I’d put off a visit to Grande Grotte, hoping to leave it until my hand was sorted – it really is the centrepiece of Kalymnos climbing! With a couple of more productive days in the bag I couldn’t resist any longer!
Despite being in the shade of its own huge roof for much of the day, it’s still pretty toasty, and after the 20 minutes slog up the hill there’s no need for a cardio warm up. In terms of a climbing one, there’s a reputedly tough and polished 6a+ or you’re into 6c and above. There’s also the potential for queues forming on the most popular routes… I had my eye on DNA, 7a and perhaps the most famous / popular 7 on the island. We arrived and found it unoccupied, so I weighed up the options… I’d rather fail on a 7a than have a hideous struggle on a 6a+, and worst case at least I’d have got the draws in.
I jumped straight on it, and felt the steepness immediately. Fortunately the holds are generally enormous, and a measured sprint saw me at about 2/3 height and enjoying a hands-off rest leaning back into a huge tufa, gasping for oxygen. As my pulse rate stabilised I eyed the last 20ft or so of tufa madness. Another sprint up and leftwards gains the finest no hands rest I’ve ever come across: picture a thick stone toilet seat stuck to the wall, with your legs stuffed through the hole and braced against the rock. After a good shakeout there, the last 10ft to the chain were a doddle! Woohoo!
I was just about to lower off to clean the route (take out the quick draws – probably nearly as much effort as climbing it!) when a young Austrian lad called Daniel offered to top rope it and do the job for me – everyone’s a winner! And I got to take some great pictures (Daniel’s yellow pants are a lot more photogenic than my black shorts!)
… You get a feel for the angle!
With our gear safely recovered I had a breather whilst Helen led a couple of routes on sector Afternoon, just around the corner – a handy shady spot, pleasant climbing but a bit polished.
Once the pump had subsided I thought I’d have another role of the dice on the other Grande Grotte classic 7a – Trella. Almost twice as long, but with a gentler run in to a 20m tufa wrestling extravaganza. Some wag on UKC likened an ascent to a bar room brawl, and I can see what he was getting at!
More cunning rests and sheer bloody-mindedness saw me exhausted but elated at the chains. This time Helen helped out by stripping the gear.
I probably should have called it a day at this point, but couldn’t resist a try at Elephantenhimmel – elephant heaven. An easy slab leads to a steep tufa strewn wall and then a 30ft roof composed of elephant leg sized tufas, which you endeavour to stride between. Highly disorientating territory, it becomes hard to distinguish up from down (though pressing gravity does its best to remind you!) Having navigated through the maze of legs you’re left with a really stiff pull for the chain – a pull too far, in my case. Nonetheless, a fabulous adventure to that last stiff move – it would make a much better and more balanced route of around 6c if it stopped there. This time there were no volunteers, so I ended up top roping it again to retrieve the gear. Knackered!
… But what a Grande day 🙂