This October I returned to Kalymnos for the 3rd time this year. I had all those plans and was psyched for different projects but from day 1 it was really obvious this would be a very different affair to my last trip to the island. It was a HOLIDAY! I met my group at the airport in a cafe after security barriers. We were all chilling out, taking our time eating and chatting. I was desperate for a coffee and went to buy one after lunch, before making my way to the gate. Walking there I realised I only had 10 mins before they closed the gate and spotted the others ahead when they started to run. So I thought oh crap, I must run too (power in numbers!). It was pretty hard to run with my rucksack, a shopping bag in one hand and the hot coffee in the other. So with a broken heart, I left my coffee behind and pushed on. I nearly threw up but I made it to that plane. We all did!!! We stayed at Artemis studios, at the centre of Masouri. The flats are owned by this lovely chap called Michael. The others have been staying there for a while now, but this was my first time. We sat at his cafe every morning for breakfast which lasted about an hour or two with chatting and laughter (and the occasional game of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire on Jerome’s phone). We would decide which crag to go to by playing a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors which really amused me but I suppose it was the most democratic way of choosing where to go in a group of 14!
We started pretty late on the first 2 days, averaging 3 climbs a day. I was ok with it as I intended to go pretty slow to start with and follow Adrian Berry’s advice to aim to peak later in the trip. I felt strong and was building up momentum nicely. I was feeling happy to sample new sectors and discover new routes. Instead of fixating my mind on the old projects I was accumulating new ones! On the 1st day we went to Iannis where I discovered Petranta 7a+, with its cool steep tufa start and a scary slabby end. On day 2 we went to Zeus. I wasn’t really keen to be honest (maybe it was the smell of the dead goat near us), but there I broke my thing with 6cs and on sighted Blonde, James Blonde. Don’t know why but 6c has been a weird grade for me for a while and I can’t remember finishing a 6c route this year. I also had fun seconding a super tough 7b called Rocklandis. Horrible crux but I think it’s do-able and it might be one to go back to in the future.
On that night we went to the North Face festival beach party and danced all night on the sand to the sound of an Ibiza DJ. It was all very cool and familiar (it reminded me of Brazil). Then the organisers lit a fire in the middle of the dance floor and a bunch of shirtless men started to dance just like caveman around it. It was hilarious. I watched in amazement expecting to start to hear David Attenborough’s commentary in the background at anytime.
All the fun from the previous night meant we all got up pretty late on Sunday morning but still had ambitions to go climbing at the the Grande Grotta. After a few cups of coffee at Cafe OnSight we decided around 2pm that it would be a rest day and made our way to the beach near the port where you can catch the boats to Telendos. It was lovely to lie down on the beach and do nothing. I even had a little swim! Contrary to what the others said – the water was pretty cold! Not too cold for David, Marc and Ian who suddenly, without exchanging a word between themselves, decided to swim across all the way to Telendos. After a few hours they managed to get a lift back from one of the boats and told us all about how they laid flat on the hot concrete floor on the other side to recover from near-hypothermia and had to beg one of the restaurants for some coffee, which they paid later that week when we climbed in Telendos. This sort of illustrates how spontaneous my friends are!
On Monday, we visited a familiar crag, Arginonta. I was so excited to be back there and really keen to have a go on Red Wall. Unfortunately, the crag was heaving with climbers and people were queuing up for Red Wall and other classics. Fortunately, things were a lot quieter down the back and I discovered Electra, a very sequency and bouldering 7a. Enjoyed playing at it a lot but as I got lowered down I really felt my back and found it quite hard to stand up. Didn’t think it was anything serious so did ‘the clever’ thing and carried on climbing, even thought it was hurting. I had a go on Lysistrati 7a+, amazing climb with beautiful features and a lovely heel hook move up a bulge. My sort of climb, which I was clearly going to flash if it wasn’t for my silly head to take over and block me off just before the crux. Once I managed to pull myself together and go for it it felt easy! I was quite angry with myself. I wasn’t trusting my body and I let myself down.
That night I found it nearly impossible to sleep. My back really hurt and I couldn’t find a comfortable position. Still, next morning I made my way up with the group to Galatiani. Nice crag with the steepest approach. Once there, I had a long rest, climbed B2 a not very demanding, slaby 6a+. It didn’t feel quite right, but greedy as I am, I had to try and push it further so I got on the amazing Feuerdorn 7a. No joy there though. The pain wasn’t going away (it was actually getting worse) so I decided to leave the group to go back to Massouri to book an appointment with the local physio, Dimitri. Fortunately, he could see me that evening. He was great. I had an ultrasound treatment and a lovely sports massage. But it was still not enough and I had to take the next day off. Well, I was very upset but hey, if you were to get injured during a climbing trip, Kalymnos is a great place to do it as there are lots of things you can do other than climb. I had 2 breakfasts with 2 different groups of friends, a moped ride around the island and finished it off with a swim then sun bathing whilst reading my sister’s book. Lovely day in the end! In the evening I joined the others for dinner at Kokinidis. Rita’s restaurant. Such a treat!
Next day I was still moving as if I was 90 years old but I couldn’t bear staying behind and set off with the others to Irox, in Telendos. Managed to lead a 6a, The White Rose, a bit awkwardly, but stubborn me decided to test the water a bit more and tried to lead a 6c+, Helvetx, brilliant route! Sustained and pretty technical. However, that didn’t work for me and I came down half way through it. After a few hours, my back was starting to feel better (maybe the stretching and gentle climbing helped after all). Still couldn’t trust my body so to work on my confidence and still get the exercise, I decided to top rope Helvetx, Kyprios Angel, 7a, and Magma (probably the hardest 6b+ on earth! – awkward and slippery). There was hope after all!
On Friday pressure was on to go to Spartacus and finally tick Jellyfish Pie. I didn’t feel ready. My body wasn’t right and neither was my head! I knew my friends only wanted to go there because they knew I wanted to get that tick (to get over that grudge), and I knew they felt guilty for not going there at the beginning of the week when I was all eager and keen. What they didn’t know was that I had already accepted the fact that this wasn’t going to be a ‘ticking’ trip and that I was just happy to carry on exploring new places and enjoying their company.
So I convinced everyone to go to Sikati Cave! The enormous hole in the ground filled with the 3D, tufary routes I love so much in Kalymnos. Getting there is not easy. It takes 15 minutes on the mopeds, 40 minutes walk then a short climb down on a rope. All worth it! The place is magical, if not a little intimidating. I personally didn’t get much climbing done but had the pleasure of watching the others crushing routes such as Laurent… y’ a Quelque’ un, 7c (brilliant onsite for Jerome Curoy!). I still did manage to have 2 goes, and get quite close to doing what is now my favorite project to date. Armata Sikati 7b.
Last day on the island! I was flying back home that evening and felt I had to give Jellyfish Pie a go. Tried to get up early but still, by the time we got the group together and made our way up to the crag it was about 11am! Ian Butler, kindly volunteered to clip the draws and seeing him dripping with sweat and falling off twice didn’t really fill me with confidence. He’s a very strong climber! But weather was very humid and the holds were greasy as hell! My 1st go was all about remembering the moves. Thought they were all there in my head, but not exactly. It took me a few minutes to remember that I deadpointed here or swapped my hands there, etc, etc. Argh! It’s really not that straight forward. 2nd go was a faff fest. Oh my God, I really had to have a little chat with myself! Sort it out girl! It’s all there. You’ve done it all before. Just go for it! I did. Was looking and feeling strong and fluid on my 3rd go. Unfortunately, my foot slipped just as I was going through what I call the 3rd crux. That was my last chance as I had run out of time. I was upset, but at the same time I was proud of myself as I did give it all on that last go. No hesitation. I suppose it was just not meant to be. At least not this time! 😉 P.s: Thanks to all my wonderful friends for the support and making me smile so much. Especial thanks to Liz, Fred and Rich for carrying my gear around! You guys rock! Xxx