Eleven years ago Cathy and I spent three months sport climbing at Ton Sai in Thailand. We've been searching for a similar place since. A place with world-class sport climbing, friendly locals and a dreamy hangout scene by the ocean. We finally found that place: Kalymnos!
Kalymnos is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea near Turkey. The island is stacked with limestone. The 2010 guidebook has over 1,700 climbs, from easy to crazy hard. The routes are long–we brought an 80-meter rope and 25 quick draws. The website is climbkalymnos.com.
Climbers stay in the town of Masouri. The best crags, including the Grande Grotta cave in this photo, are a short walk above town.
For a month we rented a house 10 km outside of town. The owner of the place is a makeup artist for films, including Braveheart, which won the academy award.
The occasion was Mom and Dad's fiftieth wedding anniversary! Also joining us were my sister Kate and her girlfriend Kim from Portland. What a dream come true having everyone together!
Cathy, Kate and Kim out for some pints of Mythos and classic rock in Masouri.
The best climbs are on overhanging limestone walls that drip with tufa blobs and stalactites. One of the classic sectors is the Sikati Cave, a massive hole on the side of Kalymnos Island. The walls of the cave are lined with routes from 6b to 8c. Here's Cathy on Lolita (♪ 7a 25m). The ♪ symbol means the route is beautiful, like music.
You will bleed at Kalymnos, so wear your capris, or man-pris if you're a dude. Cece is gushing from leg-clamping a stalactite in the Sikati Cave.
Cece Mortenson and I have known each other for years, but just through stories from mutual guide friends. This was our first time to hang out. Cece guides around the world and went skiing in Afghanistan with Dylan, Danny and Ben this spring. For Cathy and I, our days climbing with Cece and her super-positive energy, were a highlight of our trip. Thank you for the great memories Cece!
Cece and a beast in the Sikati Cave. The goat climbed into the cave, but couldn't remember how to get out.
Kalymnos has an incredible guidebook. Order it direct from climbkalymnos.com or buy it in Masouri.
One of our favorite crags wasn't in the guidebook. Secret Garden is a remote, north-facing wall above the sea.
Cynthia from Vancouver at Secret Garden making the crux reach to a mega tufa on Frapogalo (♪ 6c 25m).
Cece, belayed by Cathy, up on that Frapogalo tufa, doing tufa yoga.
New sectors, like Secret Garden, are prone to snapping tufas. This tufa blob popped off and nailed this Polish dude in the stomach. I suggested it was a good souvenir.
Dominica Winczura from Warsaw, Poland nearing the crux of Ricounet (♪ 7a 25m). Since I didn't know Dominica I didn't put my fisheye lens in her face at the crux. She stuck the crux with a dyno to a two-finger pocket. I should've stuck the camera in her face.
I did stick the camera in Cathy's face, though. Pumped and looking at a 20-foot whip off the overhanging wall of Ricounet. She held on. 7a onsight! That's my woman!
Jesse Brown from Squamish, BC sizing up the crux of Ikariotikos (♪ 7b 25m).
The climbs are so overhanging that a lowered climber lands far from the base.
Kids love to go weeeeeee! from these dangling ropes. Kauri Brown is harnessed up for a huge weeeeeee! at Secret Garden.
Dad on the via ferrata above Masouri. We climbed together on many evenings.
Wil, Jesse, Cece, Cathy and Joe after a crushing day at the Grande Grotta. Half the fun of sport climbing is socializing. Hanging out at the crag in a crazy international scene. Cheering each other on.
On a rest day, Cathy walks to the beach, a short way below our house.
Billy goat fight! That's my kind of beach. The Greeks love their goats.
On another rest day we visited a market in Bodrum, Turkey.
Then went back for sunset dinner in Masouri.
Cathy dined on small fried fish. Not partial to eating whole fish, I dined on Fix beer and Greek salad.
Greek coffee is like Turkish coffee. Boil a mixture of fine grounds, sugar and water. Pour the boiling sludge into small cups, allow to settle and drink. It's good, but Seattle coffee is better.
Climbers get around the island on scooters.
Across from Masouri is Telendos Island with many beautiful crags. The commute is a 10-minute, two-euro boat ride from Masouri.
The boat captain on the Telendos water taxi. Another boat is captained by a pirate who blares 80's rock music.
Cece belaying Cathy on OTR, a 25-meter 7a on the Pescatore cliff on Telendos Island. Cathy is leg-clamping a tufa fin to rest her arms.
Cathy with a very sweaty, very chalky, very pumped and very stoked Joe after onsighting Trela in the Grande Grotta. Trela is a 7a that climbs "40 very, very overhanging meters which meander through totally amazing tufa formations". These overhanging routes don't just pump your arms, they pump your whole body. I needed a wheelchair to get home.
Cathy thigh-clamping a tufa to rest while onsighting the super-classic DNA, a 7a in the Grande Grotta.
The Grande Grotta has been popular with goats for many years.
Cathy on Cigarillo (7a 28m) at the Grande Grotta.
7b onsight! Cathy's last climb of the trip. Lulu in the Sky is 40-meters of micro-holds slab to a wildly overhanging tufa pump-fest. I want to marry this woman! Oh, uh, well, can I marry her again?
The next day we almost skipped our flight back home. I thought we'd stay. Cathy could be a pro-climber. I would operate a boat with the pirate. Maybe run a side business diving for sponges. We'd be all tan. We wouldn't freeze to death going back to our igloos in Alaska....