- History of climbing on Kalymnos
- Kalymnos Climbing Festivals
- Approaching the crags
- Climbing character
- Route grades & descriptions
- Required gear
- Important climbing tips
- Reducing our negative impact on the environment
- Children and climbing
- Climbing shops / services
- Equipping new routes
- Route maintenance / rebolting
- Interested in rebolting?
Here’s how it all started: we first heard about the climbing potential of Kalymnos in 1995 when one of the best Greek climbers out of Patras, Giannis Torelli, visited the island. He didn’t do any climbing, but he did take some rather uninspiring photos of the crags. All Greek islands are littered with cliffs anyway, so we didn’t jump to any conclusions. Why should Kalymnos be any different?
Everything changed by chance, when the Italian climber Andrea di Bari visited Kalymnos for his summer holidays in 1996. Seeing the excellent quality of the rock and the huge potential of the area, he returned to Kalymnos in May 1997 with some climbing friends to put up some routes. They opened 43 sport climbing routes on Kalymnos (in the sectors Arhi, Odyssey and Poets). Andrea di Bari returned to Kalymnos in October of the same year, this time with Andrea Gallo, a photographer working for Alp magazine. After publication in Alp and Rotpunkt magazines in the spring of 1999, the way was open for drill-wielding climbers.
At that point, climbing on Kalymnos took off. The Kalymnos municipality started a collaboration with Aris Theodoropoulos to instigate a series of measures which developed and promoted climbing on Kalymnos. They started with the scrutiny of the protection on existing routes, and the creation of new routes, as well as the creation of a multi-lingual website. The climax of these efforts came in October 2000 with an international climbing event organized in part by Acharnes Greek Alpine Club – an event graced by the participation of the prominent French alpinist Catherine Destivelle. 180 climbers from 13 different countries took part, exchanging views, giving talks and climbing together, transforming the crags into a joyous Babel. At the same time the first Kalymnos Rock Climbing Guide was published, funded by the local council and distributed for free to visiting climbers. And the rest, as they say, is history….
This first climbing event described above was a milestone for Kalymnos, giving it just the right push forward to attain a prominent position on the international climbing map. Since then, the influx of climbers from all over the world to Kalymnos has been increasing. The estimates for 2001 and 2002 are that about 4,000 climbers visited Kalymnos. Among these were some of the biggest names in climbing, who also helped tremendously by putting up some excellent new routes.
The 2nd Climbing Festival of Kalymnos (2-8 October 2004) made it the center of international climbing attention once again. The festival was organized by the Municipality of Kalymnos with the collaboration of Aris. More than 600 climbers from all over the world participated, including the guests of honor Dave Graham, Liv Sansoz, Francois Legrand, Daniel Dulac and Andrea Di Bari. Also present were some climbers known for their important role in the growth of climbing and equipping of numerous routes on Kalymnos, like Michel Piola, Hans Weninger, Guy Abert and Karsten Oelze, Manolo Zanolla and Simone Moro. Some journalists and photographers of the specialized press also took part, including Jeff Achey, editor of Climbing magazine, who subsequently wrote a 10-page article in issue #238 of Climbing.
The highest achievement, perhaps, of the 2nd Kalymnos Climbing Festival was the opening of new routes in the 8a-9a range, which now constitute a major attraction for the climbing stars. Three PETZL workers stayed on Kalymnos for a full month to equip the routes. They mostly set up routes in sectors Arhi, Spartan Wall, Grande Grotta, as well as the first routes at Sikati Cave. Until that point, many high-grade climbers hesitated to visit Kalymnos in fear that they might not find any climb sufficiently challenging; there appeared to be few 8as and above of international status. The 2nd Kalymnos climbing festival proved to be very successful at that, as it endowed Kalymnos with a lot of extremely hard routes for the international rock climbing scene.
For more about the 2nd Climbing Festival of Kalymnos, click here.
The 3rd Climbing Festival of Kalymnos (25-30 October 2006) was sponsored by Petzl . Better known as the Petzl Roctrip Kalymnos, it attracted approximately 1000 climbers, including a collection of the finest climbing athletes in the world, who challenged themselves against the newly-bolted ‘ultimate’ routes in Sikati cave. In the words of Steve McClure, “the super-overhanging women’s route went on forever, at a grade of 8b it climbed 60 meters on tufas and stalactites. The men’s route, at over 50m long and 8c was not only endurance orientated but had several distinct cruxes: a bouldery lower section, a long, hard span (especially for the short) under the main roof to reach a 6-foot stalactite, and a steep headwall on with tufa blobs. The route climaxed with 10m of relatively easy (about 7b!!) tufa climbing on crumbly rock to add a bit of spice to the finish!!” And he continues, “the 15 men and 7 women were presented with a real challenge on their ultimate routes. They were allowed only one hour each to work the route before attempting a redpoint a few days later. Not an easy task when the route is 60m long, imagine remembering that many moves! However it still didn’t stop Martina Cufar (SLO), Charlotte Durif (FRA) and Daila OJeda (ESP) from clean ascents. The men’s route was proving more tricky especially with some of the tufas remaining damp and no one managed success on their first redpoint attempt. However, considering the standard of the climbers it was only a matter of time with Steve McClure (UK) and Chris Sharma (USA) getting it in their second attempt and Dani Andrada (ESP) on his third.”
The Petzl Roctrip Kalymnos was more than just a competition. Every evening there were films and slideshows presented by Chris Sharma, Alex Huber, Arnaud Petit and Stephanie Bodet. Aris also spoke about climbing on Kalymnos and presented his latest guidebook. To top it off, the municipality of Kalymnos organized a Greek-themed event and Petzl hosted a techno party complete with its own DJ and all!
Climbers who where invited and attended the Petzl Roctrip Kalymnos 2006 were: Men: Dani Andrada (ESP), Klemen Becan (SLO), Said Belhaj (SWE), Dave Graham (USA), Alex Huber (GER), Ivailo Krastev (BUL), Thanasis Ktenas (GRE), Tony Lamiche (FRA), Chris Lindner (USA), Steve McCLure (GB), Shawn McColl (CAN), Arnaud Petit (FRA), Ethan Pringle (USA), Manu Romain (FRA), Chris Sharma (USA). Women: Katie Brown (USA), Stéphanie Bodet (FRA), Martina Cufar (SLO), Charlotte Durif (FRA), Melissa Lacasse (CAN), Daila OJeda (ESP), Liv Sansoz (FRA).
For more about the 3rd Climbing Festival of Kalymnos, click here.
The 4th Climbing Festival of Kalymnos (22-26 May 2009) was organized by the Municipality of Kalymnos and sponsored, mainly, by the Greek National Tourism Organisation and the Greek sports company Polo. More than 300 climbers from around the world participated (84 Greeks, 50 Germans, 28 Swedes, 28 Swiss, 26 Austrians, 16 Italians, 13 Spaniards, 12 Americans and individuals from 15 more countries). The star guest at the 4th Kalymnos festival was the mega-talented (and very likeable) 16 year-old Czech climber Adam Ondra. Also invited were the inexhaustible Swiss equippers Christine and Claude Remy who, with brothers Yves Remy and Boris Girardin, have opened more than 250 sport routes on Kalymnos in the past few years. Last but not least, the 22 year-old Slovenian climbing champion Maja Vidmar was there.
Adam Ondra wowed everybody with his ability to send ultra-difficult routes with seemingly incredible ease. He climbed numerous routes from 8a+ to 8c+, many of them as warm-up (!). If you are not impressed yet, he also made the first ascent of route Los Revolucionarios 9a 30m in sector Odyssey after 6 tries over 4 days. This is the hardest route in Kalymnos to-date, and the first 9a route in Greece (after Adam climbed it, on a hot an humid day, he moved on to Los Kukos 8c and just barely missed the onsight. Rare, but it happens!). Immediately after that, he sprinted to Sikati cave in the middle of the scorching hot afternoon. There, he not only climbed Jaws 8c 50m on his first attempt, but he also placed the draws. For the record, Jaws was the ‘Ultimate Route’ in the 2006 Petzl Roctrip Kalymnos.
Maja Vidmar was also in excellent form; she climbed in amazing style and made everything look graceful and easy. She onsighted her first 8b in Kalymnos, Spartan Wall 20m, a vertical technical route with small holds. Maja onsighted a total of 9 routes 8a or harder during her week on Kalymnos.
For more about the 4th Climbing Festival of Kalymnos, click here.
The 5th Climbing Festival of Kalymnos (18-21 May 2011) was organized by the Municipality of Kalymnos featuring Nicolas Favresse and Patxi Usobiaga. By all accounts this was not the most link text eventful festival; for more detailed reports about the 2011 festival click here and here.
The North Face Kalymnos Climbing Festivals (2012/2013/2014)
The North Face stepped in to organize a Kalymnos Climbing Festival for three consecutive years (2012-2014). With a lineup of many top athletes, both male and female, the North Face festivals brought a certain prestige that had been missing since the 2006 Roctrip. For detailed reports of the 2012 North Face festival click here and for a brief report of the 2013 North Face festival click here.
The 2014 North Face Kalymnos Climbing Festival will take place on 9-12 October 2014.
Kalymnos is known for its dry climate, and year-round climbing is definitely possible. Still, some periods are better than others.
The ideal climbing period for Kalymnos. The weather is generally good with a comfortable temperature, so you can climb all day. It rarely rains in Kalymnos during September and October, and from mid-October even climbing in the sun can be a real pleasure. The sea is still warm enough for swimming even in early November. October is certainly the most suitable month and this is when the number of visiting climbers reaches its peak. If you prefer to climb in peace and quiet, you had best avoid very popular sectors such as Odyssey, Grande Grotta, Arhi and Spartacus. Instead you can go somewhere like Galatiani, where the climbing quality and style are just as amazing and the sector will be all yours! In November the number of climbers dwindles and temperatures are slightly cooler, therefore better for sending your projects. The chances of rain are higher, but even when it rains, these autumn showers only last a few hours. You can usually climb after the rain, as the crags dry quickly. Despite the fact that most of the tourist shops in Masouri close around November 15th and the village resembles a ghost town, you can always find some rooms to rent, restaurants and mini markets that stay open just to serve the climbers. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a livelier spot, Pothia is the right place for you, a town with 15,000 inhabitants and lively all winter long.
Don’t be surprised if you end up climbing in your T-shirt on Christmas day. Good weather on Kalymnos in the wintertime is frequent. Rainy days are few and periods of rain don’t usually last long. Arhi and the crags surrounding it are the most suitable crags for winter climbing in Kalymnos, as they are sheltered from northerly winds and get most of the sun from mid-day onwards. December offers some of the most magnificent sunsets on Kalymnos. By tradition, numerous climbers visit the island during Christmas holidays and they form big companionable groups as they meet up in the 2 or 3 restaurants still open in Masouri, Elies and Myrties. Although January and February are considered ‘difficult’ months, weather conditions are still fairly good: the average temperature is around 10-12º C and sunny days are frequent.
Conditions are similar to those in autumn, and so it is an equally brilliant time to go climbing on the island. In addition, the landscape teems with wild flowers in the spring, despite the lack of trees. Breathe in the fragrant air on your walk to the crag. The chances of rain in spring are somewhat higher than those in autumn; and the sea is too cold to enjoy. Note that, if the preceding winter has been rainy, the tufa may be seeping; stalactites sometimes drip during the spring and are more inclined to break as they are softer. However, this does not necessarily mean a halt to climbing on stalactite-and-tufa routes in places like the Grande Grotta. You can climb inside the caves even when it rains, but do not climb in the (rare) event of a thunderstorm. You are in the midst of nature and climbing on wet rock in the lightning is not a good idea. The best-protected caves in the event of rain are usually at the east-facing sector Three Caves in Telendos, since rain comes in primarily from the northwest. Weather conditions in April are similar to those in October, and a number of climbers choose to spend Easter holidays on the island. May weather is relatively inconsistent: it is a rather warm month, but if it’s a windy day and you are belaying in the shade, you will definitely need that fleece.
A mistake commonly repeated is that climbing is not possible during summer because of very hot conditions. The Greek islands, including Kalymnos, are actually known for their summer northerly breezes (the meltemi). The stuffy, humid climate plaguing most other European climbing areas is not the norm here. If it happens, it is the rare exception. The only rule to follow is ‘don’t climb in the sun!’ At crags which are in the shade, a refreshing summer breeze makes climbing pleasant, and on most summer mornings you might need long sleeves if you belay in the shade. We have supplied useful information in the pages of the guidebook to help you choose the ideal sector and the right time to go climbing in different seasons. Note that on hot and windless days the rock can feel a bit ‘sweaty’ until about 10.00. June is not much different to May, and the sea is still rather cold. Although July is perhaps the hottest month in the year, you can always choose a shady crag to climb comfortably. In August the crags are in the shade longer, due to the lower course of the sun. Owing to their western or southwestern orientation, most crags are in the shade in the morning. If you wake up early, head to Odyssey, Afternoon, Spartacus, Kasteli and Symplegades. You can climb in the shade from 09.00-14.00 and relax on the beach afterwards. If you oversleep, you can instead climb at Summertime, Local Freezer, Vathy and Irox (on Telendos) or, a little later, at Symplegades. On a final note, even though August 1st-15th is the peak of the Greek tourist season, Kalymnos is in a much quieter category altogether and very conducive to a family climbing holiday.
There is only one road which runs the length of the Kalymnos west coast. At certain points along this road, level with the crags, there are white markers (like milestones) for most crags with signs bearing information about the footpaths, length of approach and colour of the painted path marks which indicate the route taken by each footpath. Almost all routes have their name written at the base of the rock.
Goats and gates
Around most of the crags on Kalymnos, you are more than likely to encounter semi-wild goats. Please note that the gates in the barbed wire which you often need to pass through on your way to the crags have been carefully built by shepherds to control the movements of their herds. Please help their difficult work by closing all such gates behind you.
The rock of Kalymnos is top-quality limestone. It is a little sharp in places, but free of choss (aka rotten, loose rock). There is nothing monotonous about climbing on Kalymnos: there is a great variety of rock, with slabs, walls with delicate moves, pumpy routes with pockets and stalactites or tufas on overhanging rock and roofs. In some respects the rock resembles that of Thailand, only a little sharper.
Many visitors have described the equipping of routes on Kalymnos as “the epitome of sport climbing.” At the moment (2014) there are 80 sport crags – mainly west and south facing – with approximately 2300 routes ranging from F4a to F9a, although there are quite a few project routes which are expected to exceed 9a. All have an athletic, steep and challenging sport climbing character and are equipped in a sensible and friendly manner using stainless steel bolts.
The rock on Kalymnos seems to come in three varieties:
1. Extremely overhanging rock with blobs, tufas and stalactites which, even when tilted 20 degrees past vertical, can still check in at a “mere” 7a!
2. Slightly overhanging or vertical, smooth white and orange walls with pockets and smaller tufa features.
3. Grey slabs with sharp rock that has been sculpted by the rain (‘gouttes’) with little iron knobs cemented into the matrix.
The best of the routes can possibly combine the three types of rock in one pitch. Of equal importance is that the limestone is showing little sign of polish, in sharp contrast to the rock at some other well-known climbing areas of Europe. This situation will be slow to change given the particularly rough surface of the rock. The majority of the routes on Kalymnos are single-pitch around 20-30m. However, there are a few longer routes reaching 3-5 pitches, and there is tons of room for many more great routes at all levels. Coupled with the excellent quality of the rock is the sheer quantity of it. The existing routes only cover a tiny portion of what is possible here. There are some quality crags still waiting for their first route – all they demand is a slightly longer approach.
Sport climbing routes on Kalymnos are graded according to the French grading system. Great efforts have been made toward consistent grading. We’d like to thank the website 8a.nu for valuable collaboration in this respect, and some changes have been made based on suggestions posted on their database. However, since routes on Kalymnos are being put up by climbers from all over the world, and since some of these routes have not yet seen their second ascent, it is possible that a few will need re-grading. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you want to comment about such routes on Kalymnos. All comments and grade suggestions are welcome!
Our comments are just a general description of every route. We have tried to give you a “feel” of each route on Kalymnos, something that most climbers like to read about and which occasionally inspires their ‘must do’ lists. We have also tried to avoid specific beta that might spoil your Kalymnos onsight attempts. However, if your onsighting of routes is very puritan, it is best to avoid reading our comments altogether before your attempt. You’ll also have to ignore the chalk and the tick marks, especially if the last rain was 6 months ago, as is usually the case each October…
• How many quickdraws?
We have decided against noting the number of quickdraws required to climb a route, because on Kalymnos the number of bolts on a route is subject to change: if a route is deemed dangerous during maintenance, extra bolts may be placed; on the other hand, on a long route with rope-drag problems, re-bolting is likely to reduce the number of bolts.
Generally, the standard gear required to climb routes on Kalymnos is 15 quickdraws. If you don’t want to carry all that hardware, always check the length of the route: as a rule of thumb, if your route is up to 20-25m, you will need 10-12 quickdraws; if the route is 30-35m long, you will need all 15 quickdraws. When a certain route requires more than 15 quickdraws, special mention is made in its description in the guidebook (e.g. “18 QD”).
That said, we would strongly suggest you bring along 30-40 quickdraws. There are some monster routes on Kalymnos requiring 24-28 quickdraws. Furthermore, if you leave the draws in on a project to try later, you will still need 12-15 quickdraws to use on a different route in the meantime. If you plan to climb routes on stalactites, bring medium-to-long quickdraw slings. For the monster routes at Grande Grotta and Sikati Cave you will also need 5-6 long slings to reduce rope-drag, directing your rope around tufas and stalactites.
• What rope length?
The standard single rope length for Kalymnos is at least 60 m (9-10,5 mm diameter). However, many remarkable long routes (35-40 m long) have been opened all over Kalymnos in the past few years. We would recommend investing in a long rope before you travel to Kalymnos. A rope length of 70 or 80 m will do nicely for most new monster routes or extension pitches. Remember always to check the length of the route before starting to climb.
And, no matter how long your rope is, ALWAYS TIE A KNOT IN THE DEAD END OF THE ROPE, or tie it onto your rope bag, to avoid crashing to the ground if your rope is too short. It may sound obvious, yet this is by far THE most common cause of climbing accidents. And you can prevent them 100% of the time.
• Lowering and worn lower-offs:
In recent years, the permanent carabiners at the lower-offs of popular routes have shown clear signs of wear. Most climbers run their rope directly through the carabiners at lower-offs: the rope sliding through quickly wears out the metal and decreases the metal’s lifespan. A telling example is the fact that during the route maintenance in 2008 at sector Odyssey, the metal on some carabiners on heavily-used lower-offs had been worn down to half its original thickness. To extend the lifespan of permanent carabiners at Kalymnos crags, please climb responsibly: do not lower directly off the anchor’s carabiner, but place one of your quickdraws or carabiners in addition to the permanent carabiner to lower from. Please use the permanent carabiners at the lower-off only after your last go, when you are ready to strip the route. If you see other climbers lowering straight from the permanent carabiners, please alert them to this ‘excessive use’ problem in a friendly manner.
When climbing on top-rope, you shouldn’t solely rely on passing the rope through the single permanently placed carabiner at the belay point. As a back-up, you should also add a runner/quickdraw. Make sure the gates of the carabiners are opposed to each other so they don’t accidently open or, better still, add one quickdraw with a locking carabiner. To avoid wear and tear on the carabiner, do not top-rope from it directly. You should place a short quickdraw or screwgate carabiner on the bolt of the anchor as well as clipping your rope through the fixed lower-off carabiner. In this way, you won’t load the fixed carabiner. When you are finished top-roping the route, the last climber in your party removes the quickdraw and lowers from the permanent carabiner.
• Cleaning very steep single pitches:
When you remove the quickdraws from an overhanging route, do not unclip from the lowest one as you lower back down. Keep yourself clipped in through the bottom quickdraw until you reach the ground. If you don’t, there’s a chance of a big swing which, with the rope stretch, can easily lead to hitting the ground at speed. Bear in mind that on almost all the routes in Kalymnos the first bolt is placed close to the ground (2-3m) and you can strip the quickdraw by re-climbing the first few metres after you’ve untied. Alternatively, re-clip the third bolt on the way down, then lower down to strip the bottom two, before re-climbing to the remaining quickdraw to take the swing at a safe height.
• Belaying with a Grigri:
In theory, the auto-locking Grigri is the perfect belay device. However, that is only true if you use it properly. Unfortunately, this is not always the case: several accidents have occurred at European crags because of improper use, and climbers have ended up hitting the deck after a fall. In Kalymnos, the Grigri is the most popular belay device and, here also, we often notice climbers using it incorrectly. There are two points you need to pay attention to when belaying a leader using a Grigri: a) feeding the rope through the Grigri properly, and b) practising the way to let slack out quickly but safely.
If you are not sure how to use a Grigri properly, check out PETZL’s website for a detailed video demonstrating how to give & take slack (quickly and slowly), right v. wrong technique, etc. This can be a matter of life and death, and as there is no mountain rescue service on Kalymnos, please treat it seriously.
• Improving your technique:
Kalymnos is an ideal place for climbers to push their limits. As there is such a variety of good, well-protected routes on which a fall is nothing to fear, you can climb at the very edge of your abilities, improving your technique and self-confidence day-by-day, week-by-week. The wide spread of difficulty on Kalymnos means there is a lot of choice for climbers at all levels (although the emphasis is on the range from 5b to 6c – a range that caters to the taste of the majority of climbers). There are also quite a few easier routes on Kalymnos for novice climbers, and the island is already being used as a destination for some of the most important climbing courses in Europe. Even those climbing grades above 8a will not feel that the choice is limited. In addition to the now numerous 8a, 8b and 8c routes there is a great number of lines waiting to be bolted, and some ready-made projects up to 9b waiting for the struggle.
We climbers are responsible for the condition of our crags. As a nature-loving bunch with the good fortune to be doing what we love in some of the most breathtaking spots on the planet, we ought to be vigilant about protecting them. Sadly, in Greece. many still lack the most basic environmental awareness, and on Kalymnos it is easy to become complacent: after all, climbers have nothing to do with the mess on the streets, beaches and hillsides, right? Wrong! As the number of climbers increases, and repeated efforts are made by climbers to increase environmental awareness, it is all the more important for us to set an example and to ensure our crags don’t suffer the same fate. If each of us makes just one little change, our strength in numbers can have a big impact. Any positive change is better than no change at all.
Here are some common sense tips:
• Pick up all your garbage/rubbish before leaving the crag. A plastic bag for collecting little bits of trash (food and coffee wrappers, straws, tissue paper, finger tape etc) hardly takes up any space in your backpack. And if you smoke, please pick up your cigarette butts. The filters are toxic, non-biodegradable, and if left behind they can be eaten by birds and other animals.
• If you get the uncontrollable urge to poop at the crag, please be considerate: a) walk at least 100 m away from the crag, b) make sure you are not standing on an approach trail, c) do the deed, d) take the used paper away with you, and e) bury the evidence (there are plenty of rocks around to use for digging or covering). Think of it this way: with every pile of poo landing near the cliffs, several metres of crag area become useless.
• Use water in moderation. Most Greek islands suffer from water shortages, and Kalymnos is no different – so turn off the tap when you brush your teeth, wash your dishes, and so on.
• Buy local products, if you can. Fruits and vegetables are grown seasonally with low-impact, traditional methods in the valley of Vathy. Look for delicious small tomatoes and cucumbers in the summer, and cabbage, oranges and tangerines in the winter. Kalymnian cheese and yogurt are also very good.
• Don’t throw away your reading book. Donate it to ‘Climber’s Nest’ shop, ‘Glaros Bar’, ‘Sofrano’, or other places where books are collected (there are several). Book donations come in all languages, so you could also borrow your next book there.
• Use olive oil soap. You will find it in most shops in Kalymnos; it comes in a bar and/or flakes, it is light brown or green in color, it is very mild, unscented, hypo-allergenic, cheaper than conventional soap (30-40 cents per bar), and suitable for a variety of uses (shower, household cleaning, laundry). Finally, it is an excellent soap to use for washing your climbing rope.
• Use the plastic boxes from cheese for storing leftovers and for bringing food to the crag the next day. It’s very hard (even for salt water) to destroy a plastic box, so it is also ideal when you are on a boat.
• Recycling is supposed to start in special blue bins sometime in 2014. We will update when we know more. At the moment (April 2014) there is no blue bin in sight and no recycling available.
WARNING: Children are never 100% safe at the crags. Even when not directly below a person climbing, children are always at risk of serious injury from falling or ricocheting rock. In Kalymnos, goats walking above the crags often cause rock to fall without notice. Windy days can also dislodge stones. In this guidebook we describe the ‘child-friendliness’ of each crag, but don’t forget that parents are ultimately responsible for evaluating the risk of bringing the little ones to the crags.
That said, Kalymnos is one of the top destinations in the world for family climbing vacations, particularly during the summer and autumn months when, after climbing, you can relax at the beaches and go swimming. Many climbing sectors in Kalymnos have a flat base and it is quite common to see young children playing on the ground while their parents are climbing. There are a great number of easy routes that can be top-roped even by the youngest of children. There are even some very closely bolted routes suitable for the young ones who are interested in leading routes. Last but not least, the most enjoyable game is the ‘giant swing’ on the climbing rope right after one of the parents has lowered off one of the overhanging routes, like the ones at Grande Grotta or Odyssey. Take care though that nothing is dislodged. If you’d rather not bring the kids to the crags, ask hotels if they provide any babysitting services.
There are several climbing shops in Kalymnos, all in Masouri village along the main road. They all sell climbing gear and clothing, and most also rent selected climbing gear.
Even if you decide to come climbing in Kalymnos without your usual belay slave, you can easily find partners, especially during spring and autumn. There are message boards at the climbing shops and the information office where you can leave a ‘search for a partner’ note. Alternatively, before starting your journey you can post a topic in the ‘climbing partner needed’ section of the Climb Kalymnos forum.
A variety of guiding services and climbing lessons are available on Kalymnos. If you are a beginner you can join our summer climbing course; if the dates don’t suit you or if you are looking for more advanced or one-on-one guiding, hiring a certified climbing guide is the way to go.
1. Our aim is for the climbing routes on Kalymnos to be as safe as possible, so that climbers can concentrate on the technical difficulty of the routes without worrying about being injured or risking your life. While nobody can stop climbers from climbing on Kalymnos with trad protection (nuts, friends, etc) it is the policy of the local authorities that all new routes be equipped with bolts for the safety of those making repeat ascents. Traditionally-protected routes are not advocated on Kalymnos.
• Because Kalymnos is a marine environment, always use stainless steel bolts and hangers. Use only 316L or HCR expansion bolts, or glue-in 316L, HCR, or titanium bolts using epoxy resin. All bolts must be certified by a manufacturer of climbing equipment. NO HOMEMADE BOLTS PLEASE.
• Both bolts and hangers must be made of the same material. Don’t mix different materials, for example stainless bolt with non-stainless hanger.
• Bolts and hangers must be made by a certified manufacturer of climbing equipment. No “homemade” hardware, please.
• Bolt diameter must be at least 10mm.
• Bolt length must be at least 86mm.
• Always drill a bit deeper than the length of the bolt, so that in future rebolting the old bolt can be hammered into the rock.
3. When equipping a new route on Kalymnos, please follow the guidelines of FFME: always put the first bolt at most 2.8m off the ground, the second at most 1.2m further up and the third at most 2m above the second. This will help avoid climbers hitting the deck.
4. Each lower-off should be equipped with two bolts joined by chain carrying one or two stainless-steel carabiners for lowering off.
5. To keep up these high standards of protection, climbers wanting to put up new routes on Kalymnos are advised first to do a lot of climbing on some of the ‘model’ routes on crags such as Arhi and Odyssey to get a better idea of what is intended. New routes on Kalymnos should be equipped to the same standard, following the guidelines given below, thereby avoiding dangerous run-outs.
6. Think before you drill: Will your potential line enhance or detract? Don’t bolt something now that you will not be proud of later; try to follow natural lines with an aesthetic value and a flowing sequence of moves.
7. All bolts should be in solid rock. Never place bolts on stalactites. Never drill either stalactites or the rock simply to place a sling. Slings as permanent protection should not be placed even if there are good natural holes. Instead of slings, bolts should be used.
8. Never chip holds or place artificial holds.
9. Be meticulous about cleaning any loose rock off your route. Use a hammer and/or crowbar to clear away any bushes or vegetation hindering climbing.
10. A new route is not just about bolting and cleaning. When the rock is very sharp, please take the time to smooth out the ultra-sharp edges off the holds and footholds with the gentle use of a hammer or a wire brush. Otherwise climbers will sacrifice precious skin off their fingers and never climb your route again. Please read this carefully: we are NOT suggesting you chip or create artificial holds. We just recommend you clean existing holds thoroughly.
11. If your route is to be longer than 30m and not homogeneous, you should arrange an extra belay point to enable climbers to lower off using a single 60 m rope. If, for example, the first 20 m of a route is 6b and the last 15 m is 7c, fix a belay point after 20 m so that the route can be enjoyed by more climbers, not just the guys in the 7c league.
(Above: the ‘Kalymnos bolting style’ is marked in green)
12. Always put a bolt exactly before the crux of the route, not after the hard move.
13. Please place bolts where shorter leaders can reach them as well.
14. Those putting up new routes on Kalymnos should write the name of the route discreetly, in Latin characters, at its base. This should be in blue paint, not in felt-tip pen which disappears too soon.
15. Many route names on Kalymnos derive from Greek mythology and Greek history, a respectful example set by the first Italian climbers on the island. It would be nice to keep this tradition on Kalymnos – so dust off that copy of Greek Mythology and pack it along with the drill.
16. No further routes should be put up inside the cave of Grande Grotta, to protect this one-of-a-kind work of nature and its million year-old stalactites.
17. It would also be best if no more routes were put up on the right side of Odyssey, where the routes are already dense. When there is so much unbolted rock elsewhere on Kalymnos, there is no reason to squeeze new routes into sectors which are already crowded.
18. Please do not squeeze new routes very close to each other or tightly between already existing routes. As a rule, if two lines share handholds or footholds, or if you can top-rope a route by clipping into the lower-off of an adjoining route, then the two routes are too close to each other.
19. To utilise the existing sectors of Kalymnos more fully, please target your new routing toward sectors with only a few climbs but an abundance of rock. It’s better to do this than open brand-new sectors if you only intend to equip a few new routes.
20. A great number of unfinished projects on Kalymnos have been temporarily abandoned due to a lack of bolts or time. However, most of the activists do intend to come back as soon as possible to finish the job. So please avoid completing the bolting of unfinished projects on Kalymnos until a minimum of 2 years has gone by.
21. Over the years, several local businesses have ‘sponsored’ the opening of new routes to promote their businesses. A display of excellent entrepreneurial spirit indeed, but the hardware has sometimes ended up in inexperienced hands: on several occasions, climbers with the best intentions but with limited or no bolting experience put up new lines which were often substandard or too close together or, more importantly, with serious errors in bolt and/or lower-off placement. Beyond the obvious safety risks posed by incorrect bolt placement, it also wastes valuable time moving or replacing them during the maintenance of routes. An offer of free bolts can be hard to refuse, but please make sure that before you pick up the drill you have had several years of climbing experience, the right mentoring, and the willingness to follow these standards.
22. Lastly, please let us know about the new route(s) you plan to put up on Kalymnos. Also, please stop by the Rescue Office at the ground level of Oasis Hotel with your hardware to ensure it is appropriate and safe for the specific environment of Kalymnos.
From 2000 to 2010, Kalymnos was one of the few climbing areas where routes were checked and rebolted regularly by a professional mountain guide. The foundations for a well-organised climbing venue were set early on, in 1999-2000, when Greek mountain guide Aris Theodoropoulos collaborated with the Municipality of Kalymnos, Thomas Michailides and other Greek climbers to set the standards for equipping routes on Kalymnos (closely placed stainless steel bolts and 2-bolt clipable lower-offs). The single-bolt (!) lower-offs on the first 43 routes were replaced at that time. Between 2000-2010, approximately 100 routes were rebolted every one or two years with the financial support of the local municipality.
In November/December 2008, 175 routes were rebolted by Aris Theodoropoulos, George Kopalides and George Koutsoukis. Corroded bolts and lower-offs were checked and replaced on nearly every route in the most popular sectors (Odyssey, Arhi, Spartacus, Kasteli, Iliada), as well as on certain routes in Grande Grotta and Panorama sectors. Besides corrosion, a prominent problem were the excessively worn carabiners on lower-offs: some permanent carabiners on lower-offs were literally eaten away to half their original size! As a result, for the first time RAUMER lower-offs with double opposed carabiners were used for increased safety and longevity. Furthermore, at that time bolts began to be replaced primarily by RAUMER’S 12 mm HANG FIX stainless steel expansion bolts.
The last time rebolting & route maintenance was performed with financial backing by the Municipality of Kalymnos was in November/December 2010, when more than 100 routes were checked. The main sectors targeted were Symplegades, Arhi Left, Ghost Kitchen and Galatiani.
Since 2010 there has been no support by the Municipality of Kalymnos for any rebolting or maintenance efforts. In the meantime, the number of routes and crags on Kalymnos keeps growing. Any rebolting / route checking since 2010 has been done exclusively by a handful of volunteers who are either permanent or part-time residents of Kalymnos.
• Guidebook proceeds and the Climb Kalymnos Bolting/Rebolting Supply
In previous years (until 2010), approximately 10% of proceeds from the sale of the Kalymnos Guidebook was donated to the Municipality of Kalymnos for the purchase of materials used in route maintenance.
Since 2010, when the latest edition of the Kalymnos Guidebook was published, the amount of €3000-€5000 has been used every year to create and fund the Climb Kalymnos Bolting/Rebolting Supply. This amount is put aside from guidebook proceeds every year to buy bolts, hangers and lower-offs for the voluntary rebolting of routes on Kalymnos. The Climb Kalymnos supply of bolts, hangers and lower-offs consists of 316L 12mm stainless steel bolts. The vast majority of the bolting/rebolting supply is used to rebolt older routes in need of maintenance. A very small percentage of these bolts is used to put up new lines, as we believe the focus on Kalymnos should shift from new routing to protecting and rebolting older climbs.
The volunteers involved in rebolting routes on Kalymnos make every effort to check the overall condition of crags; but with so many routes, the feedback of other climbers is vital. Please help them prioritize which routes to rebolt by e-mailing us the name of the route, climbing sector, approximate number of bolts in need of replacement, and the date when you noticed any weakened anchors.
If you are an experienced route equipper and would like to “give back” to Kalymnos by doing some rebolting, please get in touch with us first. The local municipality must concur; rebolting in Greece must be overseen by a certified Greek mountain guide according to the latest directive by the Hellenic Federation of Mountaineering and Climbing; and the hardware used must meet a strict set of specifications (at least 12mm; 316L or HCR expansion bolts, or glue-in 316L, HCR, or titanium bolts using epoxy resin; certified by a manufacturer of climbing equipment; NO HOMEMADE BOLTS). Improper rebolting by non-qualified climbers may result in legal action in the event of an accident.
Since late 2013 Kalymnos has a very competent Rescue Team. The service was founded by Alternet, a tourism agency promoting alternative forms of tourism in the Dodecanese Islands. The Kalymnos Rescue Team has been called in on several occasions and it is, by general consensus, vitally important for climbers on Kalymnos.
The Kalymnos Rescue Team is staffed by volunteers, and it accepts and appreciates donations. Additionally, the agency which formed the Rescue Team provides the Alternet Rescue Card. The cost of the Rescue Card starts at 15 EUR for 15 days, and cardholders benefit from an array of discounts at restaurants, hotels, and the Kos-Kalymnos ferry, among others. A percentage of the proceeds from sales of the Rescue Card goes to the Rescue Team.
For more information, to make a donation to the Kalymnos Rescue Team, or to buy the Rescue Card, you can email the Rescue Team, visit their website, or stop by the Rescue Office on the ground level of Oasis Hotel in Masouri.
IN CASE OF AN ACCIDENT:
Phone the universal emergency number (112) or the Kalymnos Hospital (+30 22433 61931) and be prepared to provide the following info:
Who: First and last name, telephone number
What: Nature of accident, number of injured, severity of accident (please describe injuries as accurately as possible)
Where: Place, spot, sector
When: Time of accident
Universal Emergency Number: 112
Kalymnos Hospital: +30 22433 61931
Ambulance +30 22430 23025
Kalymnos Rescue Office: +30 22430 47095