lundi 22 avril 2013

Kalymnos at last.

Imagine it's your birthday. Imagine, also, that it's Christmas. Oh, and new year, too. And, come to think of it, imagine it's just about all the great days in the year all happening at once. It's like having so many presents you just don't know which one to open first. Well, you've just discovered what it's like to climb on Kalymnos!

If you're any sort of climber, you'll have heard about Kalymnos. But, if you're not you won't have. Kalymnos is a very small, barren island a few km north of Kos and therefore part of Greece. There isn't much there or really much to do either, though the climate is nice (ie. sunny and warm). The Kalymnian economy relies on summer tourism since the decline of the island's sponge industry. Fresh water is sparse and tastes salty. The sanitation system can't cope with toilet paper, so it has to go in a bin next to the toilet! However, as luck would have it, the west side of the island has cliffs. Lots of them. And spectacular they are, as well. Since 1997, Kalymnos has actively encouraged the equipping of these cliffs to entice climbers from all around the world to sample their amazing climbs. There are plenty of studios and rooms to rent at affordable prices and within walking distance of many of the crags.  It's very cheap to eat out in the numerous restaurants and the locals are so friendly (most speak excellent English). If you fancy visiting the outlying crags or just want to go sight-seeing it is possible to hire a scooter for the day. This is not new information, of course. 

Elaine and I had not paid a visit. We live in a beautiful part of the world already, which has a wealth of fantastic climbing all year round. Plus having a dog, which we don't like leaving behind and also now having a camper van to travel. And so on. There have been many excuses over the years. However, the urge to go had been getting stronger and stronger in recent years. Infact, I became so envious each time I read people's posts on Facebook. Eventually, I daren't mention the "K" word in the house for fear of upsetting my loving and dearest! However, this year's bad weather, in most of Europe, meant that we finally got to go at last.

We flew from Milan direct to Kos and took the ferry to Kalymnos, just like thousands before us had. We had a wonderful surprise awaiting us at Pothia. We hadn't seen Chris Craggs for about twenty years, but there he was at the harbour, ready to take us to our accomodation at Louistudios, run by the super freindly and efficient Louis Siahamis. After shopping for provisions, then bumping into a tired looking Andy Cave, followed by an ice cream with Twid, we set off with a couple of hours daylight left. Our destination being the world famous Grande Grotta with long upside down pumpfests and tufas of every shape and size everywhere. We quickly warmed up on an excellent 6a+ and then I set off up Trela, a forty metre 7a, which I found hard and just about got up. Nevermind, I thought I must be tired from the journey or perhaps Kalymnos grades weren't that easy after all! (A couple of days later I found out that I had accidently done Tufantastic, which is 7b+ and then had to return to do Trela, which was much easier!)

The climbing at Kalymnos is ideal for "on-sighting" (climbing with no knowledge of the climb at all and without falling off or working the moves followed by a "red-point" ascent later on) because most of the holds are user friendly and there are plenty of places to have a breather and size up the next sequence. I wanted to do the two classic 7c's Priapos and Aegialis (the latter was still very wet). I was absolutely made up to do both completely on-sight, despite having to "dig deep" near the top of Aegialis! I then wondered if it would be possible to on-sight an 8a? Fun de Chichunne (40m of three dimensional upside down climbing) would be the one for me, if it was possible. And it was! So, almost 24 years since red-pointing my first 8a, and 200 grade 8 climbs later I eventually managed my first 8a on-sight at the age of almost 55! Words couldn't describe the feeling. I was on a major high after that.

The rest of the holiday continued in the same way with lots of great climbing. Further high points included DNA Extension (8a+), Super Priapos (8a+) and Daniboy (8a), all done first red-point; and Zawinul Syndicate (7c+) on-sight. It was quite funny showing a group of young Brit's how to "do it" on Daniboy (they were surprised when an old, bald, short and wide giffer joined the queue and even more surprised when he was the only one to "send it" that day!). Towards the end of the holiday, however, tiredness began to show and I dropped both Tufa King Hard and Joggel and Toggel. But I was happy enough to do them first red-point.

So, we made the return journey last Saturday. Both of us were looking forward to sleeping in our own bed and having hot water whenever you need it! But, both of us were sad to be leaving climbing paradise and the many friends we'd made, particulary Louis and also Ed from Chattanooga with his warm and infectious laughter. We both hope to return some day......
Finally, Kalymnos bound. Waiting for the ferry at Mastichari.

A windy crossing with Pierre Brizzi (far right) and Nicholas Rey.

The view from our studio: Telendos.

The view in another direction: Grande Grotta.

On-sighting Fun de Chichunne (photo by Simon Rawlinson).

Fun de Chichunne, Grande Grotta (photo by Simon Rawlinson).

Sunset behind Telendos from our studio.