So what is Kalymnos all about? Too hot, too steep, bad infrastructure, an 80 percent share of the global in-situ quick draws – well lets find out.
When to Go
Kalymnos is a climbing jewel, a gem, a real goal scorer out front in the world of sport climbing. Its not a place to go in the full heat of summer but nor is the back of your oven which Kalymnos could be compared with if you decided to go in July. The best times to go are October, November or March, April, May. The first set of two months October and November have the advantage of the sea being very warm after the long oven hot days warming the water to a bath like status. Heading into the second half of November a lot of the restaurants close down giving you less choice of brilliant food. So therefore I recommend going in October if you really want to get a 10 from the judges score cards.
Flying into Kos is the easiest option (although there are others) and from there walk out of the airport and jump on a bus or taxi and head to the Kos port of Mastichari. Once at the port you must locate the small booth from which tickets to Kalymnos can be purchased for around 8 euro’s. Generally the ferries to Kalymnos run an hour or so after the flight that you came in on lands, giving you enough time to get there so don’t worry. If you find yourself having an hour or so wait for the next ferry you could grab an eager Methos (the local beer) and sit at the harbour watching the enormous number of cats that cluster around the restaurants hoping to get some food scrapes. The ferry captains mustache is the next thing you must negociate, passing this is a hairy affair and once onboard you can relax on the top deck and get burnt on your first day or sit below deck and hang out with the locals.
The ferry takes an hour and arrives in Pothia, which is Kalymnos’s largest town and its worth stocking up on cash at this point as a lot of the other cash machines can be a broken, stolen or guarded by locals holding deadly cats. Most people stay in the sea side town of Masouri as it has lots of Hotels and bars to choice from and you can walk from there to most of the crags on the island. Getting to Masouri takes 20 minutes by taxi and costs around 20 euro’s which can be split by you and 3 other random climbers you met on the ferry on the way over. Masouri itself is made up of one main road that runs through it, lined with shops, bars, supermarkets and restaurants. On one side is the beach and on the other climbing. The supermarkets in Masouri are not great but allow you to get enough stuff to be able to survive 9 hours between breakfast and dinner.
Kalymnos Rock Climbing
The climbing on Kalymnos is mainly sports climbing, in less your willing to get off the beaten track with a trad rack and do battle with some cracks that on your next visit will be bolted. So its best to go with a mind set of ‘I am a sports climbing maniac’ and you won’t be disappointed. The routes vary in Kalymnos and this is why it has become so popular, super steep up-side-down jug fests, to crimp pulling slab battles, it has the angles of rock to please and the quality too. Most routes when you look through the guide book have 2 or 3 star and now you will also see the musical note meaning 4 star. That’s right 4 star climbing is musical, apparently the sweet harmonie of Mr muscle power screaming his head off as he pulls on quick draws dogging his way up a steep limestone pitch is musical. No really, all joking a side the routes are good and there lots of them. Many of the routes are 6b and under and there are plenty of garde 5’s to give a great week. Some of the climbing on Kalymnos tends to be in the sun in the afternoon so an early start followed by swimming is most people bag or cover yourself in factor 99 and carry on. Most route are single pitch sports climbs and very well bolted allowing you to push it to the pepsi max but don’t be fooled some routes are up to 80m long so be careful with which route you choose, compared with how long your rope is. Sport climbing is meant to be safer but I’ve seen more accident in the 6 times I’ve been to Kalymnos then anywhere else on the planet. Silly people not thinking, not concentrating and either not holding a fall or lowering there mate off the end of a rope, both of which will stunt your growth and give you an F grade. If you want to go really big then the south face of the island of Telendos has routes up to 350m long at grades from F6a upwards and what’s even more impressive is the bolting on these multi-pitch routes is even better then the single pitch ones. Top effort to the boys and girls with the drills.
One of my favourite days to have is heading across to the island of Telendos a mile off the coast to the east. You can jump on a taxi boat for a small fee and get dropped off on Telendos at one of the crags or at the port, its up to you. On your journey over there you may well see some dolphins splashing around in the water, playing with the bow wave of the boat and it’s great chance to snap some shots. Seeing dolphins on a climbing trip is always a nice extra on a climbing trip and don’t let the captain tell you that he trains them to do this to only his boat – he is full of sh*t. If you choose to get dropped off at the crags you will be planted on the crag of Irox, a great crag with plenty of the whole family, F3’s to F8b. If you don’t like it then head to one of ten other crags all a short walk away and there are more being developed as I am writing this. If you’ve had enough of climbing, or you’ve been spat of the top of your red-point project and have now broken your big toe because you kicked the wall (silly you), don your swim suit and pop your self in the sea as Telendos has amazing snorkelling that is much more interesting then Kalymnos.
Now you been battling with the rock for a few days and you may well feel like a rest day aka the scooter tour. Almost all climbers at some point hire a scooter and use it to go to one of the close crags that can be walked too (lazy buggers) or to go on the island tour. Kalymnos is small and going around the whole island takes only 1.5 hours by scooter and can be cycled in a day if you want to work on your thighs. There a few hills in the way and this gives way to amazing views of other islands and even over to Turkey that can be seen off to the East. The small port towns of Vathy and Rina are charming and boast a few excellent restaurants, great swimming and even some deep water soloing for those that just want to go go go. There are some pleasant churches, sponge museums, souvenir shops and good view’s to visit on your way around. I always like buying a map of the area and if you do you can make your day a real treat.
In the evening Masouri becomes a rather bustling little place with all the climbers back from their day out, keen to tell stories of daring do and mono pulling, the bars pack full and the beer flows. The shops and supermarkets stay open to midnight so there is no need to rush. The restaurants do the same and there are around 20 of them in the one town so getting a good selection isn’t difficult. There is always fresh fish caught that day and cooked on the BBQ, as well as all the Greek regulars and food from home incase your feeling home sick. The prices are reasonable with most mains costing around 8 euros and beer around 2 so its won’t break the bank.
Day after day the sun shines, the sea beckons you in and the people are friendly and inviting. The hardest task is always leaving and I know many people that have extended there trip just because they could. Why not come out and join us for fun, sun, Kalymnos rock climbing and generally having a great time and I can give you the full Kalymnos experience.