There are also a few routes that stand out in my mind purely for the amazing quality of the climbing. Clean lines, perfect rock, beautiful scenery, and no crowds. These are the routes dreams are made of. They motivate us through the rainy days and keep us going to the gym on cold nights.
During a trip to Kalymnos Greece in the fall of 2012, I was lucky enough to enjoy two of my favorite climbing memories on two different routes, on the same day, at the same cliff.
My wife Becky chose Kalymnos as our honeymoon destination. Neither one of us had sport climbed outside of North America, so the steep limestone and mild Mediterranean weather peaked our interest.
There are 64 distinct crags listed in the current edition of the Kalymnos climbing guide, and this doesn’t include at least a dozen more world-class cliffs that are too new to have been included. Generally, we would go to one of the cliffs within walking distance of our studio apartment, but this wasn’t very limiting either; we still had roughly 20 to choose from. On the days we rented a scooter, we had our pick of the entire island, which was downright overwhelming.
Without sounding too hyperbolic, I went to at least 6 cliffs that were better than any sport-climbing cliff I’ve been to in North America.
By week two we had visited most of the most popular sectors without ever returning more than once to any one particular cliff. At this point, there was only one major cliff, called Odessey, that we had avoided due to crowds. But finally as the season was winding down we decided to check it out and see what all the fuss was about. As we turned off the road and began the short hike to the crag my expectations were high, since seemingly everyone we met on this trip had recommended a route from the Odyssey. Unfortunately, as we neared the base of the wall my heart sank.
Odyssey is one of the older crags on Kalymnos and one of the most popular. As a result, the rock is more polished than at other crags. The routes are generally shorter, and for me, they lack the striking features that make a route irresistible. Compounding upon the diminished enthusiasm for the crag, Becky and I were headed toward our first crummy day of the trip. The weather was starting to foul, an obnoxious party was grating on our nerves (a first on this trip), and we got into some minor argument about something I’ve long since forgotten (also a first for this trip). It didn’t take long for Becky and I to make the decision to leave the Odyssey sector. We could have easily gone back to our studio apartment, cut our losses and chalked it up as a rest day, but for some reason we decided to continue climbing.
Far above the Odyssey sits a beautiful cliff named the Olympic Wall. Every time we asked other climbers if they had visited this cliff the answer was always no. The long steep approach is a deterrent, along with the wall being less steep than most Kalymnian crags. In the late autumn with overcast skies it looked like this would be a great chance to check it out. So long as it didn’t rain…
The hike was long (by sport climbing standards) and steep (by any standards). The 45 minutes it took to reach the Olympic sector allowed us ample time to let go of the negative baggage we carried from the Odyssey and by the time we reached the base of the wall I was feeling completely rejuvenated. We warmed up on some great moderates and enjoyed the breathtakingly expansive views of the Mediterranean, the pace felt much more relaxed up there despite the oncoming threat of rain.
Justin is the manager of Dogpatch Boulders in San Francisco. He enjoys bouldering, EPL soccer, and helping his daughter play in the dirt.