When my sponsor Climb On!, offered to send me to Kalymnos, Greece for the Climbing Festival a month ago I obviously accepted, but I had no idea what to expect. I couldn't say no to an area I'd heard so much about and an event that was promising to be kick ass. Regardless, I got my tickets lined up and then sunk into my then current climbing goals, somewhat forgetting about my upcoming week long trip to Europe.
Suddenly, after finishing up in Idaho and then a punishing wedding weekend I realized, 'whoa, I leave for Greece in a week…? seriously!?' A week in Boulder taking care of domestic type stuff, seeing old friends and spending time with my folks is not a long time. I packed my bag. I was on the flight. Within an hour after my arrival in the afternoon, I was full throttle moto cruising with the beating sun on my face and Aegean Sea breeze ripping across my body. Shortly thereafter I was signed up for the event competition (something I remember reading about but had no plan / desire / interest in doing) and being told that I would need to wake at just after 5am the next morning.
|A stacked crowd of athletes made their way over to Kalymnos for the event. |
|Looking at the Grande Grotta and surrounding areas from the event headquarters|
I avoid comps. I've never felt at all driven by competitive energy, and although I know many people that perform their best under this very specific type of pressure, I don't. I think it sometimes brings out the worst in people, honestly. But it was the best way for me to be involved with the event, so, I went with it. Not so bright but very early the next morning my buddy Sam Elias - the only other American athlete - knocked on my door. The comp had actually started the previous day, so he knew the way as we hiked 30 min to the crag (a huge approach for Kalymnos).
It was super hot. The whole trip. It's not quite Thailand hot, but it's definitely nearing the realm. The comp routes were on a new sector and the rock was definitely sharp at spots, so skin got thrashed …perfect event for Climb On to sponsor… Day one I sent one of the 4 mens routes and got a try in on another one before the sun crushed the wall. The climbs were really cool. Slowly I introduced myself to the other athletes - some of them I already kind of knew - most I didn't. Names that anyone would recognize, and naturally, I felt small in comparison. We were competing with each other, I was definitely an outsider to the group and I was new to this whole thing - not to mention jet lagged.
When I'm around what I feel is a competitive vibe, I usually turn to an introvert, which is unnatural for me. I'm not trying to prove anything and if I'm around people who really want to be the boss - I'll happily let 'em have it. Countless times in my life I've felt belittled or condescended by 'the boss' and at this point, I'd rather completely avoid it, and moreover, entirely remove the potential of me becoming one myself. But gradually, I realized that these people were not trying to put anyone down - in some ways I just expected such a prestigious crowd of climbers to be cocky and lame, but I was totally wrong. Over the course of the 4 days it became super clear. I made some super rad new friends. We climbed together, we partied together, we hung out, ate and talked together. This is by far the best thing I experienced from the event - the people - for sure the athletes, but also simply everyone involved. It could have easily been a competition, pressurized, machismo vibe - but it was nothing of the sort, we went out, and climbed together. Everyone stoked for everyone else, cheering everyone on, and giving the massive crowds what they came to see - enthusiasm, sick sends and sports action! Check out this cool short video below for some more images, highlights and details from the comp.
The climbing in Kalymnos is varied, and wild. The comp sector was super cool, albeit a little sharp for the conditions. Some walls (like the comp sector) are near vertical, with blue stripes, colonettes and pockets, edges. Others, like the vast and impressive Grande Grotta, are huge caves with shockingly bomber stalactites (some hanging 15 or more feet from the wall) that make climbing a massive 40 meter overhang accessible to the 12+ climber. It's nuts. We spent the last day of the trip in the Grande Grotta, where I did a handful of mega classics from 7c-8a. I lowered to the ground drenched in sweet, hands red from jugs in thermal heat, but laughing from the experience. Some rigs require over 25 quickdraws. An 80m rope is a must if you want to climb on formations like this. It's very unique and hard not to enjoy.
The island is beautiful, no doubt about it. Rad little secluded beaches, nice teal blue water. Killer views everywhere. People are helpful and nice, food is good, life is generally inexpensive. Kalymnos is really a vacation climbing spot, not a core climbing spot like Céuse or the Red or the VRG. Climbing will give you something to do all day, but it's the whole package that is so magnificent. Go to the beach, rip around on motos, see the whole island, eat food, get a tan, stay up all night, etc. It reminded me of Southern Thailand in may ways, but with perhaps a more desirable climate, completely different cultural value and what seems like a lot more potential.
|homeboy and climbing legend Yuji Hirayama amongst the drips|
|THE quintessential Kalymnos classic|
|On my way out, I stopped in Athens to explore one of the oldest cities on earth. The city is built around ruins, to the extent that they exist everywhere - malls, subways, streets - in addition to a slew of world renowned protected sites. It's easy to get lost in the history here, and I found it a bad ass city to explore. |
It was a very rad trip, I'm super stoked that Climb On got involved and brought me out to represent. Really, too much happened in such a short time that it would be tough to convey details in a post. The moral is - I met some amazing new people, checked out the Kalymnos climbing scene, and participated in a very well put together, seemingly flawless event. Hopefully the photos do some justice to this incredible place, and next time we met - ask me for a story from Greece. Fingers crossed that Climb On sends me back next year!!
Now I'm on my way back to Boulder for a quick stop before I take off again for the big fall objective next week. I'm really excited to announce that I'll be presenting the premier of our really cool short film, Viva La Vie, this upcoming Saturday at the Adventure Film Festival. Andy Mann, Keith Ladzinski and I will be at the Boulder Theatre to introduce this colorful 24 minute film showcasing the incredible variety of the Verdon Gorge, France. There's word that there may be a Q and A afterward as well. The show is at 6:30pm, again this Saturday the 6th of Oct, hope to see you there!!!