A Climbing Trip To Greece
Quick Guides To Meteora & Kalymnos
If you’re visiting Greece for the first time as a climber there are a few things to know that will help make your visit as seamless as possible. Keep reading to learn about two of the top rock climbing destinations in Greece as well as what gear to bring on for your next international adventure.
Greece is a popular destination for climbers from all over the world because of the abundance of climbs on the mainland and on the Greek islands. The crags in Greece have a variety of stunning backdrops from vineyards and olive groves to the bright blue waters of the Mediterranean.
Climbing In Greece
Climbing grades in Greece follow the same grading scale as the rest of Europe, which is the French system. Converely, the U.S. uses the Yosemite Decimal System. For example a 5.9 in the U.S. would be a 5b in Europe.
While there are numerous options for climbing in Greece we chose to visit Meteora and Kalymnos because both are unique areas that have vastly different environments. Meteora is four hours northeast of Athens and Kalymnos is a small island located near Turkey. Both locations vary immensely in climbing style but both were equally rewarding. Here are a few guidebook options for both areas:
This site has a great conversion chart and the guidebooks for both Meteora and Kalymnos have conversation charts as well. It’s also worth noting that you’ll see a variety of bolt and anchor styles in Greece, everything from large ring pitons to Ubolts and Buhler bolts, so don’t be too alarmed when you see something new, but be sure to inspect all bolts for safety.
The Magic Of Meteora
Meteora Quick Facts:
- Number of Routes: 800+
- Route Types: Mixed trad/sport, single and multi-pitch
- Type of Rock: Conglomerate
- Best time to visit: Fall, Spring, & Summer
Before arriving I had seen the pictures of Meteora, of the giant pinnacles topped with monasteries, but seeing it in person truly takes one’s breath away. Meteora is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, meaning it has legal protections administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
Atop some of the rock pillars are monasteries that date back to the 11th century. There were originally twenty-four in total but only six are still in use by Greek Orthodox monks. Rock climbing is prohibited on rocks with Monasteries.
The climbing style in Meteora is adventurous and balancy and bolting can be very spaced and run out. To get the most out of the climbing at Meteora I would suggest bringing two 70m ropes and a mix of sport and trad gear. From what we observed a lot of climbs needed two ropes because most descents required double rope rappels. A single trad rack (a set of cams and a set of stoppers) along with 18 quickdraws should be more than enough. It’s also worth noting that not every hold is solid and it is common for pebbles to come loose so helmets are encouraged.
Views From Every Angle in Kalymnos
Kalymnos Quick Facts:
- Number of Routes: 3,400+
- Route Types: Mostly sport, single and multi pitch
- Rock Type: Limestone
- Best Time to Visit: Year-round, although fewer services are available on the island in the winter
It is said that Kalymnos has the highest concentration of sport routes anywhere in the world, which is probably why it’s ranked among the top 10 sport climbing destinations. Beyond the endless options for climbing are the incredible views that you will get of the Aegean sea from every crag, making for an idyllic setting. The rock is top quality solid limestone, which can be a little sharp in places. The rock has everything from stalactites and tufas on steep and overhanging walls, to slabs with endless pockets and chicken heads, meaning there’s something for everyone.
The majority of the routes in Kalymnos are single pitch and around 20 to 30m in length, however, there are some excellent multi-pitch routes on mainland Kalymnos and Telendos island, just a short 15 min boat ride away. The bolting is generally close together and safe, with good protection around crux moves. Many of the route names are painted at the base of climbs making route finding a breeze. A 70m rope is recommended and will get you access to most routes.
Getting Your Gear In Order
When it comes to gear for an international climbing trip not much is different from climbing stateside, however it is worth taking weight into consideration if you have to pay for luggage. A good way to limit your gear is to review the guidebook ahead of time and figure out which routes you plan on doing and pack your gear based on the route requirements. Below are some recommendations for packing as well as some additional items that you might want during your travels:
- Osprey Ultralight Packing Cube Set
- Backcountry All Around 60L Duffel
- Platypus DuoLock Soft Bottle
- Eagle Creek Exhale Neck Pillow
- Black Diamond Bolt 24L Backpack
Beyond your normal basics (harness, climbing shoes, chalk bag, belay device, etc) 18-20 quickdraws is recommended for both Kalymnos and Meteora. It’s also worthwhile to pack a couple slings, runners, some cordelette, and spare carabiners (locking and non) for anchors or any multi pitch routes you might hop on. Here are some additional recommendations on climbing gear:
Travel Basics For Greece
One thing to be aware of is that the water on mainland Greece is safe to drink but it doesn’t taste very good and the water on most islands is not drinkable as it is untreated and very mineral-rich.
Anywhere you go to eat in Greece they will ask you if you want still or sparkling water—which is an additional charge. Since most people purchase water bottles there is a huge issue with plastic water bottle waste, including in the ocean so please remember to follow Leave No Trace standards. On Kalymnos there is free drinking water that is supplied by TEMAKs, municipal water dispensers, where you can refill bottles for free, so bring a reusable water bottle.
*For international travel be sure to check local regulations for foreigners in light of COVID19, and check the CDC website to make informed decisions.
Alexandra (Ali) Lev is a freelance writer and content developer on subjects ranging from womxn in the outdoors to mental health, the environment, and social justice issues. As a passionate outdoor enthusiast, it’s her mission to inspire others to connect with themselves, their communities, and the planet in a deeper way. A Salt Lake City native who now lives in Portland, OR, her free time is spent adventuring in the backcountry with her husband and their two Siberian huskies. Follow her at luckyalexandra.com or @luckyalexandra.