Leonidio – Cave of Panagia

We’d explored a couple of the sectors on the big yellow wall that overlooks the Leonidio valley nearest the coast, above the road to Athens on our last trip – Mad Wall had been absolutely rammed, with the atmosphere of an indoor climbing wall, and we’d escaped to the solitude of the much more interesting Yellow Wall.

This time we had Mad Wall to ourselves and stopped there for a quick warm-up. Here’s Helen on Nirvana, 6a+. Like most of the routes on this sunny, slabby sector, it rears up unexpectedly in the last 5m or so and packs a sting in the tail.

Moving further leftwards and up the hill we arrive at the Cave of Panagia, which is a real “crag of two halves”.

A lower slabbier wall is topped by a magnificent tufa jungle. On the right hand side are routes on both tiers, with a fine bunch of 5-6as on the lower wall and some stunning 7s above (many of which are named after famous climbers). Here’s Helen on Don Whillans, 6a (not a hand jam in sight!)

… and Jim leading Sitena to access the upper wall

… to very kindly give me a belay on Edlinger (gets 7a in the Aris book, 7b on UKC and 6c in the new guide – maybe 6c+ might be fair, but I’ll take the 7a tick for the amount of wet on the tufas ;-)) Anyway, it’s completely awesome – great holds through sustained steepness, with a couple of hands-off rests higher up when you need to be getting something back! You can maybe just about make me out lower left of the shot below…

Further to the left the routes are longer, up to around 40m, starting up slabby “broccoli” covered rock (not really the green vegetable, but the kind of prickly limestone deposits you get from millenia of drips from the tufas above) and then running into the tufa territory above.

Here’s Jim on Kisakas, 6b and tough for the grade

Helen on Nimfas, 6a+

… and a passing Brit on 55, 6c (and if you look really closely you might just spot me grappling on the tufa trunks top right)

Whilst there are fewer than half a dozen routes through the upper tufas in the book (some of which continue for another few pitches) there are quite a few more bolts on the rock, so the hunt is on to find more info.

Finally, at the far right of the sector, there is a new line by Michael Piola: Solo righthand, 7a. I’ve never been disappointed by a Piola route, and this was no exception – good, mostly flat holds up prickly and gently overhanging rock. Slightly disconcerting as it’s obviously very new and some of the holds look a bit fragile, but otherwise you just need to keep plugging away.

All that effort called for beers, so we gathered at the Panjika bar for a very acceptable (though pricey) Greek IPA and a (very reasonably priced!) lentil curry. Swings and roundabouts.

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