Ask most North American climbers if they’ve been to Greece, and you’ll likely hear, “You mean Kalymnos?” or, “Do you mean Meteora?” It must, I imagine, be a bit like asking a European climber if he’s been to America, and having him respond, “Do you mean Yosemite?” or, “You mean Indian Creek?” We tend to associate an entire country with its largest, most famous showcase areas, forgetting that, of course, where there’s rock there’s usually more rock, especially in Europe, with its untold exposed limestone.
Greece is a wonderful country, all mountains, rocky escarpments, and sea, with warm, friendly people and the Mediterranean’s longest coastline spread across a shimmering, crenellated landscape and some 1,000 storybook islands. And if you’ve been to Kalymnos/Telendos, you also know that at least one of these islands is home to a rock-saturated tufa-pulling paradise, with hundreds of four-star routes by the Aegean Sea dropped down as if by a Creator who loves climbers. But you probably don’t know that much of the rest of the country, so mountainous by nature, is host to many more such crags, nestled into tight, piney valleys, or hard by the blue-green waters, or even in and around the hills enclosing the four-million-person megalopolis of Athens.
A must-have resource for exploring more of Greece’s sleeper mega-sport destinations—on par with the best of France and Spain—is Aris Theodoropoulos’s new Greece Sport Climbing: The Best Of (Terrain Books, €35.00 + €4.50 flat worldwide shipping; climbgreece.com/guidebook/), a 320-page full-color, photo-rich guidebook out this autumn. Like all of Theodoropoulos’s indispensable books for Kaly, this one is also a thing of beauty and a big, “Oh, buddy, I gotta go there!” shot in the arm. I found myself twitching with the travel angst of my long-gone youth as I drooled over the 12-pitch 7c Vailis Milias on the isle of Symi, the Grande Grotta–dwarfing Tersanas Cave on Crete, the multipitch Verdonesque faces of venerable Varasova, and the host of steep, futuristic, tufa-snaking caves, overhangs, and walls in the Athens environs. There is a lot to explore in Greece, and this book is a best-of sampler to get you going: Kalymnos is not included, though Meteora is.
A wonderful map of the country in the front-flap foldout lets you scope potential itineraries and note the crag densities in each region, and a helpful four-page “Crag Planner” chart and “Suggested Rock Trip Itineraries” in the introductory section help refine where you might want to go, and when. There are also plenty of tight, sharp, professional action (climbing-porn) shots throughout, to whet the appetite. And the book synchs up with the soon-to-be-interactive site/database climbgreece.com, so you can keep tabs on this rapidly evolving mega-Euro sport paradise. I’ve been to Greece three times now—just once to climb—and those have been among the best travels of my life. I can’t wait to go back again, with a rope, draws, beach towel, and my copy of Greece Sport Climbing: The Best Of.
[Note: Theodoropoulos is a prolific new-router in his home country, including on Kalymnos, and puts the proceeds from his books back into equipping new crags and updating existing routes. Please support his efforts by buying—and not copying—his guidebooks.]