Climbing in the Rain

It’s another rainy day during October—Kalymnos high season. The island is packed with climbers eager to head up to the many rock faces but the weather isn’t cooperating. We meet our friends down at Snack Bar Fatolitis, the not-so-unofficial climber hangout and rendezvous. We settle in for a cup of coffee as we try to assess which way the storm is actually moving. As we glance out on the water we see white caps and spray and spiral patterns from the wind heading every direction at once. Just as Kyle opens his mouth to add his two cents a huge gust pelts him in the face, blowing off his hood and completely drowning out his words. When the wind blows on Kalymnos, it really blows. Then the rain returns and we have to take cover in the more interior part of the bar, the simple grape arbor ceiling is no longer able to shelter us from this “little” Greek tempest.

Glancing through the guidebook for wisdom about where to climb in the rain we come to the same conclusion as every other group of climbers on the island. Today is either a rest day or it’s time to head up to Grande Grotta, Kalymnos’ famous and enormous cave. (To get a sense of scale, see if you can spot Kyle at the bottom of the picture to the right.) I walk back up the stairs in town to my room to grab my bag and am nearly blown from the cliff side. I trudge up the trail to meet my friends and they are already putting their rope up on a 7a (5.11d). Not exactly my idea of a warm up but I decide to give it a try, I don’t get very far, but the feeling of more than vertical stalactite climbing still can’t be beat. I lower to the sensation that I have warmed up only about 4 inches of my forearms, in other words I am completely pumped.

My friend, Maro and I head over to the right side of the cave where the area’s only 6a+ (5.10b) resides. Not surprisingly all of my moderate-climbing-cohorts are residing at the base of this climb as well. We announce our desire to wait in line for whenever whoever is finished and watch the rain and chat about politics. The rain drips from the top of the cave above us but we remain pretty sheltered where we are. By the time we do the climb (which was excellent and reminded me very much of Thailand) the rain has stopped and the walls are beginning to dry.

We venture around the corner to Afternoon Wall, a much more appropriate venue for our climbing level and spend the rest of the day up and down the great climbs there. The rain was never very heavy and the wind never ceased, but I am still surprised at how quickly the wall is dry enough to climb. In maybe one and a half hours all but the biggest pockets are dry and Afternoon Wall’s vertical climbing on small holds is as fun as ever.

Eventually the sun comes out and the legions of climbers holed up in Masouri venture up to the walls. At the moment we have traded in our endless summer for a Southern Mediterranean fall, but that’s nothing to complain about. Even with the rain and wind the temperatures are perfect for climbing. I think we’ll stick around long enough to use our jackets but then it’ll be off to warmer climes.

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