Dave Idendon cruising up the Arhi classic - Kastor (7a).
Photo: Alan James
Set deep in the heart of the Aegean Sea, lies the quaint and homely island of Kalymnos, just a few miles off of the Turkish coast and close to the well known holiday island of Kos. 10 years ago, you'd have heard of this place only if you were interested in buying some sea sponges or going on a package holiday, since then it has become a world famous climbing destination, home to some of the most amazing sport climbing you'll ever see! Kalymnos attracts sport climbers from all over the globe and is now one of the most aesthetic and sociable of all climbing destinations with many now touting it as having the best concentration of high quality sport climbing on the planet.
The climbing is found on the huge cliffs and massive caves that are scattered across the bare limestone hillsides, which when blasted by the sun take on an incredible orange glow as if on fire! Nowadays amongst the crags can be seen climbers of all ages and nationalities, challenging themselves on the many outstanding climbs Kalymnos has to offer. Crowds and queues are now the norm at busy times on the famous lines but the extent and diversity of the quality of climbing on offer is such that the crowds can be left far behind by those seeking a quieter climbing experience.
What does Kalymnos have on offer?
The rock available on Kalymnos appears almost limitless on this island, waiting for you in every corner can be found a new crag made of perfect orange and grey limestone: The possibilities are endless! Over the past few years, the development of new routes on the island has increased greatly with more and more new lines every year (so much so that the guide has changed five times in the past 10 years! and now includes what is approaching 2000 routes). There is everything here, whether you are climbing in the F4s or F9s, there is something for everyone! The most spectacular thing about Kalymnos though, is the sheer volume of high quality routes at every grade and at every crag!
I have simply been unable to come across a single route that I thought to be of bad quality. In most crags you will expect to have some classics, then the two star routes and finally the down-right garbage routes... in Kalymnos, only expect the classics.
All the main crags are within 15 minutes walk from the small town of Massouri (where all the climbers stay) and it's easy enough to hire a scooter or car if you fancy heading out to some of the crags further afield. The other alternative is to check out the climbing on the neighboring island of Telendos, which you can access easily by ferry every hour on the hour!
The beautiful thing about Kalymnos isn't solely the climbing; it's the whole package! You arrive on the island (more specifically at Pothia, the main town) and are immediately struck with a vibrant scene of Greek island life, beautiful architecture as well as incredibly fascinating people who greet you so welcomingly to their island you would half expect them to be old friends.
You stay in a comfortable apartment studio with restaurants all around you where eating out every night is not uncommon (although most apartments include a kitchen area for those on a budget). Local supermarkets are in abundance, supplying fresh bread and produce as well as everything else you could possibly need to satisfy your dietary requirements whilst staying on the island.
Not to mention the fact that nearly all the best crags are within walking distance from the town and if you fancy getting to the other crags, then hiring cars or scooters is really easy!
When do I go?
The best time of year to go to Kalymnos is during either the Autumn (September – November) or Spring (March – May). As soon as it gets into the summer months, expect it to be HOT!!! Not only that, but floods of Greeks (from the mainland) fill the island in a wave of beach holiday madness, and you don't want to be around when this happens. In the winter months (December – February), it is possible to climb, however it can get very wet. As well as this, the whole island pretty much shuts down, restaurant, hotels, shops, etc... Many of the inhabitants of the island live only on the island during the holiday season, so when it ends, they move back to mainland Greece to wait out the cold spell...
How do I get to Kalymnos?
There are a number of methods of arrival for Kalymnos: Britain – Kos – Kalymnos The most popular out of all travel methods, fly EasyJet to Kos (Usually in the area of £80 - £180 depending on when you go and connecting flights). When you arrive, simply get a taxi (€15) from the airport to Mastachari (pronounced Master-Harry, Harry with a chhhhh sound : P). From there, you simply have to wait for the ferry for Kalymnos to arrive, which could be all night if you're unlucky with flights. Ferries run all day from around 9am. There are also two ferries to choose from, the slow and fast ferry. The slow ferry takes 45-50 minutes and costs around €4 whilst the fast ferry takes 20-25 minutes and costs €6, just depends on how sea sick you get I suppose? When you arrive on Kalymnos, getting a taxi to Massouri (Climbers village) is quick and easy, usually taking around 10-15 minutes to get there and costs roughly €15. Massouri is where you will be spending the majority of your trip, find your accommodation and get climbing : ) Britain – Athens – Kos/Kalymnos – Kalymnos This is also a popular method of arrival, but slightly longer and a bit more tricky in some circumstances. You can either get Easy Jet or Ryan Air to Athens but once your there, you have a choice... You can take the leisurely and relaxed approach by taking a ferry direct to Kalymnos, you can take an Olympic Air flight direct to Kalymnos Airport, or you can go from Athens to Kos on Olympic Air and finish of the rest of method 1 (see above). Britain – Kalymnos Wouldn't it be nice? Unfortunately, UK airports have not yet introduced direct flights to Kalymnos “International” Airport, and even if they had, I somehow doubt that we simple climbers would be able to afford them anyway
Guidebooks and Route Information?
The new guidebook is just out and can be purchased at the climbing shops on the island or from www.climbkalymnos.com. When new routes are bolted, they are added to the smaller additional leaflets that can be bought from the Glaros Bar in Massouri. The cost of this is a simple donation to the bolt fund, so be generous and we will see more top quality routes developed on Kalymnos for many years to come!
What gear do I need?
A long rope and plenty of quickdraws.
Where do I stay?
The small village of Massouri is where all the climbers stay. The accommodation varies from nice little studio apartments (usually with bathroom, balcony and kitchen area) to proper hotels with swimming pools and catered breakfast! The studio apartments are a favourite amongst climbers, usually costing between €16 - €25 a night for the room. This can cost as little as €8 a night per person! Check out Saki's Studio Apartments in Massouri
What's the scoff like?
Massouri is kitted out with dozens of high quality restaurants and cafes, all at very cheap prices. All the supermarkets are stocked up well with everything you might possibly need for those days when you fancy eating in, or on your way to the crag and need to buy some lunch. On my own trips, I opted for preparing my own meals mostly and one day a week eating out. I have managed to comfortably eat in for a meager price of €2.50 - €4 a night on average and my very cheap one night out a week (which includes half a chicken!!!) was €7.50!!! Fancy a drink? The Greek beer is called Mythos and a pint of this stuff would send you back €2.50, not that bad really?
Where can I buy gear and food?
If your running low on some gear or need a new guide book, there are two well supplied climbing shops, “Wild Sports” in the centre of the village and “The Climbers Nest” on the outskirts towards the crags. Both include a good range of climbing clothing, gear, books and accessories. Be warned though, the gear tends to be a bit steep in price (your on an island in Greece, where else are you going to get gear?).
What else is there apart from the climbing?
Rest Days... boring? Not at all! There is plenty to do on your days off. Why not jump in the sea for a swim, or if you don't fancy the sea, there are a number of public access swimming pools. The beaches are beautiful and can be very relaxing to just sit and do nothing for the whole day. Scooters and cars are cheap and easy to rent (as long as you have a driving license), so why not check out the other parts of the island? There are many touristy spots all over Kalymnos including Pothia where you can go shopping. Kalymnos also has a vibrant and colourful underwater ecosystem, so why not grab a snorkel and some goggles and go snorkeling? There's enough here that you should never be bored, even on rest days!
Robbie Phillips &amp;amp;amp; Will Carroll, UK Climbing