Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Kalymnos - Cicati Cave

Kalymnos developed originally as the sponge divers' island, but due to the desease that dessimated the animals in the 80ies, the island had to focus more on tourism. 

(Climber as part of the tufas, Lolita 7a perfectly executed by Pau)

Rock climbing has become one of the niches for generating tourism revenues.  By now Kalymnos is a well-known and popular destination with the worldwide climbing community.  Its barren landscapes remind me a lot of Callanques, another Mediterranean jewel for some reason less popular with climbers lately, but full of incredible routes and adventures for the willing and courageous ones as well.

We have continued our experience at Kalymnos with a trip to Cicati cave.  This required renting motos (a perfect advertisement for moto journey around the island below):

After a drive and a hike we arrived to this strange formation, where apparently a roof collapsed over an old cave, making it an open-sky wonder full of tufas, over 50 meters high and far from a fully developed climbing potential.  The Cicati Cave, where capturing with a camera all its beauty remains a challenge:

We concentrated on a route opened by Andrada, called Lolita.  It became the first project of the trip, to go at the second try despite some promising distance between the bolts.  The climbing here is pretty exagerated in many respects.  The tufas give a 3D feeling to the moves, and body has to be placed in all credible and incredible positions during the climb.  It is very interesting to figure it out, actually a joy to jump monkey-like from tufa to another tufa. Below myself redpointing la Lolita, the crux of the route:

Monday, March 29, 2010

Kalymnos - First Days

The journey from Barcelona to Kalymnos has been a painful one and took us over 30 hours and all possible means of transport.  Due to some strange planning, we first flew to Dusseldorf, than to Athens, took a ferry to Kos island, than a small boat to Kalymnos, and a couple of taxis in between.  Tired but excited, we finally saw the island - from Kos, before taking the last boat:

Nevertheless, having left Barcelonan Saturday morning, we were already climbing by the afternoon of Sunday.  The happy crew sitting at Grande Grota, one of the most impressive and easily accessed sectors of the island, below - Pau, Ioulietta, Luis:

The climbing started strong, with a couple of warm-ups at Panorama, and then the end of the day at overhangs of Grande Grota on the left.  The overhangs and the tufas are just incredible.  Below is myself finishing the hard work on Trela, incredible 7a of 40 meters tufa pulling:

The sunset at Telendos to end the day:

To be continued...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

US classics

Old good Tom Waits, an incredible guy, my dad has sent me the link to this fabulous performance:

Edna Million in a drop dead suit
Dutch pink on a downtown train
Two dollar pistol but the gun won't shoot
I'm in the corner in the pouring rain
16 men on a deadman's chest
And I've been drinking from a broken cup
2 pairs of pants and a mohair vest
I'm full of bourbon; I can't stand up.

Hey little bird, fly away home
Your house is on the fire; your children all alone
Hey little bird, fly away home

Your house is on the fire; your children all alone
Schiffer broke a bottle on Morgan's head
And I've been stepping on the devil's tail
Across the stripes of a full moon's head
Through the bars of a Cuban jail
Bloody fingers on a purple knife
A flamingo drinking from a coctail glass
I'm on the lawn with somebody else's wife
Come admire the view from up on top of the mast

Hey little bird, fly away home
Your house is on the fire; your children all alone
Hey little bird, fly away home

Yellow sheets in a Hong Kong bed Stazybo horn and a Slingerland ride
To the carnival is what she said
A hundred dollars makes it dark inside

And from Waits' early years, made me think of a good friend of mine who used to sing, although i don't know if he still sings like he used to.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

re- Sant Benet

Sant Benet remains this special, mystic place.  It is not that evident to feel the mystic nature of the place in just one visit though.  One remains with some strange taste in the mouth - wondering what the whole fuss is about.  Conglomerate routes, move after move, bolts - nothing special, the usual routine of going up, down, belaying, getting the draws, pushing a little bit harder.  And then one day you go down and you realize it was all as if in a dream, in a separate reality, in the mist that so often covers the monastery and its bells - but not the Agujas on top, not the St Benet top of this Mother Mountain, the Mont Serrat.

Does Mont Serrat mean closed mountain?  I don't know, but St Benet feels closed, separate, illusive.  It is on the opposite spectrum from the noisy Margalef, the crowds, the vans, the stars and the paparazzi following the grown-ups or the children sending those projects, ticking down the lines, climbing numbers, not walls, doing sends, not routes.  St Benet does not let you touch it that easily, it does not open itself to your inflated ego - you can be a weekend warrior climbing 5s or an experienced project-sender working 8bs, you can still be insured to fail at some 'warm-up' 6as at the Totxos sector.  If not the one to the left, it will be the one to the right that will get to you.  But St Benet is not only about humbling down the ego, or about good bouldering.  It is all that and much more.

You have to pass one of those days there, climbing up the stairs, out of the mist, into the sun.  Seeing the crazy goats soloing some of your projects, deciphering the codes left in many ermitas, hidden amongst the needles labyrinth, or just contemplating frogs and wondering about time.  It is all St Benet, it is all there.  Come, grab a project, do it, and go down.  But a part of you will stay - sooner or later you come to realize that a part of you has remained in those strange shadows, in the curving line of the horizon, embracing that last foothold you dismissed so quickly.  The dreamcatcher, the convoluted dreamcatcher set in stone.  That is St Benet.

Iripi piripa showing its powers to the loyal follower in the middle of the sky...

And myself fighting for Crit de Crim on another strange, cold, and auspiciously dark winter day in the middle of spring...

Despite my resounding and ambitious plans to "try the last three routes on the right this winter" i have only managed to climb Crit de Crim this spring - but as my friend says, climbing in St Benet is not like climbing in any other place.  You do not send another 7a and forget about it.  No, you climb Crit de Crim, a route formed by thousands of years of sea washing the rock, bringing it down, stone by stone, from the mountains of Mallorca, of Pireneu, or maybe even from the far-away Alps.  It has been there, it will remain there - and we are passing through, engaging in the physical contact with this incredible, time-worn temple.  Will the contact help us understand, help us finally be at peace?  Or will it remain the dream?

Monday, March 15, 2010


Too many things have been going on lately and i have been pretty lazy with my blog.  I will try to do a quick update about the past weeks as the time constraints remain very vivid during these cold spring times.

First of all - Margalef.

The picture above is from another sector i have recently discovered there - Cabernet, looking down at the Cami de la Ermita.  Cabernet is the opposite of Laboratori - the other famous sector of Margalef full of famous routes, where one usually can see Sharma, Pou, and their paparazzi friends.  Whereas Laboratori is full of  short bouldery mono routes close to the road in a rather claustrophobic canyon, Cabernet is long, sustained, and open to the winds of time.  The view is one of the best around Margalef, down the valley and up to the sun.  Lonely climbers can sleep at the old abandoned Ermita, or sit around a friendly fire if others are around.

And the routes are incredible.  Two projects remain there for me - Califato Coach (what Pau calls the little sister to Rambla), a long, sustained, and overhanging one, and the short bouldery Mar de Fons below.  Both are rated 7b, but are very different in style and project approach needed.  Like the Catalans say, I have feina there!!!

Above is the picture from the inspiring Klaas Willems, working on Pais de Monos, a neighboring 8a+ in Cabernet, a project for future days maybe, when my fingers will grow stronger..!

Second, Montserrat.  We have been going back to the Mother Mountain lately and it is as good as ever - despite the cold times, the snowy times, the sad unsunny and happy sunny days.  Several good days have seen us around the walls of Vermeil and Cova de Arcada - some projects went down, some others remain, and some rap rings are left to the more skillful climbers as bounty on a couple more 7as that i was not able to finish.  That is the circle of life, and the Mother Mountain remains immortal.

Above picture by Remi, myself working hard to lead the awesome line of Vox Populi, a 7b to the right of Ultravox - another pending project in the gold mine of Montserrat Sur sport climbing.

And third - the skiing.

I managed to get out for 2 days to Deux Alpes, and benefit from incredible sunny weather and family times there.  Skiing remains good, i got a chance to have some reminiscences from my past ski touring days.  Yes, it was good - and maybe sometime in the future i will use my old skis again...Not this season though!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


As a child I lived near this machine for quite some time, spending many of my summers with my grandmothers.  My great-grand mother would start sewing, and i would play low down, close to the ground, with the pedal - if you sat on one side, it would start moving, and eventually shift underneath my weight.  Then there were the letters, the imposing metal structure, the serious black color inspiring respect and consideration.

The interesting part of this story is that all this was happening during 1980s, in the middle of nowhere in the heart of Ukrainian Carpaty, the mountains where Drakula is supposed to have erected his castle in the neighboring Romania - or more prosaically a rather poor, systemically under-developed province of the already chronically lagging Galicia, part of the Western Ukraine.  So what this 130-year old machine, invented in 1850 in the US was doing at 1500m, in the house of my great-grand mother, 1 hour walk from any road, and many hours away from what one could potentially call civilization??

To make any sense of this memory of mine one has to first realize that Western Ukraine used to be part of Austro-Hungarian empire before joining Poland after WWI, and finally 'joining' again the Soviet Union for the lack of a better option, or should i say alternative, after WWII.  The family of my great-grandmother, wealthy farmers at the time, bought the Singer as the sign of the upcoming prosperity and technological progress of the brave new world.  They were convinced by one of the representatives of the great American multinational, the Singer company, that happened to ramble into this far-away land inhabited by strange Hutsuls.  Globalization was knocking at their door, it was the end of the 19th century, the glorious days of infinite progress and unlimited hope.  

As a child, I would hear stories about how my great-grandma had run across the village to save the Singer, the only possession left, before, and then after another bombing, after another invasion, by another army, of enemies or friends, to have crossed the mountains again.

Sometimes, people go - but things stay.  Now the Singer has moved again, to Belgium, to another lonely, cold and humid place.  It remains - an American invention in the midst of the crazy complex world of ours, the symbol of globalization, for me the symbol of my youth, of my grandma and great-grandma, of the freedom and running across the mountain, of making my first steps in the vicinity of the machine.  Technology - always present, but only us, humans, can make it valuable.
This is how I imagine my great-great grand father, just after he bought the Singer...picture by Kyrylo Horiszny.

"Waiting For The Miracle"

Baby, I've been waiting,
I've been waiting night and day.
I didn't see the time,
I waited half my life away.
There were lots of invitations
and I know you sent me some,
but I was waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.
I know you really loved me.
but, you see, my hands were tied.
I know it must have hurt you,
it must have hurt your pride
to have to stand beneath my window
with your bugle and your drum,
and me I'm up there waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

Ah I don't believe you'd like it,
You wouldn't like it here.
There ain't no entertainment
and the judgements are severe.
The Maestro says it's Mozart
but it sounds like bubble gum
when you're waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

Waiting for the miracle
There's nothing left to do.
I haven't been this happy
since the end of World War II.

Nothing left to do
when you know that you've been taken.
Nothing left to do
when you're begging for a crumb
Nothing left to do
when you've got to go on waiting
waiting for the miracle to come.

I dreamed about you, baby.
It was just the other night.
Most of you was naked
Ah but some of you was light.
The sands of time were falling
from your fingers and your thumb,
and you were waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come

Ah baby, let's get married,
we've been alone too long.
Let's be alone together.
Let's see if we're that strong.
Yeah let's do something crazy,
something absolutely wrong
while we're waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

Nothing left to do ...

When you've fallen on the highway
and you're lying in the rain,
and they ask you how you're doing
of course you'll say you can't complain --
If you're squeezed for information,
that's when you've got to play it dumb:
You just say you're out there waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.