Monday, April 05, 2010
Over with Kalymnos, but not with Greece - i headed to Meteora to finish off the vacation. This is a lesser-known climbing destination, although a popular touristy spot in northern Greece. Kalampaka is the last train station, and it takes around 4 hours of train ride to get to this, seemingly end-of-the-worldly place. I discovered the walls in all their beauty turning my head while sitting in the train, and my jaw went down with an 'ah' sigh.
Meteora is known as one of the biggest Orthodox monestary centers, with 6 functioning monestaries that tourists come to visit from all over the world. These monestaries were ideal refuge citadels for the monks after the fall of the Byzantine empire and Turkish envasion of Northern Greek plains. Acces to some was limited to climbing a vertical rope hand over hand, and the older monks were directly lifted up in a home-made net! Provided that ropes were replaced 'only when Lord made them brake', vertical risk-taking must not have been a problem in those days. Monestaries and caves became again what they were originally, refuge sites, during the WWII.
Meteora is also a spectacular climbing destination, first climbed by the Germans in the 70s. They published the first topo, and pushed the development of routes and summit registries, similarly to Elbsandsland. The rock is conglomerate, like in Montserrat or Riglos, although with more black overtones prevailing. Meteora also has a fame of being rather run-out due to the nature of the rock and the old ethics of not using too much protection, or chalk for that matter.
The village of Kastraki, Ioulietta's home, and the Tower of Holy Ghost below:
We went off on a bucolic photo session at the base of the Holy Ghost tower, full of spring flowers in bloom:
Ioulietta in action:
And myself discovering the inhabitants of Meteora's plains:
We were rahter careful choosing our route with Ioulietta, given that we did not have helmets or any other trad gear, and run-outs are not favorite with any one of us. We finally decided to try Action Directe (yes, the name had something to do with the choice!), a beautiful line going to the top of the Holy Ghost Tower. There is actually a mystery about this tower, as a cross was found on top of it, and supposedly it was put there in the 14th century - however to this day it is unclear how and who climbed this tower to put the cross on top of it as no remains of any artificial climbing have been found there so far, and all routes going up it now are at least grade V...Action Directe, going up the water streak in the middle of the pic:
Anyway, we enjoyed ourselves very much on this new-style, bolted, and very recommendable route. The second pitch proved the hardest, around 7a(+), Riglos style crux on big boulders. The third and fourth pitches were very good as well, at about 6b and 6c respectively. We rapped after the 4 pitches as the second part has not been freed so far, and we did not feel like pushing our aiding on these beautiful rock formations. Below Ioulieta, getting to the last belay, ascent all in red - starting with the rope, backpack, and trousers - and finishing with the nailpolish. That's how girls do it!!!
And myself keeping up the red tradition, with a monestary half way down the wall in front:
In a nutshell - Greece is definitely worth putting on any climber's map - for sport or long route climbing.