Friday, October 23, 2009

Closing Time

Today was our last climbing day on the island. There have been a lot of people leaving everyday for the past week. The winds are picking up and the air is cooler and some of the restaurants are gearing down. We are all feeling pretty thrashed with this being third day on. We hiked back to Spartacus this morning to wrap up some climbing there and then took a long afternoon siesta. When we woke up, we went back to Arhi for some photos in the setting sun. Kenneth took these of me on Angelica (8a):

While we were hanging out it the sun, this guy caught our eye and we were able to get some good photos of him
Prehistoric Kalymnos Lizard alive and hungry for rock climbers!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sikati Cave

Today we ventured (and it absolutely was an adventure) to the Sikati Cave . . . a sector on the most remote part of the island not often traveled to except for crazy climbers and goats. It was as if we had entered another world cresting the top of the tail peak of Kalymnos: the terrain was like something out of Lord of the Rings and the ocean, now unimpeded by Telendos, went for as far as we could see. In the far distance, we could barely make out the lines of the Turkish mountains.

The hike in was about an hour: not too grueling, but longer than we thought it would be. There is a beautiful, secluded beach ~200m down from the cave which was where James & Laurel decided to spend most of their day. The descent into the Sikati cave was an easily managed series of bolts with a fixed rope and we were then greeted by more Kalymnian three dimensional rock climbing with alienish features made more dramatic by the rock sculptures climbers had built on the ground along with the occasional goat bones/carcasses from the poor goat that had misstepped along the rim of the cave.

I wish I could say that the climbing was as good as the surroundings: it was just not on par with some of the more stunning sectors we had already been to this trip. The climbing was impressively steep and long (which I love), but the rock quality was not quite as good and the grades seemed a little off. I was psyched to get the credit for flashing two 8a’s (Morgan/Adam Extension & Super Lolita), but both felt quite soft for the grade and the rope drag made for some VERY challenging upper clips on both routes but particularly Super Lolita. It felt like climbing with a 50lb goat on your back. Absolutely glad we ventured to see it and experience it, but I don’t think we’ll be making it back to the Sikati cave this trip.

An amazing approach. . .the Sikati cave looks like a meteor hit the hillside
Flashing Morgan/Adam (8a)
Kenneth & James looking at Turkey on the horizon
I thought this guy was particularly adorable as he blended with the surrounding shrubs
Dan Mirsky pondering the moves to come

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Send Train

The winds have changed again in Kalymnos and the temps this morning were cool. We decided to return to the Grande Grotta one last time this trip as the boys wanted to get back on Aegalis. It was cool enough that we hiked with an outer layer on, but by the time we reached the olive tree a quarter way up the Grotta hillside, we were sans shirts. The sun does not hit the Grotta until 1400-1500, so I took advantage of the cool breeze and decided to go for the onsight of Fun de Chechunne (8a). This route includes a 40m roof and 28 bolts: quite intimidating!

Despite all of the draw weight, I felt surprisingly good and before I knew it I was half-way out the route on a pretty good rest. It is hard when you are onsighting to not constantly worry about blowing the onsight and instead focus on the climbing immediately in front of you- a skill that I am definitely still developing. The route was incredibly fun and adventuresome as I navigated through some of the largest stalagtites I had encountered yet. For the last quarter of the route, I knew that I had it and would not let go for anything. It was a day for sending and the rest of the group soon got aboard: Kenneth redpointed the stunning Aegelis (7c) that you can’t stop photographing if you try, Laurel redpointed her second 7b (Ivi), and James flashed 7b. A good day for all.

By the time our gear was all cleaned, the sun was in full blaze and we hiked back down to Massouri for showers and a delicious dinner at the Gecko. Tomorrow this sick hottie is going to the Sikati.

I love Kalymnos

Kenneth sending Aegelis
James flashing Ivi
Onsighting Fun de Chechunne (8a)

Laurel sending Ivi (7b)
Rocking the Kalymnian fetal position rest

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rest Day

Finally a truly restful rest day. All I have done is go on walks and washed a lot of clothes in our studio's sink. Here's a couple of pics that I have not yet posted from earlier in the trip:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Knackered, Blinkered, and Spent

Today was a marathon day of rock climbing. Now with the kitten worries gone, my focus returned to sending. Our scooters needed to be returned at 1:00, so Kenneth and I went for a morning session at Arhi so that I could try and redpoint Angelica (8a). The route had felt the most challenging yet and I did not know if I would be able to do it this trip. While we were warming up on Kastor (7a), some funny folks from Scotland got on Angelica to see if it was a route they wanted to work on this trip. After they found out that I was on it the previous day, they asked me if it was desperate or do-able: I quickly answered “both”.

Those blokes were a good time and used all sorts of hilarious Brittish/Scottish vernacular that we had never heard. After the first had made it to the upper crux of the non-holds, he exclaimed many “bloody hell”s and “I’m way to blinkered” before he came down deciding this route was not for him. The second Scott decided to see the non-holds for himself and also came down from there. All the talk of this route being so difficult and not easy to redpoint in a short trip was not exactly encouraging. I tried to block out the negativity and believe that I was about to send the route. My first go, I gave it my best fight through all the sections of difficult climbing. I felt strong going into the upper crux but blew off the eventual target at the end of the non-holds: a jagged right handed crimper. I lowered off quite discouraged thinking that this route was probably too hard for this trip, but I wanted to do it so badly. The line was so beautiful and the climbing perfectly challenging.

After Kenneth had a couple of goes on Eros, I decided to give the route one last go before we had to return the scooters. I felt desperate through the bottom moves and was trying my absolute hardest to get to the upper crux: my arms and shoulders felt like rocks and I knew I would fall as soon as I got on the crimps. I looked up at the rest that I had dismissed as unreachable, but I had no choice. I did a huge move and was so relieved that the rest hold was good enough to recover. I was rejuvenated going into the crux and stuck the crimp with two fingers. Unable to close it down, I high stepped and deadpointed to the bottom of the upper tufa. I knew I would not let go after that and the climbers on the ground yelled “a la muerte” (to the death). [Mom sidenote: to the death is not a literal translation. . .it just means try as IF your life depended on it]. I have not been this psyched about a send for a long time.

We returned the scooters and hiked out to Odyssey to meet up with James & Laurel. I got on Marci Marc (13a) and was very excited to pull it off second go despite feeling so knackered and blinkered. Odyssey is a really cool crag and there was a cute French family there with their little four-year-old boy. We were all amazed how self-entertained he was playing with rocks and dirt and water paints while his parents climbed. To get him interested in climbing routes his dad would place little matchbox cars at various places up a climb and then send him up to retrieve them. Very cute!

Laurel was very psyched to send her first 7b (Luci Luca). James gave Marci Marc a good go and then the poor guy broke his front tooth repair (the result of a Buckhead driver vs. James’ bicycle). He is now missing half of one of his front teeth and we have been trying to decide if superglue would be a valid option. It has made for a good number of jokes- especially after the 1.5L of red wine that was consumed at dinner tonight. Rest day tomorrow: my arms are thrashed!

(Marci Marc 7c+)

James taking it in stride
Laurel sending her first 7b
Kenneth giving the locker room pep talk
Hunting for matchbox cars (I think I see one out left)

Sunday, October 18, 2009


We didn’t get much sleep last night because of those crazy kittens. We tried to wake them every three hours to dropper feed them, but they all cry at the same time and we had to use strategies like running the shower and playing music so that the owner of these studios would not catch on to our kitten scheme. After we got the kittens fed early this morning and finally back to sleep, we took them to Birgit. They will be going to a wonderful home: an American woman who knows kittens and knows how to care for them. We left a donation to the animal welfare group and felt a huge weight off of our shoulders with trouble, troublesome, and much trouble now out of our hands.

We headed to a crag called Arhi which looked amazing in the guidebook, but was deceivingly mostly very slabby. There was one steep, clean-looking wall that had some phenomenal routes on it and was well worth the scooter ride out to it. I warmed up on an amazing route called Eros (7b+) and very classic. And then I got on Angelica (8a)- was planning on getting on some other routes, but after seeing this line, it was definitely the one I wanted to do. I made a very valiant (and close) onsight attempt, but was thwarted by the upper crux. Again, an hour later, I fell going to the last clip. There is an upper rest on the route which is too far for me to go to so I am trying the very direct line and it feels pretty stout for the grade.

By the time I had a couple of goes and finished up some of the 12s at the crag, the sun was in full blast and we headed to the sea for an afternoon swim. Yesterday while we were eating very eggy pancakes, we watched as a woman from a nearby hotel threw a perfectly good float into the dumpster. We snagged that quickly and reaped its benefits today. I could lay on top of the float and watch the ocean beneath with goggles and I saw all sorts of flounder, sea bass, and kelp. We took an evening scooter ride to Pothias and ate a delicious dinner of dolmades, feta-stuffed calamari, swordfish, and wine at the Aegean Taverna. Not a bad day. Not a bad day at all.

Orion (7c+)

Ever wondered what to do with your banana peels at the crag?
Sunset over the Massouri Village
Warming up on Eros (7b+)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Trouble with Kittens

This morning we woke up to an aptly rainy rest day. Our plan was to rent scooters and explore the island and we decided to not let the rain deter us. After a strange, but delicious breakfast, we rented some scooters from Sakis and I decided to go make sure the kittens were not still where we left them to put my mind at ease. We pulled up beside the abandoned building where we had thought we saw the momma cat and Kenneth went to check where we had left him (if it was gory, he promised to spare me the details). He came back from around the corner with a long face. They’re dead? Not sure, but they’re still there.

Again, what to do? It was raining and still a little windy. I went to look and they were in a pile soaking wet and breathing quickly. With a long sigh, I picked up each one, dried them off, and put them in my camera case determined not to leave these kittens again until I knew they would not suffer unnecessarily. We rode the scooters back into Massouri where we stopped at Antonis Grocery to see if he knew of a local vet. He knew of one and showed us a general direction on a map- we knew it was somewhere behind the stadium several villages away. Amazingly (with the help of several helpful English-speaking Kalymnians), we found the vet and they were actually there at 1:00pm on a Saturday. While they couldn’t help with the kittens, they gave us several numbers for animal welfare group liasons in the area.

After hours of stress and scooter scavenger hunts, we have found a woman who takes in baby kittens and can take them in the morning. In the meanwhile, the vet kindly gave us a syringe and we found some baby formula that we have been heating & doing our best to dropper feed every three hours to these very troublesome (and loud- we are sneaking them in and out of our studio) kittens. If you are ever in Kalymnos, give your business to the Climber’s Nest at the upper edge of Massouri. The owner, Birgit, is a friend to all animals in need and is an angel on this island! Not much rest in this rest day, but the kittens are hopefully going to be okay.

Returning to check on the kittens, realizing we were in over our heads
Outside the vet office in Pothia, trying to reach the animal welfare representatives on our cell
(all three kittens were in the camera case)
(trying to convince Trouble to eat)

James' best scooter helmet pose
Little did they know the kitten drama that was about to ensue

Friday, October 16, 2009


Today we hiked to the Odysee crag, past all the walls we’ve already been to and further towards the little town of Kasteli. It sprinkled on us off and on and the wind has really picked up since previous days. There was a spectacular thunderstorm out at sea last night that we could watch from our balcony like fireworks. Since then the air is warmer, but the wind has been impressive. We stopped at this information center in Kasteli to pick up the free insert for the guidebook. Despite our guidebook being published in 2008, there has been such rampant route development, it is already outdated.

When I came back out of the info center, everyone was huddled around one of the roadside dumpsters. The woman from inside and I went out to see what James, Laurel, and Kenneth were all looking at under the dumpster and there they were: three kittens no older than a couple of days- only one trying to walk and he kept moving in the direction of the road. There was broken glass all around them and as the woman threw some of the bigger glass shards into the dumpster she tsked her tongue and said people throw away kittens often here.

We had definitely already noticed that there was a problem on the island with stray cats. Many restaurants have cats that sneak under tables for hopeful scraps. Now what was I to do? It was raining and blowing dirt and these kittens couldn’t even walk yet. Taking Greek kittens through customs obviously wouldn’t fly and it seemed cruel to try and take care of them and then leave eight days later. But I couldn’t just leave them by the road like that in the glass. Kenneth looked around for the off chance that there was a momma kitten nearby. I decided that I would at least take them with me for the day, keep them dry & warm, and if they died then at least they would be more comfortable then in their current condition.

Hiking up to the crag with three tiny kittens folded up in your shift is tricky because you don’t want to misstep and jostle the little things. They really liked the hike and quickly fell asleep in a fuzzy pile. We built them a nest at the crag (hello. . .NICU nurse. . .I think I can build a developmentally supportive nest) and fed them a couple drops of cream when they would wake up with a dismantled pen made dropper feeder.

Meanwhile, while the kittens were sleeping, I warmed up on some 11s and got on Orion (7c+)- used to be 8a and the crux felt quite difficult taking four tries to redpoint (twice as many goes on this route than any other this trip)! The route was alright, but not the quality of the ones from the previous days. I decided to give Gaia (8b) a go and got shut down by a long move that I simply couldn’t reach no matter what feet I tried. I did all of the other moves, but I don’t think I’ll be getting back on that one.

Okay, so back to the kittens. We hiked down from the crag with the plan to try and find a vet/shelter in Pothias in the morning (probably non-existent, but worth a try). As we reached the road, we decided to look around one last time for momma cats. We saw several cats this time and one slender cat that looked like she was interested in the kittens when I sat them down!!! She watched us from a distance until we were sure that she would not come to them while we were anywhere near. We decided that these kittens (island vet or not) were not going to survive without their mother and their best chance was to stay there. We left them in a sheltered spot with enough protection to keep them warm and dry and parted ways.

And now I’ve done nothing but worry about them all night. I fear that I did wrong taking them in the first place, but I was led to believe they were dumped. I fear that I did the wrong thing leaving them last night. Sigh. Kittens are so stressful!

Laurel dreaming of sending Luci Luca
Wild Thyme
(it grows at many of the crags and smells so good-
it is also used on all the Greek salads we've had here on top of the feta. . .delicious!)
Kissing Kittens
Thunderstorm in the distance with Telendos in the forefront

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Today we hiked past the Grande Grotta and on to the Spartacus Wall: phenomenal pocket pulling with very unique rock. I warmed up and got on Spartacus (7b+)- very cruxy with great pocket & tufa moves on either side of the crux. The route Daniboy (8a) was recommended to me and I gave the onsight a respectable go, but missed several of the tufa sweet spots. I was happy to send second go and incidentally pissed off some of the Euros that had been working the route. The route has got to be one of my favorites. It has friendly holds with a wide variety of flowing moves. For every difficult cross-through there were feet exactly where I wanted them. Definitely felt a tad soft for the grade, but absolutely stunning route climbing.

The ground crew

Moments before mono
Building confidence for the send

Kenneth on Daniboy (8a)
Kenneth looking cute & alpine-like