Kalymnos Greece, Sponge Diving Island turned European climbing Mecca!
Stashed away in the Dodecanese islands just off the west coast of
Sonja and I have come to Kalymnos to sample this rocky island paradise for ourselves. Stepping off a stormy overnight ferry
Hiking up to the cliffs above Masouri smells like we’ve stepped into a Mediterranean kitchen. Thyme, sage and oregano grow wild in the arid climate. Passing a stately olive tree, Sonja unlatches a gate fashioned out of an old battered shipping pallet and frayed y
ellow twine. We’re hit by the pungent fragrance of goats. These semi-wild goats can be spotted moving freely through the hills, sometimes under the watchful eye of a shepherd and sometimes not. When we reach the rock I know we’ve come to the right place. Anxious to sample the goods, Sonja and I rope up and sink our hands into the deliciously sharp limestone pockets. Our first climbing day ends with the sun setting over the small
e breeze blowing down the narrow straight between Kalymnos and T
elendos. By headlamp we descend to Masouri for gyros and Greek Salads at a roadside grill calle
d Mr. Souvlaki.
After several days of climbing near Masouri we’ve rented a scooter to explore the rest of the island. Buzzing north through the cool morning air I feel content. Just riding a scooter through this landscape is an adventure. The winding road hugs th
e coast, passing a tantalizing white sand beach tucked between rock outcrops. Across fro
m the beach sits the Chapel of Kasteli with whitewashed steps that appear to descend rig
ht into the
routes on the island.
Our plan for the day is to warm up climbing on easy terrain before attempting our hardest climbs of the trip. It turn out Kalymnos is great place to challenge yourself on the rock. The climbs here are consistently well protected and safe. This also makes it an ideal place to try climbing for the first time. We’ve met climbers of all abilities from all over the world. From easy slabs to learn on, to extreme overhanging test pieces, beginners and world class climbers can be found roping up side by side. Sonja and I find ourselves somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. Today I struggle mightily through a classic called Thetis, an awkward hip crunching route unlike anything I’ve ever tried in the States. The tuffa rock is formed by the slow buildup of deposited minerals accumulating from periodically dripping water. The route hints at the more dramatic climbing found on the huge stalactites hanging on the overhanging routes in the caves here. Though frustrating, it motivates me to come back and try harder routes in the future. Sonja on the other hand, cruises effortlessly up two of her personal bests, Apolus and Adonis, proving she’s completely adapted to the subtleties of the Greek limestone and mythology.
With raw fingers and taxed forearms, we ride into the hamlet of Eborios for dinner. Settling into an open air waterfront restaurant serving up fresh calamadri, fried zucchini in garlic yogurt sauce, and grille lamb, we reflect on our adventure here. Someone dives off a lone sailboat moored out front, their figure silhouetted by the setting sun. A woman’s laughter drifts across the water. My tender fingertips are happily wrapped around a cold Mythos beer and in my head I’m already planning a return trip. This place, I think, is almost perfect!