A trip to Mars

Mars is big and red (and quite a long way away… certainly a bit more than the 20 minutes suggested in the guidebook, but well worth the effort.)

 It’s probably the premier shady option at Leonidio, and as the sun disappeared around the corner the hordes arrived – big teams from France, Germany and Spain as well as another couple of Brit teams and a smattering of Scandis. The place is rammed, but in a friendly, buzzing (though noisy!) way.

The main focus of attention is the tufa-stuffed cave on the right, giving about 20 routes from 6b to 7b. Surprisingly low entry grade for such impressive tufa formations, and most of the easier routes have a crux to get established on the wall followed by much bridging and the occasional jam up immaculate pipes and curtains of flowstone. There are also a bunch of routes on the grey wall on the left which, while not so spectacular, give great climbing on very crozzly pockets. Here’s Helen showing off her E9 trousers… 

… On the appropriately named… 

I didn’t get a picture of her onsighting her first 6b of the trip, Biosphare, but it was a smooth send considering a few run-out sections.

Moving on to the cave we did both the “musical note” 6b+s Boubouki and Pontiki sto Syri. Both outstanding in their own rights and both with extensions which up the ante considerably. The latter (7b) has a pockety roof after about 30m which saw me off. I made better progress on the Boubouki extension (7a+) which takes an overhanging tufa thread and then pockets up an immaculate leaning wall before a hard-to-read crux near the top. Faced with chalk out to the left and the right, and fading strength, I guessed left and ran out of steam and out of ideas with the (now obvious) jug just a tantalising couple of feet to my right. My shout of “take” got lost in the hubbub below and I plummeted about 20ft as fingers finally gave way. A shame as it’s one of the best routes I’ve been on this trip. Photo below shows a strong Spanish girl top roping it – red hat about 2/3 of the way up the crag above the biggest tufa forest. 

… Definitely full Kaly-class. Should have been suitably reassured when the Spanish team reported “muy guapa!”; they know a thing or two about tufa. 

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