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Leonidio Limestone Destination Guide

© Graham Hoey

The limestone crags around the town of Leonidio in the Peloponnese region of mainland Greece have been described as "the new Kalymnos" and "possibly the next big thing in European sport climbing". Well, I've not been to every sport-climbing destination in Europe, but it would be fair to say that it's hard to imagine anywhere better.

Rab Carrington climbing the exquisite Rainbow at Sector Micro Theos with the Myrtoon Sea behind  © Graham Hoey
Rab Carrington climbing the exquisite Rainbow at Sector Micro Theos with the Myrtoon Sea behind
© Graham Hoey

The Climbing

Within just a few square miles there are close to a thousand routes, most of which have been put up over the past few years. The vast majority are single pitch routes (up to 50m), but there are multi-pitch offerings (200m) on the main cliff which dominates the valley. The quality of the rock is excellent with both steel-hard Verdonesque grey and Chulilla-style orange/white on offer.

The 200m high Kokkinovrachos (Red Rock) dominates the town  © Graham Hoey
The 200m high Kokkinovrachos (Red Rock) dominates the town
© Graham Hoey

There is a pleasing variety of climbing too, with pocketed 'boiler-plate' slabs, long juggy walls and overhanging 'tufa-fun'; but I wouldn't bother packing the crack-gloves. All the climbs are sensibly bolted (no clipstick required!) and generously so – I took 20 quickdraws on one pitch and had to miss out 5 bolts!

Sector Mars  © Graham Hoey
Sector Mars
© Graham Hoey

Grade-wise there's loads to go at from 5+ to the upper 8s. One issue however is consistency – a few crags (e.g. the excellent Yellow Wall) have Kalymnos softies, and some 6's done by one "CW" might be found a bit tough, but in general the grades are spot on.

At the moment even the very best climbs lack any polish and you won't be queuing – so get there soon!

Mike Waters on Boubouki at Sector Mars  © Graham Hoey
Mike Waters on Boubouki at Sector Mars
© Graham Hoey

Rab Carrington on ‘the grey’; Kairos at Sector Hot Rock  © Mike Waters
Rab Carrington on ‘the grey’; Kairos at Sector Hot Rock
© Mike Waters

Of the climbs we did I would strongly recommend the following:

Sector

Climb

Grade

Namaste

Speedy Quick

6c

Mars

Boubouki

6b

Tufatango

6c

Rocspot

Kali Chronia

6b+

Kallinikos

6c+

NNGH

7a

Hot Rock

Kairos

6c+

Kali

6b

OYK

7a

Mayor

6b

Kokkinovrachos

Ura Ka

6b, 6c, 6c+, 6c, 6b+

Micro Theos

Rainbow

6b

With Gadi

6b+

Perfect

6c+

Filos

7a+

Theos Cave

Psili Makilopardali

7a

St Nicolas

St Nicholas

6b

Taraxippus Extension

6b+

Goats Up

6c+

Tado

6b

Yellow Wall

Yellow Submarine

6c

Lazari

7a

Makaris

6c

The eastern climbing sector viewed from a beach near the coastal village of Poulithra  © Graham Hoey
The eastern climbing sector viewed from a beach near the coastal village of Poulithra
© Graham Hoey

Graham Hoey on the 50m pitch, Taraxippus, at Sector St Nicolas  © Mike Waters
Graham Hoey on the 50m pitch, Taraxippus, at Sector St Nicolas
© Mike Waters

Logistics

When to Go

With the climbing spread over about 50 sectors of differing orientations and altitudes it is possible to find shade, shelter, breeze or heat to suit. However, realistically, for us pasty Brits, summer is probably best avoided unless you are a sun-worshipper. There is little rainfall throughout the year and in the winter season climbing in the sun is extremely pleasant – we were in t-shirts on some days in February. Even on cloudy days we were able to 'man-up' by putting on just a few layers.

How to Get There

We flew to Athens and hired a car. Leonidio is about 235 km from here and is a 3 ½ hr drive (Tolls - £18) through some beautiful scenery. A bus goes from Athens to Leonidio and takes about 4 hours. One can also fly to Kalamata which is an hour closer by road.

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There is no shortage of rooms, apartments, hotels and houses to stay at, both in Leonidio and in the nearby villages. Prices are relatively cheap; we paid 80 Euros per day to rent a house in Leonidio which could hold up to 6 persons (found via booking.com). Even a luxury hotel nearby had double rooms from 70 Euros per night.

Camping Semeli is by the sea about 5 km from Leonidio www.camping-semeli.gr/en/camping/

Getting About

A number of the crags are within 20 minutes walking of Leonidio. All the others can be reached by a short (5 to 20 min) drive followed by a brief (5 to 15 min) walk. Bicycles and scooters can be hired in the town.

Gear

We took an 80m sport rope, which made abseiling off after the multi-pitch route OK (otherwise take two 60m). Our friends took a 70m sport rope which was fine for all but the longest single pitch routes. The longest pitch we did (50m) needed 25 quickdraws (excluding the belay). We took no trad gear, but a few of the multi-pitch routes require it.

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Guidebook

A new guidebook (in English) specific to the area was published at the end of 2016 and costs about 27 Euros; Leonidio Climbing Guidebook. It was produced by and is available from the climbers cooperative in Leonidio, called Panjika, which is a café, bar, restaurant, climbing shop and much more. All proceeds from this book go into local route development. www.panjika.org

A selective sport-climbing guidebook (in English) to the whole of mainland Greece by Aris Theodorous is available in the UK (Greece Sport Climbing: The Best of (2014)) It contains about 280 routes at Leonidio, targeted mainly at 5c to 7a and costs about £40.

Further information can be found at:

http://climbing-leonidio.com/en/info.html

http://climbgreece.com/leonidio/

Provisions

Leonidio is a medium-sized town of about 3800 residents and as such there are plenty of lovely shops along with a petrol station, Post Office, a small hospital, a bank and two cashpoints. The area is renowned for the quality of its fruit and vegetables and the provisions are generally cheap.

Eating Out

There are loads of restaurants in and around Leonidio; particularly recommended are those on the coast. Great deals can be had.

Other Things to Do

The guidebook has suggestions for your 'rest day' including walks, drives (Sparta is about 2hr away) and bike rides. Great beaches and pretty harbours are only a few kilometres away. If you're into Greek mythology this is where it all happened!

Finally I estimate that they've bolted up less than 10% of the available lines, so there's lots more to come. The climbs are in beautiful situations with superb views, particularly of the town and coast. The food is great, the sea warm and the residents are incredibly friendly; it's easy to fall in love with the place.

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Leonidio and its beautiful setting west of the Myrtoon Sea  © Graham Hoey
Leonidio and its beautiful setting west of the Myrtoon Sea
© Graham Hoey

About the author:

Graham has been rock climbing for around forty five years and is passionate about climbing and the history of its development, particularly in the Peak District. He climbs lots of grades both here and abroad and loves all types of climbing from bouldering to multi-pitching.

Graham has spent nearly 40 years working on climbing guidebooks to the Peak District and from 1980 to 2000 was a member of the BMC Guidebook Committee. He is one of the primary authors of Peak Rock, a history of climbing in the Peak District (Vertebrate Publishing 2013). He lives in Baslow in the heart of the Peak District and is often to be found climbing on the nearby edges.

UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by Graham Hoey



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9 Mar, 2017
Great article. We had a brilliant climbing trip to the Peloponnese last year. Would also recommend checking out the remote gem of Kyparissi 60km to the south.http://climbgreece.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Kyparissi_Miniguide_2016-1.pdf
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