F8a onsight on Kalymnos!
I must be the only climber I know who hadn’t been to Kalymnos until last week! But I joined the hoards and discovered what all the fuss was about. First couple of days if I’m honest, I wasn’t particularly convinced but as time went on, I got into the Kalymnian ways and started to become converted. I was there primarily with a great group of people on a coaching holiday. We had four coaches and fifteen clients, which gave a great ratio. I was a little anxious about the crowds and not being able to get on the routes we needed but on Adrian Berry’s advice, our early morning starts solved that problem. So after a quick coffee at the bottom of the hill, we’d all troop up to an empty crag and have the choice of the routes. As a group we all stayed on the climbing just above the town of Massouri, as transport was our legs! Although, on a couple of days a group went over to the island of Telendos on the boat, to sample the cragging and the multi pitching; which by all accounts was well worth the little boat ride.
Left, the crag goat was decorated with orange peel!
I had promised myself a scooter trip, so on the rest day, I hired one and zoomed off around the island. There is basically only one road, so I circumnavigated this. Initially, I wore the helmet as I went through Pothia (the main town) and got used to being on a scooter again but after that I wanted to feel the wind in my hair and jettisoned the helmet. There aren’t many places you can ride a scooter without a helmet (I don’t think you’re meant to here but most people do) and I wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity. I had a great day zooming around and exploring. I ended up walking cross-country to see the wonderful hole in the ground that is Sikati. This is a giant cave that was developed a few years ago for a petzl rock trip and is well worth the walk to see it. It’s also above a lovely beach, that had goats on it paddling in the sea...not something you see everyday!
See image left...
As I was working I wasn’t doing much climbing apart from putting up a few clients’ ropes here and there but half way through the week, I did manage to on sight a f7b+ called ‘Tufa king pumped’, a 3 star Neil Gresham classic that was great fun. Luckily, I didn’t get too pumped on it and it felt like my endurance was pretty good. The only unfortunate thing about this route and many of the others, is that they have been climbed by too many people and are starting to feel very tired. Too much chalk and polish, oh well, what can you do? That’s what will happen on such a popular island.
Right, my rest day swim beach, lovely...
The last day of our trip (saturday 4 Oct) was a bonus climbing day, as our flight from Kos wasn’t until 9.40pm that night. So most of us did the early start thing again to try and get in a few extra routes, or for some of the clients, they were trying to redpoint their projects. Last day pressure, I’ve been there and it’s never a nice experience, sometimes it pays off and sometimes not. Helen was trying to redpoint a giant f7c called ‘Priapos’, which was an audacious effort (unfortunately, she didn’t quite manage it, next time) and I had agreed with her that I would give it a go and get the clips out at the end of the day. I was pretty psyched for this as I felt my endurance was ready for a giant route of this style. So I set about getting warmed up on some of the classic f7’s in the Grande Grotte: Trella, DNA and Ivi. It was lovely to just climb and enjoy the moves on this totally unique terrain. On Trella, I barely felt like I climbed in the conventional way, it was more like wrestling, I just kept wedged myself in tufas all the way up and didn’t seem to ‘pull down’ on many holds, a really unusual style.
By midday, the Grotte was packed out as usual and time was ticking on. A young Russian guy was keen for Priapos and looked like he was going to waltz up it, so he got on it. But he ended not being so quick, so we arranged for him to take the clips out as I probably wouldn’t have time to get on it. By that point, I had noticed the route next to it, ‘Fun de Chichunne’ had all the clips in it. It turned out to be f8a. I was already happy with my f7b+ onsight, having spent most of the year redpointing on Peak Limestone, onsighting hasn’t been a focus. I would’ve liked to have tried a f7c but it didn’t look like it was to be, so I thought I’d get on the f8a, just to have a burn and get pumped.
It looked truly incredible, I couldn’t see the belay, it just seemed to go on and on in to the distance and at an angle that I was a complete stranger to, IE. very steep. So I got on it. What a route! Just dripping in blobs, tufas and stalactites that you become truly intimate with! Thankfully there were rests everywhere, you could sit on things, stand on stuff, bridge between stals and also the ubiquitous knee bars--I even had a head jam at one point out of minor desperation.
Third left, the group at dinner
I found myself just climbing and making steady progress with no real expectations. But after getting through a couple of quite tricky sections and still feeling ok, I started to realise that an onsight may be on the cards. So the higher I got, the more it started to matter. And the more it started to matter, the more urgent the climbing started to feel. The clincher was a jump move that I was faced with. Now, I hate jumping because there’s no room for error, if you mess up you’re off. By this point I really didn’t want to fall off this route, yet I knew there was no way round this jump move. It was a horrible dilemma but the only obvious answer was to really go for it and give it everything. So after psyching up, that’s what I did. I just threw myself at this fin of tufa, latched it and then my feet swung off. But I’d managed to cling on to a slightly incut bit and somehow swinging about on one arm controlled the momentum and got my feet back on. I couldn’t believe I’d done it and with full on determination pushed on, trying to read the upcoming moves as perfectly as possible.
I didn’t feel too pumped but just started to feel bodily weary and mentally challenged! I still had no idea when it was going to end, the clips just disappeared into the horizon of stalactites. I was pretty sure there wasn’t going to be anymore moves as hard as what had already gone, as the angle was steepening but the terrain was getting thicker with large dangling things; which meant holds and rests. By the last few clips the rope drag was crazy and the hardest part of getting to the belay was pulling the rope up. But obviously I managed and got my first f8a onsight in a few years.
Fourth left, giving Ivy some advice on 'Bye Bye Doc' f6c, Afternoon Crag.
It felt really brilliant because I knew I’d climbed well on it and had pushed myself beyond my comfort zone by having to jump for something. Also, it was a tough mental challenge. Because it’s so long (28 clips or something ridiculous), it’s surprisingly hard to stay focussed on the climbing and keep yourself going. So as I was climbing I kept talking to myself, reassuring that rests were coming up and that none of the moves would feel anywhere near as hard as anything on a Peak Limestone f7b--and I was right, haha!
A brilliant end to a great week with one of the best and most unique routes I’ve ever had the pleasure of climbing. Well done to the guys who bolted it.
Bottom left, enjoying the weirdness on 'Trella' f7a, Grande Grotte.
Anyway, I’m now back on the Peak Limestone, powerful moves in the cold--what a contrast--I’m sure it’s good for me!
The Grande Grotte and other crags above Massouri. Image: Håken Thyr