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!