Some members of the club are heading out to Kalymnos soon, so I thought we could post an article I wrote for our magazine a few years back.
The WMC has a long standing relationship with the Greek Island of Kalymnos. Ever since the 1st Black Country pirates began running Rum to Kalymnos in the late 1700’s by canal boat it’s always had a place in our hearts. In fact this relationship works both ways and one of the original pioneers is immortalised on the walls of the now (in) famous ‘Fatis Bar’ in honour of their contribution to the local economy. If this accolade wasn’t enough to further distinguish this individual they named a local drink after the man himself.
But I digress; the aim of this short article is to give a few points of sound advice to those planning their 1st trip to this climbing paradise. I’m not talking about what gear to take; this is far more practical, so let’s begin.
So you’ve booked your trip and now you want to put some hours in at the wall or on the local crag to make sure you can climb to the best of your abilities on your Hot Rock trip.Forget it! What you actually need to do is mount a cheese grater on a finger board and see if you can hold it without losing too much skin.
So why is this of benefit? Kalymnian rock redefines the term ‘sharp’ and you will encounter Razor wire runnels, gnarly Chicken heads, flakes of pure evil and deep fried Broccoli which is a bit like trying to hold your own weight on a big pin cushion. Train your skin and your pain threshold.
My second top training tip is this; go everywhere with a heavy bag. For some reason Kalymnos is like Edinburgh in that to go anywhere you seem to have to go uphill. The approaches are all uphill and the return journeys can be as well – or at least it feels like it. Develop Tree trunks for legs or employ a porter and you will be fine.
2. Climbing Shoes
So you might be looking at splashing out on a new pair of all singing all dancing make you climb 4 grades harder rock shoes. You’ll fit them snug because rock shoes stretch a little and you want to make sure you can edge on an atom.
Forget it! What you actually need is a big pair of boots maybe 2 or 3 sizes bigger than what you would normally wear that have a thick rubber rand all over the boot.
Why? I hear you cry. Well as stated above everything is super sharp and spikey so you can employ what I like to refer to as ‘Reverse Crampon Technology’ or RCT for short. Basically RCT involves kicking your feet at the wall and using the rock as the crampon and your boots as the ice. This is also why you wear your boots big as all the kicking will make your toes sore in those snug shoes. And remember all the uphill slogging you will be doing will invariably make your feet swell like balloons in the heat. Bear this in mind when choosing your approach shoes but also heed the next point.
3. The Local Flora and Fauna
I love nature. I’m always left in awe at the vast array of beautiful colours and smells that nature can envelope us in. I love to hear the gentle hum of a bumble bee and gaze in wonder at the colours of a passing butterfly.
Scratch That Thought!
Kalymnos is home to more angry plants than a forest of Cactus that has been entwined with brambles. Add to that the infamous Poo Tuber which has caused many an argument between couples when one accuses the other of being impolite in company and suddenly nature bites back.
Whilst on that happy note, everything bites! The Ants, the Fly’s, the Mossies, and if it doesn’t bite it stings.
I recommend you add DEET into your shower head for at least 2 weeks prior to your trip and the same when you reach Kalymnos so you can liberally coat yourself in a protective layer every time you shower; unless you are a dirty bugger of course. Oh, and don’t wear short shorts and sandals! You’ll regret it.
Everyone has seen pictures of climbers in the 70’s and 80’s the era of tight and bright. Some of you may have thought wouldn’t it be great if that particular climbing fashion became ‘In Vogue’ once more?
Well in that case Kalymnos is the place for you!
It has become the cultural home of bright if not tight apparel and every other shop seems to be selling something that attacks your eyes with garish delight. Needless to say those of a sensitive nature will need to wear sunglasses round the clock as the average view down the high street in Massouri is like looking down a Kaleidoscope.
Clown outfits and unusual colour combinations are the norm but just remember that even in this Acid House heaven it is still possible to make a fashion ‘Faux Pas’ by being dressed head to toe in one garish colour. Don’t do it! – People will assume you are Swiss!
5. WMC Cult Status
As mentioned earlier WMC has connections with Kalymnos so remember you must up hold these long standing traditions. They are simple and easy to follow; Drink!
Just go to Fatis bar and enjoy a Jonny Roger or 2 or 3 or maybe ‘Chris’s 88 Madness’ or even a Nescafe if so inclined?? Don’t worry if you don’t know where this bar is Fati will find you and lure you in. Once inside hidden amongst pictures of the great and the good and a Port vale Football club scarf(?) you may well see the effigy of the Pirate Jonny Roger himself.
6. Transport and Getting about.
Once you have arrived at Kos airport you will then need to catch a Touring Car to Mastachari to catch the ferry. This 8 mile race track takes a standard Greek AMG Mercedes about 5 minutes and is worth keeping your eyes closed for – I’m not joking! If you make it to Mastachari you’re holiday really begins. Sit back and enjoy a draft Alfa while you wait for the ferry. Those of you that have been to Lundy will no doubt be worried at the mention of a small ferry ride particularly a Greek ferry. Well let me put your fears to rest as this ferry has a keel. Although it has to be said that during rough crossings you are simply told to just hold on as the ferry man blesses himself! Don’t look at the condition of the emergency dingy….
Once you land on Kalymnos the pace of life relaxes considerably. Another Taxi ride will deliver you to your accommodation and now you have a choice. You can hire a Mountain bike, a Car or a Scooter to help you branch out from Massouri. If there is one sound that defines Kalymnos more than any other it’s the Scooters. Morning Noon and Night there is the constant din of the Greek Scooter. Amass half a dozen of these mopeds and the resulting stereophonic experience is akin to a gang of drunken angry wasps gargling with vitriol.
While we are on the subject of Scooters anyone you see in a plaster cast has almost certainly arrived at this predicament due to a scooter related injury. But if they are covered in cuts, smell of poo and need a skin graft then they probably just fell off a route or fell over on an approach path.
7. Climbing Hero’s.
Kalymnos is a climbing honey pot therefore you can expect to bump in to some of the climbing elite. While you are milling about in your clown outfit trying to look cool they will be lazing around with bronzed toned bodies with babes dripping off every limb. You will then bump in to them at the crag as they effortlessly run laps on routes you can only dream of; probably with their kids in tow.
I am of course talking about the Kalymnian Goat. No move is impossible, nothing is too daring and it is not uncommon for them to be down climbing your chosen route whilst you are trying to go up it; which can be a little deflating to the ego to say the least. They can of course provide useful ‘beeeeta’ ; but they can also crap in the holds.
8. The Local Food.
Greek food is amazing so don’t eat in; eat out. In fact in some instances it’s so cheap it’s almost free. Fresh fruit and vegetables that actually taste as nature intended and fresh fish that was actually caught that day, not last month. And, everything has balls! Octopus Balls, Crab Balls, Courgette Balls, Zucchini Balls, Dough Balls.
Kalymnos even has dishes that can be found nowhere else in the world – and possibly with good reason such as a ‘Mermizeli Pizza’ which is a basically a pizza with a stale bread (aka Rusks) topping i.e. A bread Pizza(?) Go figure??
9. Cocktail Grades.
Another one of WMC’s fine Kalymnian traditions is the infamous ‘Cocktail Grade’. This happens when a climber achieves his or her pre-defined goal which can be a route of a certain grade or just a specific route they then buy their belayer the cocktail of their choice. Therefore an astute belay bunny can get pissed on the cheap by simply monitoring various climbers’ progress and activities during the trip and then sliding into the belayer roll at the right moment.
This of course can create a very interesting dynamic not seen anywhere else in the climbing world where by belayer’s actively hunt and pursue the ambitious climbers. This activity bears many similarities to a group of Komodo dragon’s hunting a Water Buffalo; but in this instance it’s the belayer’s that may die of blood poising if they have a successful hunt!
Well there you have it. I could go on but I don’t want to tarnish the wonderful mental picture you now have of Kalymnos, so I will end here. But, please be aware that some of the above statements are almost true and others have, shall we say been brushed with a liberal helping of poetic licence. To find out which you’ll just have to go and see for yourselves – I’m not going to tell you.