New Routing on Kalymnos

© Chris Craggs

Sector St George  © Chris Craggs
Sector St George
© Chris Craggs

Sector St George Topo  © Chris Craggs
Sector St George Topo
© Chris Craggs
Having spent a bit of time on Kalymnos over the past couple of years, and enjoyed the great sport routes on offer, I got to wondering about how great would it be to do a bit of developing of our own. Number one job was to find a bit of rock that wasn't too far from the road (there is stacks of great looking stuff up in 'them thar hills'), not too tall (best to start gently) and not too hard. Also Aris Theodoropoulos (author of the local guidebook) said that a crag really needs at least 10 routes in a grade range or people won't bother visiting, which was good point.

In the event we did a lot of wandering, it proved tricky to find something to fit the precise brief but on a walk out to the St George's chapel at the south eastern tip of the island we spotted a possible candidate. A flat 10 minute walk-in, east facing so offering p.m. shade (which is quite rare on the island) and about 25m high. A return with a rope and a quick abseil confirmed that the rock was generally good, there were some decent lines but sadly though, the whole thing was just a bit steep for my tastes.

I have been climbing with Colin Binks for well over 40 years now and I know he loves a challenge. He has done a fair bit of new routing in Yorkshire including putting up some of the big sport routes at Foredale Quarry - I assumed he would know one end of a drill from the other. As his 65th birthday was fast approaching I made him an offer of a birthday present I hoped he couldn't refuse; a 10 day 'all-expenses-paid' trip to Kaly in return for a bit of 'help'.

In theory the Municipality of Kalymnos provides the gear (bolts, drill and lower-offs) for the equipping of new routes on the island, but it isn't quite that simple. It looks a bit like it depends on who you are and/or who you know, which is fair enough I guess, they don't want to be throwing gear at all and sundry. I managed to get hold of the drill, though the 'material' was harder to come-by. Despite his best efforts a load of metalwork ordered from Jim Titt of Bolt Products in Germany (at a very fair price) failed to make it on time. In the end I had a chat with a French guide - Simon Montmory - who lives out here and I bought a load of Raumer kit off him.

Colin at work  © Chris Craggs
Colin at work
© Chris Craggs
FA. Kings of Kalymnos  © Chris Craggs
FA. Kings of Kalymnos
© Chris Craggs


Rubble  © Chris Craggs
© Chris Craggs
Colin duly arrived and I took him for a preview of the crag and he made the right noises. And so it was down to work.

The usual scenario was have a good look from below then head to the top of the crag, sort out some belays on threads and blocks, then negotiate the razor sharp rock and scattered loose boulders along the cliff edge - lugging the drill, crowbar, hammer, spanner, bolts, secateurs, slings and quick-draws and the spare rope, all of which conspired to snag and catch on every sharp projection and shrub. Once over the edge it was a fairly quick job to drill a couple of holes, place what would be the belay bolts and crabs and set up an abseil rope. Then it was a matter of leaving the drill on the belay and heading down the line giving it a good cleaning as you went, getting rid of any dirt, loose rock and nasty prickly plants.

Next stage was to work the route on a top-rope to find the best line, and to mark with a chalk stick the best places for the bolt runners bearing-in-mind the spacing and the ease of clipping. Once back at the belay, collect the drill (it was damn heavy) and back down the line to actually place the bolts. That takes less time than you might expect though the routes we did were all only vertical which eases the task; a minute or so to drill the hole and another couple to place and tighten the bolt. Then FINALLY it is time lead the route and start the endless discussions about possible names. The hardest route was put up on Colin's Birthday and that night Babis organised a surprise party and we celebrated with a few bemused locals - beers plus pizza in the bar. The route weighed in at about 6c+ and the name was a given; CB 65.

We beavered away and in six days of effort we placed about 80 bolts and produced 10 climbs. I am not sure you would call the experience enjoyable, and it is nothing like climbing either, but there was a certain satisfaction in a job done. On one of our 'rest days' from bolting we did a couple of long two-pitch climbs on the Dalle de Patouch and clipped in the region of 90 bolts. I take my hat off to the guys who do this all the time, especially those putting up the multi-pitch routes or hard climbs on really overhanging rock.

Name painting  © Chris Craggs
Name painting
© Chris Craggs

After Colin was packed off home myself and Sherri walked into Sector St George, as it had become known, one last time to paint the names on the rock, I produced a topo and that was it - job done. It isn't the best crag on the island (by a mile!) but it is all ours.

Would I do it again? Well funnily enough I spotted this crag just the other day ...


VIDEO: Rock Cleaning at Sector St George

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Chris Craggs
© Chris Craggs

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24 Feb, 2011
Good work but I think you need name painting lessons from the French boys at St Leger: E
24 Feb, 2011
Hey Chris, Good effort! 'lugging the drill, crowbar, hammer, spanner, bolts, secateurs, slings and quick-draws and the spare rope, all of which conspired to snag and catch on every sharp projection and shrub...' How well I know this feeling. It's an odd experience, isn't it, as you say, far removed from normal climbing. But surprisingly creative and oddly addictive. It sounds like you'll be back for more. Hope so. Mick
24 Feb, 2011
Yes, I have seen the neat work that some of the French climbers have done with the route names. We considered trying it but didn't have any of the materials (small brushes, oil/enamel paint, varnish) or much in the way of artistic talent so we went with the 'slap it on' approach! Chris
24 Feb, 2011
Good work Chris, I look forward to clipping some of these bolts in the near future.
24 Feb, 2011
Hope the hard work pays off and people enjoy the routes. Now i'm waiting for the normal UKC folks to start ranting about destroying the rock by putting bolts etc up. Forget that its not in the UK so they won't mind Is it going to be any good for drytooling..........
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