I’m pumped, insanely pumped, with my legs wrapped around a twisted stalactite, frantically swapping hands, shaking out, trying to get a little something back. I contemplate the next sprint through the bewildering three dimensional tufa jungle — and I’m only half way there. But then, feeling like a cheeky monkey, a smile creeps across my face as I realise that life doesn’t get much better than this. And, what’s more, we have two more weeks left at this sport climbing nirvana! I feel like I’ve cashed in all of my frequent flyer belay bunny points, passed through the pearly gates, and gone straight to heaven.
Kalymnos has climbing coming out of its climbing. Line after line, after luscious bolted line, over 2000 of them on blue ribbon quality limestone, spread over 64 unique sectors each with its own breathtaking view over the Aegean. To complete the package are the short approaches, delectable restaurants, swish studios, idyllic (well, rocky) beaches and an international melting-pot of climbers. The only thing missing is having more time, that is for sure.
For one of the world’s great climbing hot spots, Kalymnos is relatively a new kid on the block. The first routes were developed by Italian climber Andrea di Bari and friends in 1997 when they opened 43 routes. A couple of magazine articles later, word was out and the ensuing frenzied development quickly put this place on the climbing world map.
Most climbers hang out at the village of Masouri from where it is just a short walk to many crags. To access cliffs which lie further a field some opt to hire a scooter. Having wheels also allows you to explore the island on rest days, find a private beach, dash into Pothia for supplies or head to the outer lying Emporios to indulge your senses at the “Restaurant at the end of the Universe”.
Kalymnos is not the only island of interest to climbers here. The ever-present Telendos Island is impossible to ignore and your belayer’s head will inevitably be crooned in that direction when it shouldn’t be. Like a giant magnet, your eye constantly flicks back to its direction as if it were true north. The cone shaped island is also a sundial by which you measure the passing of the day: illuminated by the soft morning light, you watch the shadows lengthen, and the end of your climbing day is marked by the glowing orange sun melting into the sea behind it. Telendos has incredible new route potential on big cliffs but, with so much to do on Kalymnos, the ten-minute ferry ride has been enough to slow development until recently. Now Telendos has several sectors ready and rearing to go along with some moderate multi-pitch sport routes — which complement the range of other worldly experiences.
Inevitably our time in the promised land was up. We checked our bags and walked back through the airport doors. When those pearly gates shut behind me, I realised I had just returned to earth.
In a nutshell
The Greek island of Kalymnos is one of the worlds best known climbing holiday destinations.
Kalymnos is the fifth largest and third most populous (population over 16,200) of the Dodecanese Islands (12 large islands and 150 smaller ones) which are situated in the Aegean Sea. Kalymnos is known as the “sponge divers island” due to the sponge diving trade which flourished up until the 1980’s where a virus affected the sponges and the diving declined. The capital, Pothia, is a vibrant port town offering supplies and is the transportation gateway to the other islands. Kalymnos is only 21km long and 13km wide and is covered by mountainous chains and rugged coastline.
Time to Visit
The best time to visit Kalymnos is in the Spring (April-may) and Autumn (Sept-Oct). During July and August it is very touristy and hot but if you pick your crag right you can certainly enjoy climbing in the cool breezes.
How to get there
The most straight forward way is by direct flight with Olympic Air from Athens to Kalymnos for approx €100-210, but because of the timetable it will usually involve a stop-over in Athens and when you factor in transfers this can become expensive. It is also possible to access by ferry from Athens and the timetable is quite regular. Alternatively you can get there by a charter flight to Kos (€150-400) and then a ferry from Kos to Kalymnos, again the timetable is regular, between 6-10 crossing a day, costing about €7. Upon arrival in Kalymnos it is easiest to catch a taxi either from the airport or port. Arrange a price before you leave, should be approx. €25 from airport and €15 from Pothia. Later you can do this trip by bus or scooter.
Where to stay
Most climbers stay in the villages of Panormos, Myrties and Masouri as these are closest to the most popular climbing areas. There are villages and climbing areas further afield. There are supermarkets and cafes in these villages for buying supplies or eating out.
The most popular style of accommodation is the studio style apartment. These can come in a variety of layouts, one or two bedrooms, with or without simple cooking facilities. These are offered everywhere and cost between €20-40 per day, or if you are staying for more than a month you may be able to negotiate a better rate, but do this before arrival. There are some luxurious hotels dotted around ranging in price €35-70 per day with breakfast included. Camping is not permitted anywhere.
Kalymnos Rock Climbing Guidebook by Aris Theodoropoulos. Price €35. The 2010 edition features 1,700 routes at 64 sectors, with photo topos, detailed maps and much more useful information.
Climb Kalymnos For general information, up-to-date travel timetables and the guidebook.
Kalymnos Climbing Guide Simon Montmory
Wild Sport shop for climbing gear
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