Whilst Kalymnos is a world renowned destination for sport climbing it is an otherwise relatively obscure place. It has a rugged beauty but few of the historical or hedonistic attractions that tempt people to many of the other Greek islands. We were therefore a little surprised by how much the character of Masouri and Myrties, the two places in which we stayed, has been overwhelmed by the influx of visitors. Every second business is either a climbing shop or a climbers cafe / bar.
Luckily, the quality of the climbing is more than ample compensation for this. There are few places where there are so many crags with so many high quality routes. In fact when you are only here for a short space of time the abundance of climbing possibilities can be daunting.
One of the great things about Kalymnos is that you have the choice of climbing in the sun or in the shade at every level of climbing difficulty. We used this to simplify the decision of where to go each day by allowing our crag choices to be dictated more by the weather than by a desire to do particular routes. As we had arrived in March at the tail end of two months of very wet weather, for the first few days, our options were also constrained slightly by the copious amounts of water dripping down many of the tufa routes. Fortunately, Kalymnos is an unusually egalitarian climbing destination in that there are great routes at a wide range of grades on many crags, making it a very good choice for mixed ability teams.
During our time on Kalymnos we sampled the climbing at 9 different sectors (Afternoon, Arginonta Valley, Arhi, Cave, Palace, Palionosso, Poets, St Photis & Summertime). Even with going to more than one sector on some days this still left more than 50 sectors untouched.
Although it is the abundance of options that makes Kalymnos such a compelling destination, it is one of the reasons that we left feeling a little unsatisfied. Instead of being elated with the amount of superb climbing we have done, we left feeling that we never really got “stuck in” to the climbing here, despite having two and half weeks on the island. This is a classic case of wanting to squeeze a “quart into a pint pot”. Basically, if you love sport climbing you will not be satisfied by only having a couple of weeks on Kalymnos, which is why so many people return.
However, for us, Kalymnos only ranks third in the list of places we have visited on this trip that we want to go back to. Statte in Puglia and South East Sicily have retained their position as first and second on that list. The climbing has been very good everywhere we have been; the concentration on Kalymnos is just much higher than most other places. However, when staying for a couple of weeks you don’t need 4000+ routes to go at. Therefore, in deciding where we want to go, how much we enjoy the character of where we are staying ranks equally with quantity of climbing. This is why Kalymnos doesn’t quite make it to the top of the list. For us, Masouri and Myrties just didn’t have as much character or individuality as Crispiano and Siracusa.
What might have elevated Kalymnos in our list of favourites could have been staying in Pothia, which seems like a very nice, bustling town. The contrast between Pothia and Masouri / Myrties is particularly stark in early March when most of the shops and cafes in Masouri/Myrties were closed. As Pothia is still a working fishing port and isn’t totally dependent on tourism it is less affected by the closed season shutdown that occurs on the other side of the island.
We have now arrived in our next climbing destination, Datca in Turkey. In contrast to Kalymnos we have had no first hand reports of what the climbing is like and are really excited to find out.