Greece has become a major hotspot for sport climbing in Europe with hundreds if not thousands of climbers flocking to Kalymnos and Leonidio. Whilst over the last couple of years other climbing areas in Greece, such as Kiparissi and Lagada, have started to receive much more attention from visiting climbers, there are still a lot of places that see relatively few visitors. One of these being Zobolo.
Zobolo is in Cape Maleas at the tip of the eastern most finger of the Peloponnese, about as far south as you can get on mainland Greece. It is beautifully located commanding stunning views over the coast to the island of Kythria. The feeling of remoteness is intensified as the metalled roads end after the last town, Agios Nikolas. The last couple of km to the crag are along a dirt track that provides access to the few farms and houses on the Cape. In the 4 days we had climbing at Zobolo we saw one other team, 2 French climbers who stayed for 3 days. This isolation was definitely one of the things that attracted us to come here.
The nearest large town to Zobolo is Neapoli Voion, about a 25 minute drive away and where we stayed. Doing the drive each day was no problem, the roads are empty. In summer, Neapoli Voion is a tourist resort and even in late February most of the shops, cafes and restaurants were open.
We didn’t know much about the climbing or the surrounding area but we had heard that Zobolo was a sun trap and should be avoided other than in the depth of winter. Arriving at the end of February with gale force winds blowing and a temperature of 6 Celsius, being too hot wasn’t a major concern! We also quickly learnt that as the crags wrap around the end of a ridge that runs north – south you can in theory choose to stay in the sun or shade all day depending on how warm it is. The problem with this theory is that it doesn’t take account of the wind, which seems to blow incessantly. And I hate being in the wind! Most of our decisions about what we climbed were driven by finding pockets of relative calm. This wasn’t always easy. Whilst, the winds were consistently strong (averaging 30 – 40 km / hr with stronger gusts), the wind direction was fickle and could veer through 180 degrees over just 4 or 5 hours.
The climbing is mainly in the grade range 5a – 6c+, generally single pitches, with only a handful of harder routes. We did 17 routes, most of which were on vertical or just off-vertical walls, requiring balance, good footwork and the ability to pull on tiny edges. The 3 best routes that we did were probably, Fini Kodasos (6a), Apolithomeno Dasos (6b) and Lachesis (6c+). We did do 4 steeper routes but these were no where near as good as the others. In part, this is because the best (looking) of the steeper routes included sections of tufas that were wet when we were there. Helpfully, route names are painted at the base of the crag. Translating the name, which is painted in Greek with the Romanised version in the guidebook, e.g. Lachesis becomes ΛΑΧEΣΗΣ, has greatly improved our understanding of the correspondence between the two alphabets!
The ample parking area is surrounded by a boulder field, with dozens of blocks of clean limestone up to 6m tall. We didn’t have time to explore the bouldering possibilities but the potential looks very interesting. It may be that most of the rock is just too sharp, if not there looks like there would be scope of developing a huge number of new problems of all levels of difficulty.
We have enjoyed our time in Zobolo and are very glad that we came, however, for two reasons, it would not be high on our list of places to return to. The wind has been quite draining, and the risk of rockfall makes it difficult to relax at the base of the crag. The rockfall is caused by goats wandering around above the crags and we saw two very large lumps come down and one smaller stone fall. How large the risk is from rockfall is hard to judge. The part of the crag that seems to be worst affected is also where it is most overhanging. Standing at the base of the crag you would be well away from where the two large rocks landed.
It is also possible that our view of Zobolo was impacted by the fact that we had just come from Statte, which we both loved. There are many positives to climbing at Zobolo: It ticks all the boxes for a crag we would want to visit: Is the climbing good? – Yes. Is it well bolted? / Are the bolts in good condition? – Yes. Is it in a nice location? – Yes. Is it overcrowded? Definitely not! Can you find shade or sun as needed? – Yes.
If you have been to Zobolo, we would be very interested to hear your thoughts on the crag.