We arrived in Izmir on the western coast of Turkey after 4 hours driving through the rain soaked country. The entire west coast seemed to be under rain clouds on the day we traveled. We are staying in Izmir to go climbing at Kaynaklar, a climbing area just to the east of Izmir that is little known in the UK. We had no idea what to expect, no-one we have spoken to, including a couple of Turkish climbers, had climbed there.
The rain continued overnight and we awoke to a grey morning. Looking at the hills from our apartment terrace added to the gloom as the clouds completely enveloped the climbing areas. This was not a promising start. However as the morning wore on, the sun began to win the battle of the skies and we decided to head out and investigate the crag, even if it was too wet to actually climb anything.
So off we set, just after rush hour, and made it through the outskirts of the city and into the countryside. There is a sharp dividing line between city and country, both in terms of the scenery and the size of the roads. We approached the town of Kaynaklar on a main road and I was surprised when Google directed us around the outer edge of the town. Trusting Google with these things is often a mistake, but I think on average over the course of this trip we have had a 50% success / failure rate when following Google directions (but more on that in another blog). This time the Google route took us along ever narrowing roads, around the edge of the village, through farmyards and zones that are clearly inhabited by chickens more than vehicles. According to Google this was the quickest way, but it certainly wasn’t the easiest! Trying to get onto the very small road (more like a paved track) that led to the parking spot was somewhat problematic as it involved turning back on ourselves with literally no room to do it. Were we meant to reverse up the road? We continued past the turning and managed to find somewhere to turn around so that we could head back up the hill in the right direction, trying to avoid the edge where the subsurface no longer supported the paving tiles. Bravery lost out when the paved road ended and only a dirt track remained, heading towards what we thought was the parking area, but we didn’t actually know for sure. Rather than get stuck we decided to abandon our vehicle and head off on foot.
A short stomp later and we found ourselves heading up to the first part of the crag, quite a short sector with routes only about 20m high. And most of them wet. So we crossed over the valley to main escarpment in the hope that they might be drier. Jon, very considerately, decided not to tell me about the very chunky three foot snake that slithered behind a rock as he walked down the path. I am very grateful to have missed that whole encounter, I think if I had know about the snake then I would certainly have trodden with a lot more trepidation. Venomous vipers are common in this area, I am trying not to dwell on that!
We then crossed to the main section of crag which was again wet in places, but some lines looked dry enough to climb. Things were looking up and we began to think that climbing might actually be a possibility, if the dark clouds didn’t get any more threatening. We decided to get on a couple of routes in case the rain returned and chose to start with a quick 5c up an arete, something straightforward and fairly easy. Well, I think that was the hardest 5c I have ever done! I don’t expect to have to do big moves, with my foot by my shoulder, and only two fingers of each hand on tiny crimps when I am doing a 5c! I got to the top very relieved that I hadn’t fallen off, it had been a distinct possibility.
After a quick bite to eat, Jon started up a 6b+. Now I expect these to be hard, but I don’t expect Jon to fall off them. Four times! When I gave it a go I saw exactly what the problem was, the tiny footholds are highly polished and have very little friction, and the handholds were all slopey or non-existent. It was desperate! I only got halfway before giving up, deciding it wasn’t worth the battle resting on the rope after every move. Feeling somewhat demoralised by a hard 5c and a failed attempt at a 6b+ Jon felt the need to try and get something positive out of the day, despite the grey skies and ominous atmosphere. So he started up a 6c+! And of course it was desperate as well. A really powerful layback sequence up a corner with the tips of his big toes on tiny little knobbles, and then through a roof with flat sloping holds which took him along a natural line to a point 3m away from his next bolt. As he was well above his last bolt a long fall looked decidedly possible. After 10 minutes of very delicate faffing, he managed to traverse back and clip the next bolt, enabling both of us to breathe a bit more easily. He was also more mollified having made at least one clean ascent (of something more than a 5). Once at the top, in the spirit of eternal optimism, he turned to me and said “Are you going to give this a go?” Ah…No!
So we went off to check out the rest of the crag, bypassing all the 7’s and 8’s (of which there are many), and found a sector with some more 5’s, and a range of 6’s. Another team were on the 5’s, and when Jon muttered those fateful words “It would be good to do one more route”, our best option was the 6a. But it looked really hard to me. Very small holds up an otherwise blank wall. It was close to an arete, but if you climbed the arete you were nowhere near the bolts. Jon started up, clipped the first bolt, and then headed back down again. “Hmmm” he said. Off he went again. “It’s a bit thin” he commented, struggling to get past the first bolt. Oh dear. Somehow he managed to levitate up and clip the next two bolts, he then moved quickly onto the arete, and very carefully worked his way up, reaching far over onto the slab to clip the bolts. A tricky move round an overhanging bulge (with the bolt on the opposite side to where he was climbing!) and he was at the anchors. Was that really the line of the route? I asked him to strip the quickdraws from the upper section, I was a bit worried about the swing if I came off tackling the bulge. But I needn’t have worried about the bulge, I didn’t get that far! In fact I didn’t get past the first bolt! However I still had 3 quickdraws to retrieve, so through a process of climbing assisted by hauls on the rope, I managed to get high enough to collect the gear and be returned to the ground utterly defeated. I can’t remember the last time I failed so spectacularly on a 6a! Jon eased my dejection by saying that he wasn’t surprised I found it tough, it had felt more like 7a to him, and he nearly backed off it.
Finally, to add injury to insult, after untying from the rope I slipped on the stony path and landed with a resounding thump on a pointed rock. I am sitting writing this on the softest chair we have access to, with a battered ego and a bruised bum.
Time for some chocolate I think.
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