Joanna Niechwiedowicz spent her holidays in Greece. Of course, climbing was in our athlete’s focus. The Polish went to places difficult to access and was rewarded with some amazing experiences. She summarized her trip in her travel diary:
Holidays in 2016 were not as usual. We decided to change the season as well as the destination. Instead of summer, we chose November, and Spain was replaced by Greece. However, it does not mean – as most people might probably think – that we ended up flying to increasingly popular Kalymnos. In fact, we drove to the Peloponesian city of Leonidio which might be less popular.
We travelled 2000 kilometres by car through so far unknown Serbia and Macedonia. After less than 24 hours of driving, we reached our first stop: Pyli and Mouzaki. In the Thessalian region, those destinations are the west-climbing style crags in Greece that are closest to Poland. Unfortunately, it must have been raining heavily before our arrival as most of the routes turned out to be totally wet. In fact, the water was actually pouring out of the tufa … It was hardly possible to get to the Pyli crag as an ordinary stream changed all of a sudden into a torrential river! After climbing the only dry route in that area, we headed south. That’s a pity because both crags looked really interesting and there is lots of stuff to climb – with great potential for new lines, too.
Joanna Niechwiedowicz takes a break.
A day of rest unplanned
Second stop: Mavrosouvala. It seems to be the Athenian “rock gym” but it also turned out to be more friendly for the newcomers. Big overhangs with tufa and totally dry rock was exactly what we have longed for and expected. There are not so many routes in this area, but all of them are of very good quality and in Spanish style.
After all-day climbing, we headed for our next destination: Leonidio, a small town with roughly 4000 inhabitants. Nearly 1000 routes in this area allow an all year-round climbing. However, the period between October and April is the best time to go there.
Unfortunately, we were welcomed by the rain again. What is more, our Polish friends we met at that place, claimed it had been like that for couple of days. The landscape of the rocky walls soaked with water didn’t look very optimistic and forced us to schedule an unplanned rest day. Luckily, to our surprise the next day our Polish friends left and so did the rain, which didn’t come back to the end of the trip. To our even bigger surprise, the rocks turned dry immediately and it was possible to go climbing.
Leonidio can be described more or less in these words: nice town with narrow streets, local shops and restaurants. There is even a climbing bar called Panjika with nice atmosphere, coffee and local guidebook to buy. It is just a couple of kilometres away from the sea shore, and there is a really nice campsite called “Semeli” in Plaka village which became our home.
Loose rock and upper-mid grades
When it comes to climbing, there is plenty of it: Short routes, long routes, multi-pitches, overhangs, slabs, walls, tufa, crimps, pockets – you name it! The area caters for all tastes, I guess. There are numerous sectors. However, we managed to visit only a couple of them:
First, there was “Elona”, five minutes off-road. A lovely Greek monastery makes this place quite popular among climbers, and some tourists are passing by as well. There are more than 30 routes in this sector right now, but it is still in a developing stage! Most of the climbing is in upper-mid grades. Their lengths vary from 20 to even 60 metres! The overhang is big and there is plenty of tufa all around. There might be some loose rock still in some places, and you can fall down with the pieces of rock you’ve just been holding. Marek who has accompanied me during my holidays in Greece fell with a one-metre long tufa. That’s why I decided to climb with a helmet. The grades seemed quite overrated for us, but still I managed to climb:
- Goliath 7c+ RP (3rd try): a 35-metre long stamina line traversing Elona’s overhang. It is one of the best routes in this grade I have ever done.
- Eisvoleas 7c RP (2nd go): a shorter 20-metre long boulder route which has its crux almost in a roof.
Power-endurance routes and technical climbing
In addition, we climbed “Twin Caves” which is a smaller sector. Apart from a couple of easy slabs, climbing starts from 7b+. Routes with their extensions are up to 35 metres long. However, first pitches are around 25 metres. Like in Elona, tufa is common and the overhang varies from delicate to almost roof on harder routes (8b and up). Rock is much more solid there. Nevertheless, some loose rock might be found on extensions, which are newly bolted. I made it to climb “Mr Magoo 7c” (2nd go) and Chipotle 7c (3rd go). Both are very nice varied power-endurance routes.
“Bonobo 7b+”, Twin Caves.
“Mars” is another interesting sector. It requires a bit of a hike to get there. We took a 30-minute walk, with some easy corner with a fixed rope. But it is definitely worth it, as you reach the final rocky shelf: The view is amazing! Routes are up to 50 metres, rock is red and its first half is scattered with Kalymnos-like tufas, whereas the upper part of the wall is pocketed overhang like Gorge du Tarn in southern France. First pitches are between 6b and 7a+, extensions are up to 8a. The grades seemed to be much softer compared to Elona, sometimes even super soft and mostly in endurance style. It is definitely worth going for an onsight attempt on the extensions. And so did we. I climbed a couple of routes from 7a to 7b+ (“Mystere et boule de gomme 7b+“, 16 clips). You can expect some loose rock on the down tufa parts of the wall.
“Bobouki Extension 7a+”, Mars.
Our next stop was „Adrschpach Wall“. There are less than less than 20 routes in this small sector on the way to Elona. Most of them are slightly overhanging with a small roof on the finale. Tufa is mixed with crimps and slopes. Climbing is very technical and balanced; grades are between 7a and 8a+, except for two routes of grade 6. Those hard routes are not very much climbed. I chose those 7a and 7b: I did a bit of bouldering in terms of style on those routes that are rather hard in their grades, but overall pretty nice.
This is also true for “La Maison de Chevres”, a small sector with an old goat barn built under the overhanging rock. The routes are short, up to 18 metres and very bouldery. There is one 9a+. Crimps and small tufa are scattered far apart in the overhanging rock. You will definitely find some really power moves there. I managed climbing “Amalthee 7b+” OS – it was quite a fight!
“Amalthee 7b+”, La Maison de Chevres.
A destination worth a visit
A very varied climbing sector we also went to is “Nifada”. Very varied climbing sector. There are really short bouldery routes (10 metres long, 8a) as well as long (30 metres) overhanging, stamina lines. Grades seem to be still really unstable. Depending on a topo guide, they might vary up to three grades. I did the short “Baumkraxler” 7b+ OS – a funny climb up a single tufa, which seemed really easy in its grade. Unfortunately, I didn’t succeed in climbing a magnificent line “Angi Orangi” extension, graded depending on topo from 7c to 8a+. That is a super route in continuous overhang with long moves on tufa and pockets. I have to come back to climb it.
“Stelli Mantrisch 7a”, Nifada.
On our trip, we also visited nearby Kyparissi. This seaside town, despite being located 30 kilometres away from Leonidio, cannot be reached that easily. The costal road is still unfinished, that’s why you have to choose a mountain road, which is around 70 kilometres long, 1.5 kilometres of dirt road included. The journey takes about two hours. Make sure to get enough fuel because there has not been any gas station built in Kyparissi yet.
Anyway, the place is definitely worth a visit! There is a Byzantine fortress in the upper part of the city, which allows a spectular view over the sea, and the city itself. At this time of a year, it is a little abandoned. You can take advantage of beautiful empty beaches, which became in fact our home for a stay of one week. A couple of sectors are spread around the town. We visited just two of them:
First, there was “Watermill”. It is just by the road almost as you enter Kyparissi town. Climbing is very diverse – from almost a roof with tufa and brocolies through big overhang on big elephant-like tufas, to slightly overhang or vertical walls with balance climbing on crimps pockets and little tufas. I climbed OS some routes 7a and 7b and also one 7c+, called “Jerome the gangster”, which is a stamina route with original and not obvious finished boulder.
“Esterattitude 7b”, Watermill.
Second, we went to “Babala”. You have to walk for about 45 minutes to get to the foot of this cliff, but the path is nice, not very steep and with no obstacles on the way. The wall up there is amazing, steep with tufas all around with potential for hundreds of routes. It’s for a reason that this crag is considered one of the best for hard climbing in Greece. Climbing here is in hard grades only. Except for a forever-wet 7b+, there are routes starting from 7c, most of them are above 8a. We tried one 7c+ but didn’t make it – there is a reason to come back.
We continued our journey to Vlychada beach. It is a sector around 35 kilometers and a two-hour drive on mountainous narrow roads from Kyparissi. It is situated on the most magnificent secluded beach I have ever seen. It unexpectedly grows between the mountains when you drive along the serpentines. There are couple of routes from 6a to 6c+, one 7a, one 7a+ and two 7b’s. I have climbed most of them during one day and could enjoy the sea and view afterwards. There are some tufa and mushroom-like holds as well as some pockets. Still some small rocky mushrooms might fall when you grab them but there are no big rock parts that look loose. Routes are short but quite nice. It is really worth going there for the place’s overall atmosphere!
On the way back home, we decided to try Pyli and Mouzaki again – and once again with the same result as before. There were a few dry routes in Mouzaki anyway. So we decided to climb there.
Beautiful place with magnificent walls
Being generally tired of climbing, we devoted the last day for Meteora sightseeing. There are magnificent walls up to hundreds of metres high. Monasteries were built on some of them. It is a really beautiful place! Hopefully, next time we will try some multipitch climbing here.
We had to finish our trip after 3.5 weeks. But it was great to feel some summer in the middle of November and to climb about 40 routes from 7a to 7c+. We have to repeat it this year, I guess.