Being back in Kyparissi has been wonderful although our time here didn’t get off to a very auspicious start. We first visited Kyparissi last November but it was a short stay and we only climbed at one sector, Kastraki. This time we had five possible climbing days and intended to visit more of the sectors.
Day one dawned damp and grey but the forecast for the rest of the week was good so we decided to have a day off and just go for a walk. There is a lovely trail to a small chapel, Agios Georgiou, at the end of the headland that defines the southern extent of Kyparissi bay. Doing this walk just reminded us of what we liked so much about Kyparissi when we were here last year, it is just so tranquil and beautiful, even more so in the early spring when all the wild flowers are in bloom. Sometimes it is good to have a day when you forget about climbing and take the time to fully appreciate the places that climbing has taken you to.
However, we were never going to forget about climbing for long and the next day we headed up to the Watermill climbing area. Last time we were in Kyparissi this sector was mobbed with climbers, this time we had the place to ourselves. If only we had been up to making the most of it. Several of the tufas were wet so some of the classic routes weren’t climbable but we still had plenty to go at. We warmed up on a 6a (Tetoros) and a 6b (Kelis) and seemed to be going ok so I decided to give a route called Stelio’s House (7b+) a go. I had no expectations of on-sighting something this hard but hadn’t expected to be shut down so comprehensively! After an hour of getting nowhere, I gave up and we decided food was required. After lunch, in an attempt to sooth my battered ego Gaynor suggested we do Kiafa (6c). What a mistake that was! She should not choose routes! I was having one of those days and was again defeated. Having gone up the adjacent 6a (Skourkos) to retrieve the quickdraws we slunk back to our apartment with me feeling thoroughly dejected – poor Gaynor.
The next day we decided to have a change of scene and went to the Jerome’s House climbing sector. This is where things began to look up. The walk down to Jerome’s House is fairly unpleasant but thankfully short. You go down and then traverse across a loose scree slope that is liberally peppered with broken glass and other garbage that people have thrown from the road above. Once you get to the crag the ambience improves dramatically. The climbing is on a really nice vertical wall of good quality limestone with a wide, comfortable gearing up platform running along its base. If you climb in the range 5c – 7a it is well worth a visit. Just be warned, the easiest warm-up, Teleferic (5c), is just as hard as the two 6a+s next to it (Low Cost & Strikebreaker). The best route we did was the extended version of Of Arthur Brown (6c). Steep climbing on good holds that gradual gets harder as the angle eases. Again we had the crag to ourselves and few of the routes had any chalk on them but it is definitely a place that is worth a visit.
For our third day we headed to Vlychada. This is described as a paradise for sport climbers in the guidebook and we have to agree. The crag sits in a beautiful bay, 50m from the sea and above a lovely shingle beach. To our consternation, however, we weren’t the only people there. Fortunately, our fellow climbers, a couple from Germany and a family from France, were really nice, and we all shared the crag amicably. Vlychada faces north and east with the climbs on the right being in the shade by mid-morning and the whole crag being out of the sun by early afternoon. We did 6 routes with the best being a long (35m) 6a+ called Le Sabre and a short but steep and technically interesting 7a+ (Mare Nostrum).
For our final day at Kyparissi we decided to go to Kapsala. Again, horror of horrors, we had to share the crag with others but again they were really nice people. This time a couple from the UK (Dominic and Helen – the blog of their trip is well worth visiting – www.rockaroundtheworld.co.uk) and a team from Slovenia (Miha and Matjaz). We had been slightly anxious about going to Kapsala because the easier routes didn’t sound that great and this proved to be the case. We did a 6a (Ravani), a 6a+ (Lukumades) and a 6b (Anastasis) to warm up and whilst they were worth doing they were all quite mediocre pieces of climbing. The reason to go to Kapsala is the central 40m+ high, wall of overhanging red limestone. This is home to a bunch of routes in the 7a to 7b+ range. We did Born to Lose (7a) and the extended version of Nobel Bolt (7a+). Nobel Bolt goes the full 40m height of the crag and overhangs by at least 10m, with the first half involving powerful moves on big holds up a tufa system, followed by more technical climbing up a smooth groove. Definitely a route I will remember from the this trip and doing it on sight was a real boost after the disappointments of the day at Watermill.
Whilst the climbing at Kyparissi is excellent it is not the only thing that drew us back. The village has a lovely, peaceful vibe to it in winter and all the people we met there obviously really love where they live. The full time resident population of the village is probably less than 400 people, many of whom are from families that have lived there for generations. This was true of our hosts at The Olive (very highly recommended), Adrienne and Paul, who went out of their way to make us feel welcome including giving us open access to their lemon, orange and mandarin trees. Similarly, their neighbour, Giorgio came over to offer us fruit and salad from his garden. At 94, Giorgio still has the fitness to walk to do the 20km return walk to the neighbouring village of Charakas every week and be almost self-sufficient from the plot of land he tends. So obviously, being in Kyparissi is good for the body as well as for the soul.