A Greek Salad

I always used to hear people talking about these fantastic 40m dripping tufa lines and raving about how good the climbing is, but it wasn’t until I set foot on the island that I realised they weren’t joking.

This trip came about when my best man (Matt Cox) and I got together to organise my stag do. I didn’t fancy doing the usual going out on the town, getting pissed all weekend and either ending up tied to a lamp post naked or swimming in the Bristol docks. So we decided to get a small team together and head out to Kalymnos.

Getting there couldn’t have been easier. We took a flight from Gatwick to Koz £100 rtn, from Koz you get a 10 minute taxi ride from the Airport to Mastichari port €16. From the port you can get a passenger ferry to Kalymnos €6 per person, once you arrive in Pothia you can then take another taxi to your accommodation. It cost €15 from Porthia to Masouri where we stayed.

Masouri

Masouri

We arrived at our accommodation around midnight.  The journey couldn’t have gone smoother.   We found our rooms, shut the doors and went to sleep.  Well tried too!  4 hours later after being eaten by mosquitoes and not getting a wink of sleep due to the 15°C heat we decided to get up.  Lets just say it was going to be a long day.

Once everyone else was up and had eaten breakfast we headed up to the famous Grande Grotta.  On the walk up the cave just seemed to get bigger and bigger, the 20 minute walk seemed to fly by and before we knew it we were standing in the belly of the beast.   After 20 minutes of running around like headless chickens with the guidebook in our hands, we started to warm up in sector Panorama.

Panorama is quoted in the guidebook “The Kingdom of Tufas!”  What better place to warm up than at a sector like this.  The first day was always going to be about mileage, especially after not getting any sleep, so I decided to pick out some of the classics.

Joggel & Toggle F6c+ (os)

Steps ahead F7a+ (os) (the extension to Uncle Bert F6c+)

Lothar La ‘ F6c+ (os) (the extension to Lotha Scie F6b+)

Aeolia Extension F7a+ (os) (the extension to Aeolia F6c+)

Rastapoppoulos F6c+ (fl)

A very happy Alan

A very happy Alan

The two routes that stood out for me were Steps Ahead, which had a great technical first section (Uncle Bert) and then moved into amazing tufa climbing. The second was Aeolia Extension, the initial groove of Aeolia was outstanding, super thin and technical and then similar to Steps Ahead you pull through a bulge on to a leaning wall of tufa heaven.

Day 2

While we were climbing on Day 1 at sector Panorama every couple of hours we would see someone attempting the massive 40m pitch of Fun de Chichunne, F8a. This monster weaves its way out from the back of the Grande Grotta through its tufa-infested roof.  So after warming up the super keen Irish man (Alan Sarhan) started to put the clips in.  40 minutes later after a couple of falls and a lot of complaining about a wet crux hold he arrives back on the ground even more psyched than when he had started. As I was tying in there were a good amount of butterfly’s fluttering around my stomach, I knew I was capable of flashing it but a bit of training at Cheddar before we came out wasn’t quite the right fitness I was looking for.  I knew if I pulled through the crux and got to the 3rd rest I could have a good chance. Got to it I did and 60 mins later from leaving the ground I found myself at the chains. I was super psyched, all the moves felt quite easy but there were just a lot of them.

I couldn’t do much for the next few hours, it gave me a full body work out. I finished of the day with DNA, F7a, classic stuck on blobs. A good route but a tad polished.

1st rest on Fun de Chichunne F8a

1st rest on Fun de Chichunne F8a

Day 3

After actually getting some sleep finally we headed up to Spartacus. Spartacus is situated just up and left of the Grand Grotta about 5-10 minutes further. It has a limited amount of routes but is packed with quality. After warming up on Vangelis Connection, F6c+ and then Kerveros, F7a which was outstanding I got on Daniboy, F8a. The line starts on the right hand side the cave come through the roof and up the centre of the head wall to join the belay of Neska Polita, F7c+. I dropped the onsight high up on the face missing a crucial hold. But got back on and sent it second go.

Daniboy

Daniboy

Later on I went on to climb the huge Spartacus Maximus, a massive 45m 7b+ that was awesome. A tricky crux low down then head up the sustained pocketed wall to the first belay (Spartacus) which also gets F7b+. Theres a good rest at the chains of Spartacus from there you head up a sustained leaning wall with a great tufa section. Following Spartacus Maximus I went on to climb Gladiator F7b, again another fantastic route. A tricky technical start followed by a brilliant leaning wall of stuck on blobs.

Day 4

It’s always a hard decision to make on 1 week climbing trips whether to have a rest day or not. We decided to hire mopeds and take a trip exploring the Island and visiting crags with the intention of pulling on for a bit of active rest.

Rest day

Rest day

Once we had picked up the mopeds we were off. Leaving Masouri we passed the outstanding sector Oyssey. We hadn’t climbed there yet and had to resist the temptation to climb there today. So we drove on round and ended up at sector Arginonta. As time was getting on and the sun would be coming onto most crags in a couple of hours we decided to climb here. It’s an easy 5 minute walk in which was also sold it for us. The crag has 5 subsectors and we decided to climb on sector Fire Wall. As soon as we walked into Fire Wall one obvious route stood out for us. A F7b+ named after the crag Fire Wall. The line swept up a pocketed wall through two large holes and broke onto a sharp grey head wall. Tom and Steve were all over it, before I had chance to open the buckle on my rucksack they were racking up and flaking the rope. While the boys were dogging up that Alan and I proceeded to climb Code Quantum F7a, Hard Primal F7a and the best of them all Red Sea Secrets F7a. By the time Alan and I had finished those three routes Steve and Tom had got the draws in and were fireing out the red point attempts. In-between goes I managed to swoop in for the flash, closely followed by a quick red point from Al and Steve just nipping it in the bud before the sun came fully onto it. We proceeded on our quest around the Island passing through some beautiful villages until we ended up at the turquoise blue shores of Rina where we stopped for a bit of lunch. following on from Rina we continued on round through Pothia and back to Masouri for dinner.

Looking out over Rina

Looking out over Rina

Day 5

After our partial rest day we woke up with a whole new level of psyche. We headed to sector Odyssey “The ultimate point of reference on Kalymnos”. Odyssey has amazing routes on some superb rock. We set up base at sub-sector Imia. Alan and I warmed up on the route named after the sub-sector, Imia F6c. This was a classic little test piece with a brilliant thin technical crux. By the time Al had stripped the draws out, the crag was already pretty busy with most of the low F7’s  taken up. So without further ado we moved round to sub sector Marci Marc Cave and I set off up the leaning wall of Sardonique F8a/8a+. The bottom section was brilliant, technical moves on good holds. After a rest I moved into the crux section which was thin and powerful on small holds. I dropped here. I figured a sequence quick and finished the rest route. After Alan and had spent about 40 minutes screaming and slapping around on the crux he lowered  down and I was about ready to go. The bottom section went well and I got to the rest feeling pretty fresh. After shaking out for a minute of two I pushed on through the crux, the first part felt good but when I got to a big move out left to a small crimp I didn’t latch the crimp quite right which made the last move of the crux really hard. I only just latched the hold, after a short rest I continued up the head wall to the chains. Get In!!! During lunch I was pondering what to do next. I was getting a lot of grief from the lads to get on something harder (especially Jason). So set off up “Inti Raymi” F8b the next route right of “Sardonique”. As I thought, it was a bit to warm to be pulling on small holds. I managed to do all the moves but the crux felt so greasy there was no way i was going to link it that day. Meanwhile Matt, Steve and Tom we’re busy getting amongst on Polifemo F7c and Alfredo Alfredo F7b+. Once Tom and Steve had got the draws in the Alfredo Alfredo Matt swooped in for the flash. following that Matt got Polifemo 2nd go. After I had stripped the draws out of Inti Raymi Al started making his way up Sirene F7c. This is a super classic line and a must do when you visit Odyssey. The line builds and builds until you reach the crux two moves from the end. Al climbed really well but blew the onsight where most people do, two moves from the chains. I managed to just keep it together and get the flash. I was pretty boxed though. While Al and I were on Sirene Tom managed to get the F7b+ Alfredo Alfredo.

Tom sending Alfredo Alfredo

Tom sending Alfredo Alfredo

The day was getting on and the sun was just starting to creep onto the crag when I remembered that Matt had lef the draws in this F7b+ Fourtouna for me. By the time I had tied in and set of the sun was already on half of the route. I struggled through possibly one of the hardest crux’s of the trip and found my self at the chains completely spent. By the time I got down everybody had pack up and on their way out. Apart from a very keen Steve Winslow who was determined to get one more route done.  He was eyeing up Lucky Luca F7b, a short line in the back of the cave and plus it was the only route in the shade. After a couple of rest he reached the top. Both Al and myself decided it would be rude not to get on it and both got the flash. Steve got psyched and went for the red-point. He was strong through the lower crux  and passed the middle section with ease. The route then moves into its steepest part, he battled his way along the big tufa like feature and arrived at the chains. As he pulled the rope up to clip his elbow went up and his knee bar started to slip out, as he fell he with an almighty scream he managed to just push the rope into the lower off. I’ve never seen anything like it, Steve was practically in mid-air as he clipped. needles to say we were all done for the day so we headed back into town, picked up some beers and headed to the beach. (Jacks natural habitat)

Merman Jack in his natural habitat

Merman Jack in his natural habitat

The Team

The Team

 

Day 6

Jurassic Park, A 50 minute walk in we were not looking forward to. But worth every second of it. Once we had got our breath back we proceeded to warm up on Themmelis F6b. Al was uming and aring what to get on next about 10 minutes later he started up Raptor F7c+, the crag classic. After dropping it at the crux he made quick work of the rest of the route. My turn. The bottom section was pumpy and had a couple of tricky moves. I pulled through the lower crux ok but let out a bit of a roar on the second crux. After a rest on some good tufa’s I tackled the head wall. This was a brilliant  finish to a great route. Thin and technical climbing with a heart braking last move. I might have let out another scream when reaching the chains. I lowered down a happy man.

Flashing Raptor

Flashing Raptor

Matt was up next. He cruised the lower wall into the roof and in true cox fashion dispatched the lower crux footless. After hanging out at the knee bar rest he pushed on and dropped it on the upper crux. He lowered off with a very tired look on his face mumbling “I’ve got nothing”.

A very tired Cox

A very tired Cox

Al tied on for his second go. This didn’t quite go to plan as he messed his foot sequence up at the first crux. While Al rested Steve and Tom were fighting their way up Nicola la Tigre F7c and I went up the route to the left, Paleolithic line F7b+.

Steve on Nicola la Tigre and Ben on Paleoithic Line

Steve on Nicola la Tigre and Ben on Paleoithic Line

This was a short, steep pump fest with crux being the last couple of moves slapping up a giant rounded tufa. I onsighted it by the skin of my teeth. After that Al went for his 3rd go. He pulled through both crux’s well and got to the tufa rest just before the headwall. After a short break he pulled onto the headwall. Instantly his elbows started to rise and he was looking pretty pumped. Some how he managed to reverse a couple of moves to some good holds just below. After a minute or two he got his shit together and tried again. This time the elbows weren’t as high but he was very close to dropping the last move. Back over on Nicola la Tigre Tom is on the lower section having a little bit of difficulty trying to work it out.  The boys start giving him some grief so he pulls back on with a bit too much psyche and pulls a big piece of tufa off. It was lucky there was nobody underneath him, this thing was the size of a small football. Fortunately it wasn’t really a crucial hold and didn’t really change the grade. I pulled on and managed to get the flash. Matt got it after me on his seconde go and Al pulled through the crux but dropped it high just before the chains. Jurassic Park is a 5 star venue and definitely worth the walk.

That night Matt had organised a little stag game for me. Before the trip he had asked Heather 20 questions. The aim of the game was to match Heathers answers. This was easier said than done. Before the game started the boys had picked up bottle of Ouzo. Every question I got wrong I had to drink a shot, every question I got right a person of my choice and to drink. I started well but as the questions went on they got harder. I ended up drinking 9 shots, so overall I got off pretty lightly.

Day 7

Matt and I woke up early feeling a bit fuzzy from last nights shenanigans. We only had a couple of ours before for we had to catch the ferry. So Alan, Matt and I headed back up to the Grande Grotta one last time while the others stayed in bed. After climbing 6 days on we we’re all feeling pretty tired. The walk up was long and hard, but as we had left quite early it was pretty cool for once. I racked up and set off up Taz F6c to warm up. The bottom section was brilliant super technical with a few interesting moves, the thin wall then led into a technical hanging groove which was awesome. Following that we had saved one of the best routes till last. Priapos F7c. The name comes from the Greek God with a supernaturally erect penis. This 35 meter beast is like a smaller and slightly easier version of Fun de Chichunne. It weaves it’s way through the 3d tufa and stalactite infested wall. As soon as you start to get tired there’s a hands free rest, whether it’s a knee bar or a cheeky sit down behind the penis like hold. When I arrived at the chains I wasn’t really pumped; I was gutted it was over. I really wanted to carry on for the F8a+ extension but I had used all 20 quickdraws on my harness. I lowered down super chuffed with the onsight. The extension was one to go back for.

Onsighting Priapos

Onsighting Priapos

Matt tied on and started the tufa ridden journey. He climbed the bottom really well dropping in knee bars left, right and centre. He got through the crux but was starting to look tired. Unfortunately he dropped it just before the famous sit down rest. I was gutted for him, he’d put every last bit into it.

Matt enjoying one of the rests on Priapos

Matt enjoying one of the rests on Priapos

As soon as Al pulled on he was loving it. Like Matt and I he was throwing shapes everywhere he could. He got through the crux with ease and made it to the classic rest. Keeping his cool he cruised  to the top to get the flash.

Al setting off up Priapos

Al setting off up Priapos

What a great ending to the trip, two classic routes to finish on. It was a shame Matt didn’t get Priapos but he had nothing left in the tank for the red point. We packed up our stuff and made the walk back into village for the last time. We met up the rest of the team and headed back to the apartments to pack.

Before we knew 7 days had past and we were on the ferry back to the mainland. Everything about Kalymnos was brilliant: The people, the food, the Mythos, and best of all the climbing was second to none. I would recommend Kalymnos to anyone. It has something for everybody and will defiantly be a place where I’m going to be spending a lot more of my time.

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