Pongoose founder Rob Rendall pictured in Kalymnos, Greece, in the sun with Telendos island and sea in background.

Kalymnos - Seven climbing crags off the beaten track

July 21, 2017

In October 2016, Pongoose went to Kalymnos. If you haven’t heard of it, Kalymnos is a Greek island that is well known as a climbing mecca that attracts climbers from all over the world. It is beautiful. Not only is the climbing absolutely first class, but the island is gorgeous and the locals are super friendly. In my eyes, it is a piece of heaven.
There are so many new crags popping up in Kalymnos and lots that are off the beaten track that you may not see if you stick to the main strip above the village of Massouri, or if you don’t hire a scooter. This time we purposely avoided the main strip and spent our two weeks climbing at different crags a bit further afield, also trying to find some in the shade as it was too hot for us Brits to climb in the sun (28 degrees!). So, here’s the low-down on the crags we visited as top tips for you if you fancy getting away from the crowds at the popular crags of Grande Grotta, Afternoon and Spartacus.

1. Kasteli

This is a cone shaped peninsula with crags right above the sea which gets the breeze for a lot of the day. This crag is a five minute scooter ride north of Massouri, has an easy approach and gets the shade until 1pm. The climbing is grey slabs, low in the grade with most routes up to 6a+ and a few in the 7’s. The climbs are fun with some tricky sections in the slabs and it’s a lovely place for a climb later in the day or for a chilled out ‘rest day’ if you fancy a pootle on a few easier slabs. We enjoyed a nice afternoon climbing here and watched the fisherman catching the fish we’d eat later that evening at the local restaurants.

2. Summertime – Magoulias

Summertime is about 8 minutes north of Massouri on a scooter with parking on the side of the road. Magoulias is further up the hill from the easier main wall on a steep approach. The crag is in the shade from 1pm and this section is much quieter than the main area. Routes are harder here and grades are mainly in the high 6’s, 7’s and up to 8b+. The climbs are interesting and fun on good quality rock. This crag has it all: hard as nails cave routes with tufas, gorgeous red rock and sharp grey slabs.

3. Summertime – Big Shadow

This crag is actually quite far from the main area of Summertime. To access the approach you again exit Massouri north and drive for about 6 minutes until you see a small concrete building with an antenna on the right. This is where you park and start the approach. The book says it takes 45 minutes, but it took us an hour as it was very hot in the sun and all uphill. The crag is small and in the shade from 11am. There are nine routes here and range between grades 6a to 7b. Take care as some of the routes to the left are loose and have a few dodgy looking bolts, but further to the right the routes clean up and are much more enjoyable. I could have onsighted an immaculate 7a+ if I’d remembered to take some quickdraws up with me! I got half way up and chickened out of the solo. Fun crag but a long approach and we weren’t sure it was worth the trekking, although I’d probably go there just for that one 7a+.

4. Arginonta Valley

This new crag (only in the 2016 guide book) was very popular; we started calling it Happy Valley! This is on the opposite side of the valley from Arginonta, about ten minutes on the scooter north of Massouri. The parking area is via a carpark next to a small shop on the right before you take the turning for the road that goes to the other side of the island. To access the crag you walk along a dirt track, past the goats on the right, and enter the approach through a gap in the fence. The whole crag is in the shade all day from about 9.30am. There are two big main walls with a multitude of routes, all very close to each other, mainly with grades from 6a to 6b+. It gets very busy here as you can imagine, we had to queue for routes but they were worth it. Long, fun climbs that are not remotely polished yet. The general consensus was that the best 6a on the island is at this crag, “Idoine” that gets 3 stars in the book. I would agree wholeheartedly; it was delightful! Long, fun, different and a bridging challenge at the top. If you’re looking for the harder stuff there’s also a cave here with about 6 routes ranging from 6c to 7b, all pumpy and satisfyingly hard. A stand out climb was a brilliant 7a called “Diagoras” which was getting a lot of attention. We went to this crag on three different days as there were so many long, enjoyable climbs to tick off. Don’t forget your jacket as it gets the wind funnelling down through the valley and can be cold.

5. Symplegades

This crag is 5 minutes drive south of Massouri on the scooter and has some insanely steep hills to access the mountain so you’ll need a scooter with some umph. Once up the zig zag dirt track, park at the top and enter the approach via a gate in the fence before the big house. The crag has two sides, so there’s always a wall in the shade or in the sun, depending on what you want. We experienced the crag completely empty and completely full on different days. There’s some great routes here with cool pockets in the rock making it an excellent crag for all capabilities with grades from 5c to 7a. My pick of the crag was a 3 star 7a with a mean crux called “Ermix” which attracted a lot of attention from a group of climbers one day. Very enjoyable crag if you can manage the hill.

6. E.T. – Koukouvas

This is an out of the way area situated in the middle of the island taking about 30 mins on a scooter if leaving Massouri from the north. You drive to the village of Metochi and take a right turning by the cemetery and out on to a dirt road. Further up the hill you can park the scooter and walk up the hill towards the crags. We approached in the morning sun and it was very hot, the approach seemingly taking forever on the hill. It was probably 40 mins walk up to the crag. We went to the left side which is in the shade all day from 10am. The climbs here at this small crag were fun grey slabs ranging from grade 6a to 7b+ but a lot of them had pretty nails top sections. A 6c called “Sylvie” was particularly thin at the top. We were alone at the crag all day and only saw two other people on the crag over to the right of the mountain. Beautiful scenery and a very peaceful, calm place.

7. Palionisos Bay

This was one of the very few crags in the sun that we went to and it was so hot we thought we’d explode. It’s fully in the sun from 10am with zero shade. This stunning crag is to the north of the island accessed via extremely steep and winding mountain roads that we did on the scooter but actually are probably best done in a car as there were some sketchy moments. Driving time was probably 30 minutes and then the approach took 10-15 minutes uphill to the crag. You can park your car or scooter in a small area in the bay just up from a cute little bar that we were insanely thankful for in the heat. The crag is stunning with gorgeous red rock in the main section and lower grade grey slabs to the right. Grades are 4c up to 7b so something for everyone here. The book gives 6a+ “Iltis” a musical note; it was a super fun red rock route with holes and pockets that make you think about your moves. We climbed for the morning then by lunchtime we were ready to kill each other because of the heat so trekked down the hill with a group of other climbers to the bar in the bay. This was heaven. Ice cold drinks, seats in the shade and swimming in the gorgeously cold water in the bay. This was the highlight of my day. Girls, remember to take your bikini!

So, that was our trip! I hope this blog is helpful to those of you wanting to find crags a bit less busy or polished and away from the queues (apart from Happy Valley of course). It’s a double-edged sword sharing about the quieter crags as they become more well known, but ultimately, they’re in the guide book and the further away places are harder to get to and involve longer days so some people will always decide it’s too much effort. We decided it was worth it and we reaped the rewards.

Happy climbing and keep pushing the grade.

Rob.


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