Kalymnos’ in the chase of the high rocks and the deep sea
It was five in the morning when the boat, which had been travelling for hours in the sea of the Dodecanese islands, arrived at the port of Kos. An hour ago we had passed by our final destination. “To Kalymnos? You must go to Mastichari and take the morning boat that will take you across. That one can take motorbikes in”. We loaded our equipment and we managed to climb on the motorbikes ourselves as well, and we started the way to Mastichari. Thirty-five more minutes of travelling in the dark hours while the humidity pierced us to the bone. Thus, we woke up for good!
Kalymnos is located north of Kos, south of Leros and just a few kilometres away from the ancient site of Halicarnassus, the city that gave birth to Herodotus and is nowadays named Bodrum. The way seems long to those landsmen who take the boat from Piraeus – for the islanders themselves, the trip appears somewhat different. Happily for the first, though, since 10 years now there is also the alternative of an airplane travel; the visitor can now land on the enchanting place of Argos that offers panoramic views to the island. Legends says that the place was named thus by companions of Ulysses which never managed to get back home, unlike the famous hero, after the Trojan War. Back to the present though, the landscape for those arriving there is more than rewarding, especially for those coming from the cloudy north of our globe.
As for us, we chose the longest way to get to the “Sponge-divers Island”, as Kalymnos is famous in Greece as well as abroad. Although one would suppose it, we did not carry with us anything relevant to the diving equipment – instead, we carried all that was necessary to capture the fantastic efforts of hundreds of climbers set out to conquer the steep rock-paths of Kalymnos. In the previous decade, the climbing paths and landscapes of Kalymnos have become famous around the world. The evolution of the sport on this small island of the Southeast Aegean Sea was extremely rapid. This year the Climbing Festvial that had begun within this period was organized by the famous company of climbing equipment THE NORTH FACE. We seized the opportunity to visit Kalymnos those hot days of September in order to record in photographs and video this Festival.
As soon as we set foot on the island we rushed to explore the many climbing areas that offer astonishing views of the blue of the Aegean Sea. “There are more than two thousand climbing routes” explains Arιs Theodoropoulos, a mountaineering and rock-climbing instructor thanks to whose work one can finds these routes today in the rock climbing guidebook. There are certainly many more climbing routes that are still secret and remain unpublished – you can find out about these from mouth-to-mouth word once you are on Kalymnos. If you are a climbing lover, then you will certainly want to be one of the first to explore them! We spend a lot of time from our first day on the island doing reconnaissance trips in order to locate the most interesting points.
The following day, Ares took us to one of these obscure paths that used to be a secret among few and for this reason has been named “the secret garden”. In this garden of wild and most impressing cliffs over the sea we watched about 10-15 people eagerly and happily exploring the vertical ways. “We love Kalymnos because it offers us something unique: the one moment you can be perched on the steepest rock, dripping sweat, and on the other you can dive in the azure waters of the Aegean to cool yourself!” says Ares. As we gaze the landscape we have no doubt that this is a place ideal both for climbers as for those who wish to just enjoy the stay on a Greek island.
The company THE NORTH FACE, which undertook the organization of thisyear’s Climbing Festival on Kalymnos, in addition of the approximately 1.000 participants from all the corners of the globe, invited as well some of the top athletes of the sport to take part in the PRO Competition. Among them were the Pou brothers (Eneko & Iker) from Spain, Daila Ojeida (ESP), Dani Andrada (ESP), Caroline Chiavaldini (FRA), Yuji Hirayama (JPN), Hansjörg Auer (Austria) Argyro Papathanasiou (GR) and others.
The field for the PRO Competition remained utterly unknown to the climbers until the last moment, making it thus something completely new for them. The choice of the route was made by the alpinist Simone Moro, who travelled to Kalymnos long before the Festival in order to prepare and open up new routes. What else could an alpinist have chosen, apart of rough and steep paths? The one hour long way to the field of competition had its starting point right over the famous little monastery of Aghios Panteleimonas. It began as early as possible in the morning, even before the sun began his climb on the celestial dome. When we in turn got to the field of competition, we stood breathless and full of admiration before the amazing panoramic views of the bright Aegean Sea.
We inhaled a deep breath of confidence and sent our mental support to those who were to go on with the Competition. The athletes had a certain time period to complete the four routes. «Venga Dani!», «Venga Iker!», «Venga Yugi!», the excited shouts of the spectators encouraged each of the athletes especially at the most difficult points of their way. It wasn’t long before the sun appeared on the horizon, scorching and unbeatable, signalling the time for the athletes to end their quest.
You can see the official results of the competition HERE, while HERE you can read a more detailed description of each day of the Festival, to which everyone said their goodbyes during the big and full of enthusiasm party that took place on the last night. There we enjoyed ourselves with dance and music until the early hours of the morning. Until next year…