Every sport climber dreams of visiting the climbing paradise of Kalymnos at some point in their life. In the October holidays I was lucky enough to be able to travel there.
We flew to Kos and took a ferry over to Kalymnos. On the boat I said something like, “I wonder if I’ll be able to see the rock in the morning,” and everyone just laughed at me. When I woke up I understood why…
There was rock everywhere! My friend took me on a tour of Massouri, on which we met several climbers that we knew from back home, almost 2000 miles away. The tour consisted of restaurants, climbing shops and that was about it – but do you really need much more than that on a climbing island?
Then I had my first taste of Kalymnos climbing. The rock felt super grippy and was the polar opposite of Scottish choss. Even the easy routes were enjoyable. In my opinion, what made Kalymnos so special was the sheer quantity and quality of the rock and the people that I met. There were climbers from all over the world, but everyone was there for the same reason – to enjoy the climbing and have a fab time.
As a competition climber I spend about 98% of my time climbing indoors on plastic. If you want good results in comps you do have to spend a lot of time training. Although I really enjoy it, constant training is tiring both mentally and physically. Going to Kalymnos was just the break I needed. It was more of a rest for my mind than my body, as I was still trying hard routes, but I didn’t have the pressures of competition. It’s such a chilled place where anyone can disconnect from the stress of work, school or training just by climbing.
Not all the routes we did were difficult. One day we went deep water soloing. The sea was a beautiful blue but it looked cold, so my friend and I were too scared to jump in. Her dad pushed her in and I could see what was coming for me but before I had a chance to run away I was in the water too! It may seem surprising (especially as I persuaded myself to jump off the top, about a 7 metre drop) but deep water soloing was quite relaxing. No faffing about with ropes and if we fell, we didn’t have to worry about spraining an ankle on the edge of a pad. The only downside was that climbing with wet shoes made me feel 100 times heavier!
The simple pattern of each day meant I didn’t have to think too much. Wake up, go climbing, swim in the sea, eat dinner, have ice cream, go to sleep, repeat. I thought that doing the same thing each day might get boring but it was the complete opposite of that.
Every sector of Kalymnos had different climbing. The Grande Grotta was one of my favourites. Aside from the fact we had to walk up a steep hill to get there, it was amazing. What I loved was that someone would be giving 100% on their project and everyone at the bottom was supporting them, regardless of whether that project was a 6a or an 8a. Grades didn’t matter, people were just psyched to see other people trying hard. It wasn’t just the Grande Grotta that was like this; most of the sectors were the same. And at crags, when we had chats with people we had never met before, their age, gender and nationality didn’t seem to matter. Everyone was just a climber speaking the universal language of climbing.
As the end of the trip got nearer, both my friend and I could imagine coming out to Kalymnos for a month or two yet still wanting to stay for longer. It’s a paradise that would never get boring. I can now understand why ‘dirtbags’ love their lifestyle – although the thought of living in a van all year round might not seem great, the possibility of being able to climb amazing rock more than compensates.
This was my first taste of a proper climbing holiday and it certainly won’t be my last! I would love to visit Kalymnos again and I’d 100% recommend a visit to anyone considering it. Writing and photos don’t do the place full justice, only being out there gives you the complete experience. If you ever get the opportunity to visit Kalymnos, it’s not one to be missed.
Name: Louise Flockhart