A Climber and Photographer’s Paradise
I woke to the sound of a rooster crowing with all his might. Between the mighty crows there was the subtle sound of a small swell crashing against the beach. After all, our apartment was perched high on a steep hill, only a few hundred metres from the coastline of the small island of Kalymnos
Friends from Canmore had gone on and on about just how good life was in Kalymnos. I nodded, smiled and looked forward to sampling this life for myself, but I didn’t foresee my already astronomical expectations to be blown out of the water the way they were.
What I found in Kalymnos was a sport climber’s dream. Cheap living, great food, friendly local inhabitants and a plethora of incredible limestone crags offering a huge variety of styles of climbing. Caves, roofs, slabs, faces, arches, deep water soloing. You name it, Kalymnos has it.
With only 14 days total to get away from our busy lives in the mountains, my girlfriend and I packed our bags and made the rather long journey from the Canadian Rockies to the small Greek island of Kalymnos. Our trip looked like this: Calgary – Heathrow – Athens – Kos – Kalymnos. It was a little more involved than a quick trip to closer European countries, but the effort certainly didn’t result in regret.
With high levels of energy and a keenness to make the most of this jaunt across the oceans, we didn’t waste any time. We arrived in Kalymnos in the afternoon and quickly set about hiring scooters, unpacking and getting groceries for the days ahead. We spent the first evening wandering the streets of Massouri. It didn’t take long to realize that 95% of the tourists were climbers.
We settled in one of the many colorful, inviting restaurants for an early dinner. With incredible warmth our waitress tended to us with complimentary bread, wine and rich desserts. A short, drunken stumble home while the sun set over the Aegean sea was the perfect start to an incredible trip.
As a climbing photographer, I’m always torn between wanting to enjoy climbing for myself but also feeling the desire to capture moments, tell stories and document our adventures. Kalymnos is a climbing photographer’s playground. I knew it was time to relax and switch off a little, but to do so, I had to dedicate at least one morning to shooting strong locals on some classic routes.
We teamed up with Italian born, now local Kalymnian, Lorenzo Doria. The plan was pretty smash and grab. We headed to the low-hanging-but-oh-so-sweet fruit of Grande Grotta. This cathedral-like cave is epic for both climbing & photography and offers some easily accessible stances and incredible compositions
I knew if I captured a few strong images I would feed the ever restless part of my brain, and then I could enjoy climbing for myself. A great morning was had, complete with hard climbing, lots of laughs, whippers and some impressive images.
Having captured classic Kalymnos images, I was ready to explore the endless high quality crags the island had to offer with my partner in crime, Sherri.
It only took us a few days to get in a routine. Wake up, eat breakfast, jump on scooters, stop at Sofranos coffee shop, ride 5 – 10 minutes to a crag, climb all day, find one of many rad restaurants for dinner, drink too much wine, stroll home, edit photos, and rinse & repeat the next day. This routine would take a long, long time to grow weary of!
As it was a short trip, we didn’t take a rest day the entire time we were there. We did, however, allocate time to explore the larger towns on the island: Pothia & Vathy.
Pothia is the main town on the island, accessible by ferry from Kos. It’s a typical looking port town, densely populated with colorful terraced houses and apartments. Wandering the cobbled streets, finding small bakeries and drinking strong coffee was a fun way to take in a different side of the island.
Vathy is on the eastern side of the island and where you should head if Deep Water Soloing is on the agenda. Due to cold water temps and limited time, we didn’t hit those crags this time, but they are definitely on the agenda for next time!
The port town of Vathy was amazing. Pulling up on the scooter we were greeted by large numbers of cats, hungrily awaiting the scraps from the fishermen who were currently docked.
The thing we enjoyed most about Kalymnos was the variety of climbing. It doesn’t matter if you’re climbing 5.14 or 5.5, the climbing is world class with short approaches, high quality routes, and some of the most beautiful surrounds you could ask for. It’s a super friendly place whether you’re a seasoned vet or new to climbing. The guidebook is well done and makes planning your day or time very easy.
With so many amazing places to explore on this incredible planet, I don’t often want to rush back to the same place. But Kalymnos is one place I can’t wait to visit again.
So many unclimbed routes, so many images in my mind that I want to see come to life, one day. Until then, I’ll think of that little Greek island and smile with fond memories