By Katerina Tiliakou

When it comes to rock climbing, Kalymnos, the island of sponge divers, as it is widely known, does not need any introduction. Thousands of climbers including professionals, disabled people and amateurs with their families visit the island every year, according to the Kalymnian municipal tourism authority.

Rock climbing at Masouri, Kalymnos. Photo by @Nikolaos Smalios, National Geographic's awarded winner

What is rock climbing ?

In Kalymnos people prefer to do sport climbing, a ''form of rock climbing that relies on permanent anchors'' fixed to the rock for protection either permanently or temporarily. The reason that this form of climbing is so popular among families is due to the low accident rates.

Rock climbing has started in Kalymnos sixteen years ago and has been ranked as one of the best and safest climbing destinations in the world by the international climbing community.

According to the officer of the municipal tourist office of Kalymnos, George Chatzimixalis, currently, there are 3000 sport routes in the island and every year around 100 to 150 new routes are opened by the Greek and foreign climbers. 

Safety and amateur’s climbing

According to the Kalymnian Hospital, there were no fatal accidents in 2016. In addition, the Kalymnos Rescue Team, which is covered by six volunteers, had to intervene in only ten minor cases.

There are number of easy routes that can be top-roped even by young children, amateurs and disabled people. Moreover, beginners can collect their equipment from the Kalymnian climbing centres and seek guidance from a very well certified climbing instructors.

It is worth pinpointing that all rock climbers including professionals are always accompanied in case of emergency.

Normally, these trails are easily accessible, from 20 to 30 meters high and their difficulty levels vary from four to nine degrees. On the other hand, for the more experienced climber, there are a few tracks of 'one pitch' type that expand to 50 or even 60 meters.

Rock climbing is a popular sport among families. Photo by @Municipal tourist office of Kalymnos

Loucas Dourdourekas, a former Olympic athlete in rock climbing and member of the Kalymnos Rescue Team, says: ‘The nature and structure of the Kalymnian mountains make rock climbing less risky and ideal for all, including families and people with disabilities, who want to combine fun and sports as part of their holiday plans’.

Experienced rock climbers with disabilities at Arginonta, Kalymnos. Photo by @Kieran Duncan

On the third of August 2016 it was announced that sport climbing was added to the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Equipment:

Experienced rock climbers usually use their own tested equipment for safety measures. So, when they visit climbing centres they usually seek clothing or climbing ropes.

The equipment of a rock climber consists of:

  • Climbing Shoes
  • Climbing Clothing
  • Climbing Harnesses
  • Climbing Helmets
  • Chalk Bag
  • Belay Devices
  • Climbing ropes
  • Passive Protection
  • Climbing Carabiners
  • Camming Devices
  • Quickdraws
  • Winter Climbing
  • Climbing Guidebook
  • Climbing Pack
  • Climbing Holds and Training
  • Climbing Slings and Bandolier

Reasons for choosing Kalymnos

Rock climber at Arginonta, Kalymnos. Photo by @Nikolaos Smalios, National Geographic’s awarded winner

Quick access to the climbing routes

Kalymnos is famous and quite well known among climbers because of its quick access to the sports climbing routes. The majority of the routes are found in the west and northwest part of the island and climbers need only 30mins to travel from one route to another.

Climate and calcareous land

The island of sponge divers has a dry climate, so year-round climbing is possible. Even in the summer, there are shady and cool tops that relieve the climbers.  However, there are certain periods such as, spring and autumn, which considered as ideal for rock-climbing lovers because of the milder climatic conditions.

Sonja Kuchler, 28, a primary education teacher from Switzerland, says: 'I chose Kalymnos because it is well known for the best spots for climbing. ‘It is really warm as a place and close to my homeland.'

Another advantage of Kalymnos is that it is rich in calcareous rocks. These stones offer stability, as they are very strong, and a picturesque view.

Low cost of living and food

It is no secret that Greece is struggling with the financial crisis and so the Kalymnian citizens, whose salaries have been decreased. As a consequence, the cost of living is low compared to other parts of Europe and the US.

It is not all about rock climbing. Kalymnos is also known for its traditional cuisine. There are plenty of local tavernas and restaurants for both meat-eaters and vegetarians.

Educational information about Kalymnos

Kalymnos consists of offshore islands of Pserimos, Telendos, Kalolimnos, and Plati, as well as several uninhabited islets. It’s combined land area has 134.544 square kilometres and a population of 16000 inhabitants as of 2011.

Useful links:

www.climbingkαlymnos.com and mto@kalymnos.gr

Video about Kalymno’s rock climbing:

https://vimeo.com/181857399

Credits to: @Cheyne Lempe