Rock climbing in Kalymnos, Greece

2011 Kalymnos Climbing Festival: a brief report


The fifth climbing festival of Kalymnos, featuring special guests Nicolas Favresse and Patxi Usobiaga, came to an end Sunday night. While not as busy as Easter, the ‘climbing’ villages of Masouri and Armeos were still buzzing with several hundreds of climbers, nearly 300 of which registered for the event. Belgian alpinist Nico Favresse, recipient of the Piolet d’Or, and Basque world champion Patxi Usobiaga mostly onsighted and flashed routes up to 8b, they climbed a multi-pitch at sector Ocean Dream (Uomo Senza Qualità 8a 135m), and also made time for swimming and diving. On day four at sector Odyssey, Patxi and Nico’s audience included the Greek Deputy Minister of Tourism George Nikitiadis along with the mayor of Kalymnos and other local politicians, which were greeted by the puzzled smiles of climbers who, frankly, aren’t used to seeing men in suits at the crags 😉 The Deputy Minister’s visit to Kalymnos was covered by national television, so we hope Kalymnos will gain some much needed visibility and, in turn, increased support of climbing on a national level. As climbing continues to develop, this is more critical than ever.


Due to budget constraints and limited time for preparation we didn’t have any ‘ultimate route’ challenges, very hard ascents, or parties during this festival. In brief, here’s what we did have:


Day One: opening address by the mayor and representatives of the organizing committee at Plaza Hotel; videos from previous festivals; buffet on the hotel’s seafront terrace with homemade food by local women; climbing photo slideshow by local photographer Nikolas Smalios; live Greek music.


Day Two: Nico and Patxi onsighted the multi-pitch route Uomo senza qualità 8a 135m, 7a obligatory, at sector Ocean Dream; Aris Theodoropoulos presented the latest edition of the climbing guidebook (2010) at Philoxenia Hotel along with a history of climbing development on Kalymnos and suggestions for further development, such as the creation of a rescue team and the constitution of a board / council to coordinate and manage climbing on the island.


Day Three: Nico and Patxi climbed at Jurassic Park; in the evening at Elies Hotel Nico presented Vertical Sailing, filmed while he, brother Olivier Favresse, and friends Sean Villanueva and Ben Ditto set off to climb virgin big walls in Greenland. Nico accompanied his awesome presentation with wicked humor and live mandolin music, and everyone went home happy!


Day Four: Nico and Patxi climbed at Odyssey. The Greek Deputy Minister of Tourism George Nikitiades made the trek up to Odyssey along with the mayor and other local politicians to talk to climbers and see the two stars in action. For their sake, Nico cruised up Marci Marc 7c+ and then skipped the last quickdraw and the lower-off for a big dive (!). In turn, Patxi tried Lucky Luca extension 8c and dynoed his way off the route at the crux. In the evening there was a press conference in Greek at the capital’s cultural center, in which the deputy minister reported that there is every intention to support alternative forms of tourism and the establishment of an outfit to manage climbing nationwide. That remains to be seen (fingers crossed). After the press conference people moved to the main square in Pothia for the bouldering competition; the bouldering problems set by climbers Zafiris Kamaropoulos and Dimitris Papageorgiou were ideal for the level of the competition and suspense was high. Unfortunately one of the female competitors injured her ankle in a fall, when she landed in the space between two mats…


Bouldering results: MEN Alexander Hill (GER); Lucas Dourdourekas (GRE); José Aitzon Gomez (ESP); WOMEN Argyro Papathanasiou (GRE); Maria José Caro (ESP); Silke Scott (GER).


Day Five: winners of the photo competition were awarded (1st place: Joachim Thiel; 2nd place: Christos Papadopoulos; 3rd place: Sandra Hoogeboom) along with the winners of the bouldering competition. There was a bouldering demonstration by local children and Kalymnian dances.


On a final note, the Municipality of Kalymnos has reported that it intends to establish an annual climbing festival on specific dates in May. Besides making it a standing date on the world calendar of climbing events each spring, the aim is to achieve better organization and promotion and to secure serious sponsorship. There is already word about a pending collaboration with The North Face for the next festival in 2012.


Many thanks to Nikolaos Smalios for contributing all photos used in this post.

































This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 24th, 2011 at 16:25 and is filed under Kalymnos news. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

14 Responses to “2011 Kalymnos Climbing Festival: a brief report”

  1. Dr. House says:

    I really hope that next year you will invite Alain Robert at the festival.

  2. Aris says:

    Watch video featuring Nicolas Favresse & Patxi Usobiaga who visited the island during Kalymnos Climbing Festival. Two Weeks Off, by Fredrik Hjort.

  3. Admin says:

    Thank you for your kind words! We hope you make it to Kalymnos very soon & we’re sure you will love it.

  4. Gerasimos says:

    Hello, I would like to congratulate you for this website and for the efforts that you have all contibuted to making this wonderful festival happen. Although I am just starting to be interested in climbing, I would like to visit Kalymnos as soon as I can. It is certain that the love and the passion for climbing that radiates from this website will attract many new athletes, amateur climbers and volunteers. I am very happy to see that such wonderful initiatives are happening in Greece. All the best!!!

  5. Aris says:

    @ Olivier: Hello again. In the few years that Claude Idoux has been a permanent resident of Kalymnos he has equipped routes to a very high standard paying for his own bolts, and he indeed helps with rescue. However, saying that “he usualy do the rescue” is unfair to all the other climbers who have anonymously volunteered for rescue over 12 years (and still do). Also, most climbers choosing to bolt routes on Kalymnos have paid out of pocket (and still do). Since you are interested in my contribution to Claude personally, No, I have not paid for any of his bolts, and Yes, for 12 years I have helped rescue climbers whenever I am on the island (I am only a part-time resident), although Claude and I have not happened to do a rescue together.

  6. Aris says:

    @ Firemarshall: Hi there. It would definitely make sense to involve the fire department, but unfortunately there isn’t one on Kalymnos…Your other idea about involving visiting climbers / guides etc. is a good one. It’s pretty much the way things work now, albeit with much less (if any) organization and no compensation –basically, climbers happening to be at the crag help transport the injured person, or climbers on the island coordinate it amongst themselves. It’s certainly something to think about, of course there will still be times when nobody has signed up, but it will be good to know it when people ARE available. I believe several local businesses would be willing to discount services / goods. Thanks for volunteering!

  7. firemarshall says:

    Hi all,

    Is there a fire department of any kind in Pothia? Maybe they could be trained by the climbers to serve as a rescue team? Or at least they could form some core of the team? If they are full-timers this would be easy, if they are part-timers, it is still doable….

    At least here in Scandinavia local fire administration is involved in rescues at heights and has adequate equipment plus training. Not everywhere, but at least in many cities and towns they have some skills and gear to perform rescues.

    Another possible solution for this rescue-problem could be visiting guides/ firemen/ rescuepros, who could form a team while they are in Kaly. They would be available in case of emergency, say, 15 minutes responsetime and ahve their scooters ready to go. (with blue lights or not…) They would not get paid but they could get really cheap food plus free board and maybe some more benefits such as scooter from rental shop. Rescuers would sign up in the web prior to their trip, make contract and get insurances from Kaly/ council/ Goverment.

    This system works in several ski areas in Finland, most of the time those rescuers are decent people, but sometimes they just booze up all the time…

    What do you say?

    Anyway, here is one volunteer available, just let me know!

  8. Carl Dawson says:

    Many people have contributed massively to make Kalymnos the brilliant climbing venue that it is. For example, Claude Idoux, resident climber, is to be strongly applauded for voluntarily coordinating local rescue efforts. Aris’ equipping/re-equipping programme and stunning guidebooks have drawn in resources and attention from local authorities and national politicians for more than a decade. Steve MacDonnell, has headed up a local bolt fund, holding money-raising events at the Glaros for items which include rescue equipment. And there are hundreds more climbers who contribute open-heartedly, all in their own ways, as time, funds and skills are available. Collectively they’ve produced, without a central committee or local club, the best sport climbing venue for all grades in the world.

    There are of course still further developments that could be made… and a formal rescue service is one of the foremost. Whilst on the island, we all would be willing to help out in a crisis but the onus of establishing a rescue service should not be on the shoulders of any one person; not Claude, not Steve, not Aris. We need to all work TOGETHER as friends, climbers, and with the help of the municipality, to establish this facility for Kalymnos

    We look forward to your help.

  9. olivier says:

    Sorry , but I have met a french climber on Kalymnos , Mr Idoux , who usualy do the rescue , and pays from his pocket , a lot of bolts and belays . Do you contribue to his action for the rescue , and for the equipment ?????
    Thank you for your answer .

  10. Aris says:

    Hi Olivier,

    Unfortunately it is not. I have tried to contribute to Kalymnos for the last 12 yrs by equipping routes with my own hardware; correcting / replacing bolts and anchors on my own time / own hardware in addition to the official maintenance (with 1700 routes the need arises quite often); networking year-round to raise support / funds for Kalymnos through official channels; offering 500 bolts / 100 anchors towards new routing each year; creating this website; volunteering for rescue whenever I am on the island and sometimes coordinating rescue even when I am not on the island. More will always need to be done, but I’m afraid this is all my time and finances allow me.


  11. olivier says:

    With the money you earn with the guide book, is it not possible to you to pay a rescue team ?

  12. Aris says:

    Hi Pascal,

    I have been talking to the politicians for the last two years (at least) about the need for a rescue team. I spoke to the deputy minister about this again during the festival. He acknowledged the need at the press conference he gave and says that he will push for it, but who knows if / when that will happen. As far as an alternative solution, we have thought about a volunteer rescue team but on Kalymnos unfortunately there are not enough permanent residents-climbers able to do this. Many times rescue has been done by volunteers, but it’s not possible (or fair) to rely on volunteers every time. Any other suggestions are welcome!

  13. Pascal says:

    Hi Aris!

    Did anybody speak to the politics about rescue in Kalymnos?
    Climbing in Kaly is unfortunatly insecure in Kalymnos, there is no rescue team and the hospital is poor. I know that due to the economic situation in Greece it will be very difficult to change it, but dont you think there is a way for that?

  14. nkrikelis says:


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