Australia is probably THE destination that every traveler wants to visit at some point, because it’s so far and rimes with adventure, roadtrip and wilderness! For us it was obvious to put it in our destination list, especially because of the famous climbing destination it offers. Actually, Australia was the first destination of the trip, before we decided to add to stops in Europe. In 2008, Charlotte spent 10 days in the Blue Mountains, so we wanted to try another spot : the Grampians! Located North-East of Melbourne it is the ideal destination, because of all the different type of climbing it has (all of them ?!), the proximity of the big city if we wanted to do some work, and last but not least, our friend Steve (who we met when living in Montpellier) lives in Melbourne. For the previous 3 months leading up to our trip, we exchange tons of email with Steve, mostly logistic and when to meet each other. For some further goal later in the trip, we booked Australia for 45 days starting in November, definitively not the best season for rock climbing as it is the start of their summer, but we figured we could find some good shade spot of even do night sessions.
On November 2nd, we landed in Melbourne, pick-up our rental car (which we were pleased to get an upgrade from “compact” to “SUV”) and went to the Northside bouldering gym in Northcote, to meet up with Steve who welcomed us with crashpads (we didn’t fly with any but had some coming from Petzl later), the Grampians bouldering guidebook and a homemade bread. What wonderful first few hours we got in Australia! After that, we drove 3h-ish to the Grampians and checked-in at the Mt Zero Log cabin with the owner Angela, located 5mins away from the Northern Grampians and here we were, settled down in our cabin for a month and a half.
Our plan : climbing ! This is gonna be one of the rare destination where our only plan and goal is to climb and get into projects. We started to flip the guidebook pages and we were chocked (in a good way) how dense the sectors are, some World Famous boulders being so close to each other!
Surprisingly when we arrived the temps were pretty nice, having us put long sleeves and beanies. On our first day, totally jetlagged, we wanted to make it easy with not too much hiking and we ended up at the Kindergarten. Amazing amazing AMAZING rock in orangey-white colors that has unique wavy features. One of a kind that none of us has never seen before. What a treat for our first day, we had no idea! We climbed a bunch, trying easy and intermediate boulders, tempting our fingers on some harder lines. The rock and moves quality were so pleasant! We hiked out on the sun set, thrilled by those long days which added 4 hours of daylight compared to our previous stop in Serbia.
The next day, we met up with Steve and his family : his wife Kate, and their two adorable kids Tommy and Suzy. We went to Andersens and once again we climbed around to check out the moderates up to V6. We finished the day up in the hill, where we checked out the famous Hollow Moutain Cave.... just WOW! That day, we stated something that we’ve been noticing few times and that confirmed later on : no photos nor videos can truely show you the beauty and unicity of places. The HMC is definitively a unique climbing sector. We played in there a little bit, and Josh grabbed an awesome send of Dead can’t dance, V11. To watch the sunset, we went a few hundred meters higher at Loopeys where we climbed around and contemplated the evening colors on the impressive Taipan Wall.
Finally, before a first rest day, we wanted to climb a bit more and get some volume in, so on our 3rd day we went back to Andersens and climbed a bunch of V7 (seems like half the boulders are V7 here) and also “Pumped Action” V9 (only Cha tried it and flashed it... you know by the name why Josh didn't want to try it !), and the beautiful and tricky “Etch-a-sketch” V10, flashed by Josh and sent 2nd go for Cha after figuring out her own twisty beta!
“Ammagamma” has been our zen word since we left for our trip, mostly for Josh because it's the name of a boulder problem on his dream list. Most climbers have a "dream list" whether it's just in their head or written down somewhere arbitrary, we all have goals and dreams. Ammagamma has been one of those for Josh since we booked our flights. This is Josh’s words when we arrived to the Citadel sector : ”Walking up to the boulder (this is going to sound weird) I was nervous; like the blind date feeling of "what if they are annoying, or smelly, or their headshots online were photoshopped?" I walked around the corner - palms sweating - to find it near perfect. She didn't smell bad, she looked fine, she even had a shimmer of sun on the topout for me. I quickly warmed up and started to session on my blind date...my dream boulder. I worked through all the moves, the intricate toe-hooks, the subtle finger positioning in the good/bad pockets and figured out the topout. The entire boulder revolves around a big dynamic right hand jump to a flat, rounded edge. I was very far from sticking on my first try, then after the subtle foot and momentum beta, pretty much stuck it and fell trying to put my feet back on. STOKED!”.
We left the boulder after it started to get warm and went around the corner in the “Between the sheeps” sector where Cha wanted to try "When we were Kings" 8A/ V11. It’s a boulder made for Char, steep (nearly a roof) with pockets, and power-endurance focused with a few mini cruxes. She tried it once, fell, worked through the moves quickly, rested, then sent it, making it her 2nd boulder of the grade, a great surprise at the beginning of the trip here!
Arrival of the heat wave
We found out pretty soon that afternoon climbing is relatively impossible as all the boulders (at least the one we wanted to try) are facing the sun in the afternoon, which became extremely hot (like 30°C minimum). Well, we were warned, it's the summer here and in the summer, it's hot, and yes, it just arrived in the Grampians, few days after our arrivals. So we dragged our pads in different sectors and eventually found some shaddy spot (not temps dependant boulders) like "Butcher choice" V10 in the Trackside sector, that Josh flashed and Cha sent 1st go after figuring out her own beta (again!).
Our projects not being climbable in the heat, the next days we decided to take full advantage of the climbing around and drove a bit further, checking out the Campground sector (not so interesting but wins the “least hiking” reward) and even further, the Cave of Man Hand sector in the Southern Grampians. It is an incredible little cave with crazy features and holds. We played around in the moderates, loving the compression of "The pummelling" V4. We both got a flash of "Cold hands, cold heart" V8, and then Josh kept going with sending "Manhandled" V8 and impressively (Charlotte speaking here) flashing the powerful V10 "The sound of one man hand slapping".
While in the South, we checked out the sector “Bleachers” with Steve and fam and spent a chill midday climbing around on everything that had a good look.
Meeting the Tiger
After a lot of bouldering, which felt great after almost 2 month of route climbing, we packed up the rope and quickdraws and head out to the Muline sector, a southern Grampians shaddy wall. The hike was tough, the temperature just keeping to increase. Also we noticed that the trail was not super well maintained so we had to kinda scroll through the Jungle, which is kinda weird judging by the reputation of the sector! You don’t know Muline? Then you have to know it’s most famous climbs : “Eye of the Tiger” .
After some minutes of silence to admire the so-call route and all the amazing swirly colorful rock around, we opened the guidebook, getting all psyched to climb. 5 minutes later we had our harnesses on and we warmed up on the classic " Krankandangle" 24/7a+. Then Cha started to climb on the "Eye of the Tiger" 29/8a, and here is what was on her mind : “both excited and intimidated, I was pretty sure I would be dominated by this monster. But while I passed the steepest part with a nice physical twisty beta, I felt like I was not allowed to fall after that. The end was definitively very challenging and it probably took me a while to reach the chains. But damn, this is probably my proudest and most emotional onsight, not for the grade, but for the its charisma !”. Josh followed the send train with an awesome flash of the route and let us tell you, we were psyched.
We then just moved left to try "The flying Duck" 32/8b+, which starts in "Krankandangle" for a bolt and then crosses the face (while hanging at the lip of the roof) to finish same as "Eye of the Tiger". We solved all the moves surprisingly very fast but struggled all day with the temperature, being 35°C in the shade. Finally, in the evening the temperatures got much nicer, probably 10°C less hot with a nice little breeze. So even if we were tired from our previous tries, we went back in the route and finally sticked the big move, making our way to the anchor. It was a nice reward to send this 8b+, and overall a good day, with a nice lesson learned : on the hot days, work some projs when it's the hottest, but do not ruin yourself doing some real tries, just wait for the last 2h of the day when it's getting much nicer out.
First injury and aborted trip
Something happened on the send of “Flyin Duck” : while lowered down, Josh felt an intense pain on his right side, kind of where the ribs are, and the pain never disappeared in the next days. So he went to a Sport Physio (luckily a climber, who can understand the climbing movements) and got diagnosed with a torn oblique, injury highly enhanced by how dehydrated we were that day. The recovery ? Rest for few weeks, with no real “deadline” as the rule is “climb when you don’t feel it anymore. A hard punishment only 10 day into the Australian trip, but we took it with intelligence. Indeed, we know that, climbing and pushing ourselves non-stop, we will inevitably get inured at some point, we just didn’t think it would happen that fast. And to remove a bit of remorse, it just stayed super hot so trying hard was not feasible. Later on, sweating and suffocating on another hot day, we actually decided to abord the trip in Australia. Having some duties in Melbourne at the end of the month, we couldn’t leave any sooner, but that was a nice landmark to leave to New-Zealand just after this, shortening our Australian stop at 1 month instead of 1 and a half. With about 10 days left in the Grampians, we took full advantage of it.
Sport and Trad climbing
- The Taipan Wall! Finally we walk to it and put our bags below it. We actually started to the right hand side of it, in a short sector called Spurt! Only Cha was able to climb, and she experienced some very reachy moves, as quoted “I felt pretty short on those routes as I had to do some big lock-offs and dynos, but it was very fun until a certain point when it became upsetting”. Her favorites routes in the area were “Dial-a-Lama” 24/7a+ for warm-up, “The invisible fist” 26/7b+ (probably the best one) and “Tyranny” 29/8a.
On another day, we came back for “Serpentine” 29/8a, a gorgeous and iconic mixed route in the middle of Taipan Wall. Luckily for Cha, the gear was all in place, thank's to a "Lincoln" who was projecting the route, and that made the experience a lot nicer. We ascended our way up the static rope to an anchor about 30m high, where the 42m pitch starts. Then, Cha tells “I took off and did the few first moves on the roof, but was totally blind on the next holds, so Josh took me on the first bolt, so I could see where to go after the roof. He lowered me to the anchor, and I started again, passing the roof and passing slowly every difficulty all the way to the top for a almost-onsight send of this awesome route. Somehow, just like "Eye of the Tiger" I was impressed by the route and the powerful meaning of it (not by the grade), really thinking I'd have to project it and come back for it another day. Climbing it "1st go" (mostly onsight in my heart, because it matters for me) added so much more to the experience... this is a badass route and I'm psyched I got to climb in the middle of the Taipan Wall ! “.
Climbing on the Taipan Wall was definitively an intense experience, especially because of the engagement of the routes, which we honestly don't understand the point of... if you bolt, why not make it fully safe?! For example, Cha tried “Groovy” and we’d have to say it was pretty sketchy... the bolts where far, and if she felt any time between the ground and the 3rd bolt (1st bolt being probably 20m high), she would probably have broken both her legs. We’ve got some explanation from the locals, which kinda make sense : when the area was first developed, bolters wanted their names on a maximum of the routes and on the first ascents, so they just throw a minimum amount of bolts (those being costly) and sent their proj before moving on to the next one. As the routes have been like this forever, locals don’t want to change the way it is (by adding few bolts) in those older (awesome) lines… Sure! Though we still had the feeling that those “ethics” made this amazing wall not so good to climb.
- Bundaleer, a sector that we’ve never heard of, but a must-see! We actually joined our Aussie family for a weekend down there, and we were pleasantly surprised by this sector. It’s located in the southern Grampians and is a 40 (ish) meters high cliff band, more on the vertical side. It has a good variety of trad routes and sport routes. The first thing we noticed was the colors of the wall, sometimes “normal” grey, but sometimes almost black, orange, yellow, blue and even purple. The second thing was the crazy pocket features in some routes, one almost looking like a hangboard in a middle of a blank face.
Kate and cha went on a little mission together up “the Minch”, a very easy chimney trad climb. Cha led it, as she wanted to revise gear placement. The route was ultra fun, and apparently gear were placed pretty good, even if Cha’s confidence took a while to come back.
Then Cha climbed with Steve an awesome route called "Manic Depressive" 24/7a+ which follows a steep arete but climbs on the slab part of it with very good pockets.
Finally, after Steve send his project "Touchstone picture" 28/7c+ on his 1st go of the day, he left the quickdraw so Cha gave it a go. It took her few tries to pass the bottom crimpy crux, having to find a tricky high foot beta to overpass a reachy move, and then she made it to the anchor, flashing the rest of the route. What a cool line ! It goes through incredible features that looks just like the hangboard we mentioned before, and finishes on a technical diedre. Both “Touchstone…” and “Manic” were on the spaced-out-bolts, but nothing very endangering; although I wouldn’t take the whipper at the end of the (easy) slab of “Manic…”.
- Wall of fools, why not ?! After few very hot days, we were down working on our computers, so we figured we might as well taste (test?!) what other things the Grampians have to offer. So on a disgustingly hot (we like the expression because that’s how it felt at some point, especially when some humidity came into play), we decided to go do some easy trad route and we picked the sector "Wall of fools", about 5min from the parking lot so we don't lose 2L of water sweating during the hike ;) . We loved the look of the wall : little cliff band, probably 15-20m high, beautiful colorful stripes. The only downside is that there is no anchor so you have to top out and the second has to climb top rope so that both climbers then walk around to go back to the bottom. We climbed some nice routes, remembered how to place gear - or run out like in “Soweto” 21/6c. We also played in “Arch Enema” 24/7a+ a pretty cool bolted line that goes behind an arch, in a very narrow chimney! Super fun!
- Eureka wall… Eureka! Damn the Grampians has a lot of secret jewels. We made our way down there one day and we were absolutely enchanted by the beauty of this hidden gem! Cha’s main goal was to climb “Archimedes principles” a long 25/7b trad that follows a beautiful strikes through the main part of the face. After looking at the route and reading the guidebook, we didn't know if we had the good trad gear, and especially enough of it. As our experience in trad is pretty low, we didn't want to go for it, which we think was a safe idea. Luckily, two dudes were rappelling from the anchors when we arrived, and we were able to put our rope in top-rope up there. So, as weird as it sounds, Cha sent the route top rope, placing the gear on her way (climbing and unclimbing because it would be too runned out) and it took her about 1h30 to reach the anchor, 40m high! Then she came down and left the gear in place, and went for a quick lead send, with a big storm rolling around the corner. We are pretty stoked we went there and got to climb this amazing route, especially it made some stunning epic pictures!
Through our heat fight, we had couple nice options to refresh ourselves : the super cold pool at our place, the MacKenzie falls down south (30-ish minutes drive from our place) or the winery caves in Halls Gap to refresh our palate. Actually, The Grampians are famous for the wine, and we totally agreed as we found some really nice Shiraz, a grape variety that we are not used to in Europe and USA.
Last few days in Australia
The evening before we left the Grampians, the temps somehow got chilly (meaning 15-20°C) so we wanted to enjoy some good conditions and went where we started : Kindergarten”. At that point Josh was definitively bummed to not have climbed much (more than two weeks since his injury) and felt really unsatisfied, so despite the injury, he wanted to give one more session to the Grampians. We arrived around 6pm, but it was very hot still. Although later, the wind blew very strong, bringing a nice breeze in the wall, drying it from humidity and cooling it from the heat. We tried "So you think you can dance" V11/8A, a gorgeous wavy boulder that we tried on our first day, and we made some very good links on it. Cha couldn't do some moves (missing some reach and some finger strength) but Josh, all taped up on his right side was looking good, imperturbable. When the wall got in the shade, we went for a send... and sent it smoothly, perfectly. We think we can call that a happy ending!
When leaving the Grampians to Melbourne, we head down South to drive along the coast. It makes the drive much longer, so we took two days for it, willing to enjoy a bit of down time by the Ocean. We stopped in Portland, which we did not really find interesting, but we witnessed a perfect sun set from Cape Nelson. The day after, awaken by awesome birds singing, we went to the beach for breakfast while watching sunrise. We continued our journey along the coast and stopped at beautiful beaches and nature follies - including the 12 Apostles, no so “unique” because you have to share the view with hundreds other tourists while there are actually the same (if not better) kind of “rock towers in the ocean” a little before on the west. Most recommended café:Breakfast stop along the coast in the town Port Fairy, and highly recommended lunch stop at the Basalt Wines in Killarney.
We ended our Victorian journey in Melbourne where we stayed a few days, hanging with our Australian family and with the crew at Northside boulders. We got to set for their Christmas comp at the Brunswick location which was super fun with a cool crew led by Reuben. And we also did a coaching session with a young squad at the brand new Northcote location. Melbourne is a cool town! Besides the fact that it’s just on the ocean and only 3h to the Grampians, it has some really awesome neighbourhood like Brunswick which we really really like for all the restaurants, the chill vibe and multi-cultural atmosphere!
For the end
The Grampians were beautiful. So much rock. Classic rock. New rock. Untouched rock. So many possibilities. The rock was beautiful and we felt liek living in a very colourful world for a month. Added to that, we felt just enough remote, enjoying the wilderness and big spaces of the region. So many animals too, everyday we saw an animal, it being a colorful bird, a walabi, a flat tail or other little lezard.
We feel that we didn't take full advantage of the Grampians and the region, obviously because of the heat. We missed out on a few things, for example climbing in Mt Arapiles, so close to us. That made our “Goodbye” to the country a little sad and sorry to not have enjoyed it more… but in the same time, we have both agreed that we will be back for sure, who knows how long, who knows if it’s only gonna be in Victoria, but our Australian appetite needs to be satisfied!
Krankandangle, 7a+, C and J
Touchstone Picture, 7c+, C
Tyranny , 8a, C
Serpentine, 8a, C
Eye of the Tiger, 8a, C and J
Flying Duck, 8b+, C and J
Lygon St Massacre , V3, C and J
Good man down, V3, C
Fashion, Gramps, V4, C
The Pummelling, V4, C and J
Master bates, V5, C and J
Wimmel Friedhoff, V5, C and J
Hands up, V5, C and J
Riding shotgun, V6, C and J
Hands down, V6, C and J
Falsh Gordon, V7, C and J
The Nevin Rule, V7, C and J
Rodeo girl, V7, C and J
Rise of the machines, V7, C and J
Mr Knox, V7, C and J
Mr Fox, V7, C and J
Bitch slap, V7, C and J
Underhanded tactics, V7, C and J
Caffeinator, V8, C and J
Spanking the Monkeybar, V8, J
Rave heart, V8, J
Ammagamma Stand, V8, C and J
Cold hands Cold heart, V8, C and J
Manhandled, V8, J
Pump Action, V9, C
Stand to a Sit, V9, J
Cave man, V9, C and J
Lost for Life stand, V9, J
Etch-a-sketch, V10, C and J
Butcher's Choice, V10, C and J
The Sound of One Man Hand Clapping, V10, J
When we were Kings, V11, C
Dead can't Dance, V11, J
So you think you can Dance, V11, J
Nothing really out of ordinary (compared to US and France)… although we can highlight the lamb, which was in abundance and very yummy. We also noticed a great diversity as far as multi-cultural food and restaurants.
Let’s put it straight: Serbia has never been a place in our mind to visit, neither for sight seeing nor climbing. But this changed mid 2016, when Josh has been contacted by Outdoor Collective, an NGO based in Belgrade, to attend the Reel Rock 11 Tour premieres in Serbia and do some clinics for the local climbers. Financed through the American Embassy, he spent about 10 days in November (actually while Charlotte was in Greece with the Alpine Club), traveling from town to town and discovering the gyms and the cliffs that the small country offers. When he came back from his stay, it took him about a week (Charlotte speaking here) to come back to “real life”… his head was still with the kind people he met and in the beautiful gorges he climbed at. So after talking a bit more about it, it was decided: Serbia would be our second destination of the trip.
We first reached out to Djuk at Outdoor Collective, to offer our help for anything like clinics, talks, slideshow, clinics. In the little community, it was a great opportunity for the climbers to learn and discover a bit more through our eyes and experiences. Thanks to the American Embassy in Belgrade, willing to help and promote the development of climbing in Serbia, we got some budget to come over and tour in the Country. The planning was to spend the first week in Belgrade, our weekends in gyms for some events, and move to a town called Nis, in the south, where there is plenty of climbing and developing to be done.
A WEEK IN BELGRADE
When we arrived, we were welcomed by Simone, who offered to host us for our stay in Serbia with his wonderful wife Aleksandra and daughter Milena. Our (their) place was right downtown, with a stellar view on the Saint Sava Temple, which was quite enjoyable to look at from the living room window. The family of three was absolutely adorable and we felt just like home, spending some great times with them.
The day after we arrived was Josh’s birthday, and we met up with Outdoor Collective and a bunch of friends and head to have a late pizza lunch on a boat restaurant. The local prepared a surprise for Josh’s birthday, with a big cake and gifts (Rakia!!!), which was really awesome and a nice opportunity for Cha to meet everybody.
In the next days, we visited different gyms (clubs and personal walls) in Belgrade, trained, coached a bit and did a talk downtown to introduce us and the trip, and do a slideshow about Social Media and sponsoring. It was quite interesting to brainstorm together about it and propose a didactic presentation. A week later, we went to Krucevac to do a clinic, and later on, the Serbian Federation asked us to set the bouldering nationals, which we did and it was a lot of fun !
We also went to the outdoor sectors around Belgrade :
We spent most of our time in Serbia next to a main town called Nis. A bit to the east of it, in Niska Banja, we had a small apartment, a bit old, smelly and not really at the norms. The best (worst) part was the bathroom, which had no shower but a hose coming out of the sink, with a power outlet a few centimeters away, and naked wires on the top of the wall. We will for sure remember it !
Climbing in Sicevo and Jelasnica
For discovering the place and getting some video content, we climbed a few days in the Jelasnica Gorge, which is probably the oldest and biggest climbing area in Serbia. It’s a narrow pretty gorge surrounded with short cliff bands and cliff towers, made of mostly a nice compact grey limestone. There, Charlotte sent “Future Land” 8b which is, as for today, the hardest route in the gorge.
However there are few projects sprinkled along the gorge, and judging by their difficulty when we tried a few of them, Future Land will not remain the hardest route for a long time.
We played in two other sectors: in the obvious little H2O cave, where Josh re-sent “H2O”; and in a beautiful slabby pillar where Cha climbed “Zilet”.
To the North of Jelasnica is the Sicevo gorge, which is also known for climbing in the area, but it’s much bigger than Jelasnica and has much more potential and diversity. We spent a nice day climbing here with Jonathan, Djuk, Velko and Alex, and Josh went up to film a beautiful 8a+ we sent last year : Eagle’s Milk.
Developping a new area
Actually on the first day we drove down in Nis area, Djuk and Veljko gave us a tour of the Sicevo gorge, so we can put an eye on some potential to develop. Our eyes were caught by so many untouched cliffs and pillars of all forms, but our heart was instantly trapped on a massive cave that we could see for only a tiny part of the day. It was decided : that would be our mission for the rest of the trip.
The first difficulty to start developing the cave was simply to reach it. The road is across the river from it, and the river is not just a “jump across” type of river. Our first try was to drive on a tiny old road to reach the top of the hill. We arrived on a very old village where we asked for some kind of directions towards the cave, but they actually had no idea about it. So we parked and meandered our way through. When we got close enough to the top of it, we realized it would be too steep and too long to go down, especially to go back up.
So we turned around and decided to go back on the main road, and try to cross the river anyway. Josh sacrificed and we were then able to set up a tyrolean with a fixed rope. We then made our way through the bushes and up the steep hill, crossed a rail track (pretty cool) and kept walking up the steep hill side, up to the cave. Our first word was WOW ! It was much bigger than we thought from the ground, and you could already here us saying the many obvious lines we were thinking to bolt!
In the next few days, which Daniel (a local climber/bolter) we created the trail, which required some serious switchbacks, we put up few fixed ropes to help going up, and we installed a real cable tyrolean to replace our rope. It was a fun challenge as neither Josh nor I had ever done that before. Good thing we could find all the gear and tools necessary at a hardware store down in Nis.
8th route : it is not done yet, but it’s gonna be a nice team work between us and Daniel, as we put the first few bolts, and he promises to finish the bolting when he comes back.
We’d have to say, the cave is hard ! We only sent 1 route out of the 5 we bolted.
Our stay in Nis and in Serbia in general was totally highlighted by the people we got to spend time with: Climbing with the Belgrade crew, working at the cave with Daniel, hanging out with the Casettas, barbecues at Nesa’s and Gaga’s, diners at Burka and most importantly , spending a lot of time with Djuk and Velko… Thank you all for these times!
First rule of fight club, 7a+, C and J
Zilet, 7b+, C
H2O, 8a, J
Future land, 8b, C
Cheese bread (don't know the name)
Our 18 Months World Tour started in Greece, on August 31st of 2017. To be honest, Greece was not supposed to be part of the plan when we were looking at places and dates. Indeed, Charlotte’s PhD was planned to finish in June 2017, so when we started planning in September 2016, we preferred having a “safety period” just in case she got delayed in her work. So we actually defined a trip start on November 2017, with Australia. Back then we didn’t have any European destination in our calendar, because we had a good tour over the last few years already. When Charlotte finished writing her manuscript at the beginning of May (with the Trip as motivation) we knew we could start the trip sooner than November, and this is why we added Greece as our first stop, more specifically the climbing area called Kyparissi.
Why Kyparissi? Charlotte visited this place in October during a bolting/climbing trip with the French Alpine Club and came back amazed by the bolting potential, this beautiful remote place and charmed by their host in Cavo Kortia. It was a place to return, for both of us.
Our journey started in France, at Charlotte’s place, from where her dad drove us to the airport in Lyon for an afternoon flight. We checked-in 55kg of luggage, and carried our carry-ons (for sure heavier than the allowance) through customs after a last hug to Charlotte’s dad. Between excitement and a bit a premature nostalgia, this was the beginning of our long adventure together.
We arrived in Athens late afternoon, and Alexandra, our Airbnb, picked us up to bring us to our studio for a quick night of sleep. In the morning, she dropped us back at the airport, we picked up our rental car and hit the road for a 3h-ish drive south to Kyparissi.
Kyparissi is a little village and the east sea side on Peloponnese, the peninsula south of Athens. To reach it, you have to wander a good hour on windy roads, in the middle of hills and lemon tree fields. The access gives a upper view on the white houses covered with their red roofs. On the background, the infinite Mediterranean sea, doted with a couple islands, is outlined by plenty of pebble beaches and clear blue water.
When we arrived, mid afternoon, we went straight to the hotel Cavo Kortia, where we had exchange emails to book for our entire stay. We were delighted that the owner, Nectaria, recognize Charlotte from her previous visit. But due to miss-understanding in the email, we had to spend our first three nights in the hotel Alkyoni down the road. A little disappointment passed away, we couldn’t have been more satisfied with this intermediate apartment fully furnished a cute little patio with view on the sea, and a 5 min walk down to the water.
To get used to the travel, the area and the temperature (35°C in the shade), we first climbed in the sector of Watermill, which is probably the most obvious sector because you see it easily when driving and it’s only a 5min approach. This wide orange wall is made of thousands of tufas and stalactites, just like the Grande Grotta in Kalymnos. After few warm-ups and both sending a cool 8a called “Zarax”, we tried the 8a+ “ Ya Kyparissi Ksésec” and the 8b “Medusa’s blood” . Those routes were neat but we felt incapable on them, kinda suffering from the heat and the travel fatigue, at least that’s what we hopped!
On the following rest day we moved out from Alkyoni and moved in in Cavo Kortia, where we spread our stuff everywhere to feel like home, and that’s how we felt the all way in this place. No direct view on the sea from our room (we only had to walk 5m away… not a big deal), but a quiet place, very beautiful because all made of rocks and neat white walls. With the people here welcoming us like their family -Helena the maid, Nectaria the co-owner, Sarado (alias Forty) the waiter, and all the other faces we saw everyday- we felt at our ease here. At the end of this first rest day, partly spent on the dreamy beach, we already knew we were in an idyllic environment here in Kyparissi.
BABALA – CLIMBING AND BOLTING
When coming to Kyparissi, our main motivation was to bolt in the sector of Babala. So on our first hike up, we carried most of the bolting gear. We still wanted to climb first so we went all the way to the right of the cliff, where we enjoyed climbing the cool 8a+ “Octoplus”. Then, Charlotte really wanted to head back to “Partage de l’adage” a 8b that she bolted but didn’t get to send last year. So we crossed the all cliff on the other direction, our eyes up in the walls to find attractive lines to bolt. After a first go to remember everything, Charlotte happily sent “Partage…” and Josh gave some promising goes too. On the next following days, we couldn’t resist but start bolting a line we spotted.
To start bolting, Josh first went to the top of the cliff from “Partage…” anchor, and dropped a rope down in the chosen lane, about 300m to the left. The Babala sector is very convenient for bolting, because it has a ledge located about 50m up, reachable by foot from the extreme right, allowing a convenient top-down bolting. We spent a few days on this line, bolting and cleaning it, and even saw a see-through white scorpion on the wall behind a broken flake. Once this line cleaned, Charlotte went on top of the cliff again and moved the static line 10m to the right to start bolting a second route. These two routes start from a common and convenient ledge, where we left our gear in a tree every night. While flipping a rock to make this ledge more comfortable, Josh found a bigger and black scorpion, ready to attack (but no drama). Considering the two scorpions we saw few days apart, we decided to call our ledge the “Scorpion ledge”, the first route “Tarsus Manus” (for the name of their claws) and the second route “Scorpio”.
We spent two days bolting the line, the lower overhang taking the most time. Due to the tufas, the cleaning took us two full days as well. For the following two weeks we spent different sessions trying it - between more cleaning, bolting and climbing. We figured out every move at the first session, and started doing some good links up on the second part. The first part remained pretty intense, and we always had to stop once or twice on the crux. We had to wait the last day of the trip, when the temperatures actually dropped down quite a bit, to finally imagine going through the first crux from the ground. Charlotte broke the spell and sent it on September 24th. For the grade, we both agreed on a solid 8c.
This beautiful line got us busy for three days : One day bolting it, one day cleaning it and one day sending it, back to back, calling it a 8a.
More climbing in Babala
After a lot of time getting distracted by the routes on our Scorpion ledge, we decided to head back to where we were the first day, in the 8b “Partage de l’Adage”, so Josh could go for the send. A first try to put the quickdraws and remember the moves were enough for Josh, who clipped the chains on his second try after an epic and rewarded battle. He started the send train, a common theme during this trip in Greece. Indeed, Charlotte tried “Watt Didier doux” 8b+, a beautiful slabby single tufa that two of her mates bolted during the French Alpine Club she attended the year before. Back then, the conditions where damp, leaving not much chance for the send of this low textured flat tufa. But during our trip, conditions where much better, which allowed Charlotte to grab the first ascend of the route, confirming it at 8b+.
TOP REST DAY ACTIVITIES AROUNG KYPARISSI
We want to say that there is not much rest day activities, but it would be hard to complain about it : picking a beach, laying ones towels down and going for a swim in the Mediterranean. There are many beaches along the coast of Kyparissi, and if you drive a bit further away, you kind find some really unique ones too. Beta to our favorite one : hit the road like if you were going to the Babala parking lot, and just after the last turn before it, take the dirt road that goes down for about 25min. Park where you can’t drive down anymore, under an olive tree and walk for 3min until this perfect little secret cove. Good luck with us : we had masks and snorkels that we bought at the little supermarket, and we were able to do some cool snorkeling.
This is absolutely a must-go if you are in Kyparissi. We heard about that place quite randomly at a restaurant terrace in Kyparissi during a rest day We started the conversation with a German lady (whose 2-year old daughter was coming to our table to play) and were exchanging some good beta about the surroundings when she strongly recommended Monemvasia, describing it as “an old fort on a peninsula”. So we went on one of the following rest days, first starting with a 1h 15m drive. From the road we picked, we reached the peninsula its eastside. We were first impressed by the very big shape that we observed form far on the road, a peninsula outlined by very steep and tall cliffs, on top of which we could guess the old fort shape. When we approach by car, crossing the bridge to the peninsula, we were ready to hike for a while to the top, and even find a gondola that would bring us up there. Instead, we bumped into a long wall with a small vaulted door. We passed the door, and what we found on the other side was not what we expected at all! We found beautiful old little village made of narrow little streets and beautiful decoration everywhere. We couldn’t help ourselves but wander for hours in these streets, going from well maintained streets to trails in the middle of ruins. We finally decided to sit down at a little terrace and eat some yummy food. We spied a few people coming wet from a street lower, so after lunch we decided to adventure ourselves in the direction of the sea, which was hardly reachable due to the fortress wall all along the coastline. Although another little vaulted door brought us on the sea level, on a nice platform made in the middle of the rough rocks, with a pool ladder (yes yes) going into the sea. We both jumb in the perfect water, swam away from the coast and turned around to realize how much of a crazy unique place we were in, lucky to be able to inhale these experience. We finished our visit all the way to the top of the peninsula, where an archeological site was left open, giving us a beautiful view on the town and on the horizon.
MEETING THE LOCAL GREEK COMMUNITY
Movie-making days in Kyparissi
Leading up to the trip, we were in contact with Aris Theodoropoulos, probably the most famous and most active greek climber and bolter. We arrange few days together in Kyparissi, in order to film some kind of promotional movie for Kyparissi. Aris arrived with his sweet wife Katie and there friend George (at least it’s the English way to say its name). Andreas Markou, a professional photographer and climber from Athens also joined us to be the cameraman of the trip. For the film, we pretty much went to film routes in all the main sectors around Kyparissi. We discover two new cliffs: Kastraki, just above the town; and Kapsala, 15min north along the coast, actually just above the sea. We also went back to the first sector we went to, Watermill, where we had the opportunity to try again the 8b Medusa’s blood. With about 10°C less and a lot more endurance than our first visit, the route felt much easier, and we both sent it during this day. Our favorite day was probably when we took a small boat to go to Vlychada, a little sector on the beach, about 30min (boat ride) south of Kyparissi. In Vlychada we climbed some classics, like "Tuffa tango", and explore the surroundings!
Coaching and talk in Athens
Between a ferry and plane, we spent an evening in Athens, and it was a super opportunity for us to meet the local youth team at EOS Acharnon, led by Anastasio. We spent few hours climbing with them and were very impressed by their motivation! Then, we did a little talk, accompagnied with a slide show and some videos to a larger audience. It was nice to see people coming to hear us sharing our experience! EOS Acharnon also let us sleep on the climbing mats in the gym, which was pretty convenient to pack all our things.
When planning our trip, we really wanted to follow “a plan”, so we don’t miss the good periods for some places. But we always told ourselves: “let’s keep it open",just in case we get some cool opportunities along the way, which would be unfortunate to miss. Our first one didn’t waste time! When talking with our friends Katie and Aris about the never-ending route climbing potential in Greece, we asked if there was any bouldering and they mentioned some little spots around Athens. And then Katie opened her eyes very wide, like if she had a big idea, and said “Tinos, the island of Tinos”. She described it as big hills covered with boulders, in a little Island in the Cyclades, east of Athens… So we changed our plans in Greece a little bit, and booked a ferry to spend our last 2 days there, and it indeed was a big idea!
We arrived at night and met up with Manthos, a friends of Andreas, who gave us some pads and some directions to camp close to one of the bouldering area : Vorax. When we got there, we had no idea of the landscape because it was dark, and we set up the tent in a flat spot, curious to see the surroundings. How did we we feel when we woke up and looked outside? Impressed would be an understatement. We arrived at night and met up with Manthos, a friends of Andreas, who gave us some pads and some directions to camp close to one of the bouldering area : Vorax. When we got there, we had no idea of the landscape because it was dark, and we set up the tent in a flat spot, curious to see the surroundings. How did we we feel when we woke up and looked outside? Impressed would be an understatement.We arrived at night and met up with Manthos, a friends of Andreas, who gave us some pads and some directions to camp close to one of the bouldering area : Vorax. When we got there, we had no idea of the landscape because it was dark, and we set up the tent in a flat spot, curious to see the surroundings. How did we we feel when we woke up and looked outside? Impressed would be an understatement.We arrived at night and met up with Manthos, a friends of Andreas, who gave us some pads and some directions to camp close to one of the bouldering area : Vorax. When we got there, we had no idea of the landscape because it was dark, and we set up the tent in a flat spot, curious to see the surroundings. How did we we feel when we woke up and looked outside? Impressed would be an understatement.
We were facing thousands and thousands of boulders, all spread up in big hills as far as we can see. Neither of us honestly ever saw such a big concentration of boulders, the only comparison we could have is pictures of Rocklands in South Africa. We unfortunately didn’t get the guidebook, which was apparently made by Germans about 10 years back, because we couldn’t find it there. However, less than a hundred meters from us, there was a big flat opening with obvious boulders, so we threw the crashpads under and climbed to get a feel of the rock. A friend of Manthos, Antoni, joined us for the occasion just before he had to go to work.
We each grabbed a pad, stuffed with our cameras and climbing gears, and started hiking around up and down the closest hills to find boulders. But at the end we were so overwhelmed by the possibilities that we just went back to the first area where we spotted a nice sharp cut arete. We cleaned it and climbed it just before sunset.
We decided to drive more North, to check out another area the day after, and after a 30min drive including a steep downhill dirt road, we parked next to a beach, set up the tent and made diner. In the morning, we had another beautiful view on the sea and beautiful white boulders just next to it.
We went for a morning walk in the middle of the boulders and found a nice line to develop, so we went back there with our crashpads and cleaned that line which came out very pretty, a few away from the sea.
We wanted to reach some boulders higher in the hills, so we took the car for a 10min drive and started walking around on the hill side again. We found a crazy amount of potential, and also a few lines that has already been climbed. This area is very pretty, because a little stream makes it look like a oasis, with a lot of greens and some ponds.
Once again we got overwhelmed by the amount of blocs around, so we just packed and went for some sightseeing. Sightseeing was well worth it, because we went to few typical villages, which looks just like postcards with their clean white walls outlined with blue windows and doors.
Overall we spent two great days on this island, with a deep will to come back, for a much longer period!
SEE YOU SOON GREECE
To put in a nutshell: we loved Greece! We actually loved everything about our stay, the people we met, the places we climbed and visited and the vibe we felt the all time. This was a wonderful way to start the big trip… but in the same time it set the bar very high for the next destination, so we decided that it would be the “holidays before the trip” destination and we will not compare it to the future ones!
Considering this experience and the plenty of climbing places that we have to visit or return in Greece, one thing is sure: we will be back!
This trip is the biggest for us in many ways like -
The list continues to grow as the days pass by until departure.... September 1st!