Sevasti is a village in northern Greece which has a population of around 650. It is also the name of a route on the Iannis sector in Kalymnos. A route that was a milestone for Jon during this trip.
We first saw Sevasti the day after we arrived in Kalymnos. It had rained all morning but by the afternoon it was bright enough to go for a walk and explore the crags. We walked past the impressive Grande Grotta with its numerous stalactites hanging down from the ridiculously steep walls, and found another smaller cave. This cave wasn’t quite as steep and had a selection of tufa’s running down the side, all of them wet from rain and seepage. We looked at the names on the rock, “Tufa King Pumped 7b+”, “O Draconian Devil 8b”, and sitting between these intimidating names was a tufa with the words “Sevasti 7b” written underneath.
One of Jon’s goals for this trip was to on-sight a 7b route, something he has not done for over 20 years. Getting into the redpointing mindset in order to push his grade has been a challenge (read his thoughts on that here), but two months of consistent climbing have seen him regularly sending routes graded 7a and a couple of 7a+’s. However he has not yet tried a 7b. Standing looking at Sevasti, I could see a gleam of interest in his eyes. The way he looked at the route suggested he was interested in more than just the name. The route was talking to him.
“I like the look of this one” he said to me, “it looks like it would be do-able, if it was dry”. And that became the crux of the matter, would it dry out before we have to leave?
After two days of sunshine and modest temperatures we walked back along the crag to visit Sevasti and see what condition it was in. It was still wet although the wall between the tufa’s had dried out, so it was heading in the right direction.
Four days later, after higher temperatures, more wind, and no rain we visited again. It was getting so close. The main tufa was dry, but it looked like the upper crux section was still damp, but it wouldn’t be long before it was in good condition. We just needed to wait a couple more days.
And then the temperatures soared and the wind howled. We spent the next few days trying to find sheltered crags away from the main wall which had the wind whistling down it.
After one such day where we only managed to do 3 routes because the wind was making us so cold, we retreated into the sunshine to warm up over lunch. We found ourselves sitting outside the Grande Grotta, which was surprisingly sheltered from the wind, and feeling was returning to our fingers in the warm sun. We looked down the main crag and could see people climbing on the route to the side of Sevasti. Was that sheltered too? Could it be possible to try it today?
We walked along the base of the crag, the full glare of the sun beating down on us. Jon stopped, and viewed the crag from a distance “It’s going to be too hot, I’m not sure there is much point going, it’s in the sun”.
“We may as well have a look, the route is further back in the cave, it may still be in shade” I replied.
So we trekked on, our friends Mark and Penny intrigued to see what this route they had heard about was like.
After 20 minutes we were doing the final stomp up the hill to the cave. The sun was on the outer edges, but the cave walls themselves were in the shade. Maybe today was the day? We clambered over the final boulders into the cave, and saw another climber just starting up Sevasti. Damn! The route looked in good condition though, and it wasn’t very long (18m) so this guy should be finished soon.
Except this is the land of sport climbing. This climber was way off being able to do the route, he was resting on the rope after every move and couldn’t figure out how to get through the crux. He tried it again and again. A totally legitimate redpointing process, but a time consuming process. After 45 minutes he was still on the route. The sun was moving round, the shade would be gone in about 10 minutes, we would lose our chance. Jon was sitting at the back of the cave, keeping cool, looking out over the sea away from the route. Not watching, not getting distracted.
Eventually the climber gave up and came down, the sun was just beginning to hit the top of the route. “Are you going to give it a go?” I asked Jon.
“I’m not sure” he replied hesitantly.
I had not sat there for an hour just for him to back out now and not even give it a go!
“Yes you are!” I exclaimed. “We have waited 10 days to get on this route and it’s now in perfect condition, give it a go”. I marched over to the rucksack and started pulling out the rope.
The harness went on, the shirt came off.
He stepped up onto the wall, seized the tufa with a powerful undercut and in a sequence of smooth movements worked his way up the complex structure. At the top of the first set of tufa’s he reached the crux, could he link up with the next tufa and get round the roof? With his left hand on a low undercut, he bypassed the small pockets and reached out with his right arm at full stretch to pinch the outer edge of the tufa. Moving his feet across he pulled up, his whole body under tension as his left hand released to grasp the next tufa in a sidepull. Two more moves and he was through the roof, onto easier ground but now fully in the sun. Don’t mess it up now, you are so close! The final couple of moves passed easily and in no time he was clipping the anchors at the top, accompanied by cheers from Mark, Penny and myself.
After waiting for 10 days Jon on-sighted Sevasti in less than 10 minutes. His first 7b for over 2 decades.