in mind that cracks are in general without fixed protection.
“Meteora – Climbing and hiking” by Dietrich Hasse and Heinz Lothar Stutte - I edition 1986, in English and German. It contains around 230 routes. Also, it provides general information about mountaineering, hiking in Meteora, maps, directions. ISBN 3-922066-02-X
The second guidebook is:
“Meteora Climbing Part II” by the same Heinz Lothar Stutte and Dietrich Hasse – II edition 2000 – German, Greek and English - Note: the II edition is not a complete guidebook, but an update to the I edition - ISBN 3-922066-05-4
The Meteora guidebooks can be purchased in Kastraki, Taverna Paradisos or Camping Vrachos. There is also a useful map by the same authors that can be purchased in local shops in Kastraki.
Meteora climbing & Hiking - Guide International. H.L.Stutte, D.Hasse
In Greek, German & English, this is a topo guide to the imposing area of Meteora. Detailed info on routes, gear, hours a route is in the shade & more. Edition II & III are also released.
production: Stutte-Verlag, Postfach 144782504 Wolfratshausen, Germany (tel/fax ++49 89 3511938)
(you can order directly at Stutte-Verlag or www.pizbube.ch)
There is also a book called "Meteora - A Landscape To Be Experienced" from the same authors.
If you need a resting day you can walk around all these rocks and find a beautiful landscape. Or you can visit one of the monastries and enjoy the view on your next routes you'd want to climb.
Usually the last or the penultimate weekend of every September it take place the Hellenic annual climbing meeting which is organised by the Hellenic Federation of Mountaineering & Climbing. Meeting point is the camping "Vrachos" at Kastraki village which is also the climbers' meeting point generally.
This page is under maintainance status. In the next weeks will be some changes and some more route discriptions. Thanks.
The site of Jörg Brutscher, one of the German climbers, who first climbed many hard cracks in Meteora. Unfortunatelly his site is only in german.
Also by Jörg Brutscher, check : www.sandsteinklettern.de. In german only, but with a lot of information. Click on Wegedatenbank, then Griechenland. There are a lot of routes and very good drawings/maps of the various rock groups. Some very interesting climbing photos from Meteora, Elb and other places.
The site www.routes.gr is the best database of mountain climbing routes in Greece. Unfortunatelly has only a few, mainly new, routes from Meteora in this link: www.routes.gr/?Lang=en&Page=Climbing/Trad/Areas/Meteora
Other info here:
The site of Kalambaka town: www.kalampaka.com
The site of the Hellenic Mountain Guide Association. Unfortunatelly HMGA site is only in greek at the moment.