Imagine soaring mountains surrounded by enchanting, quiet beaches and a turquoise sea. This breath taking landscapes inspiring an immense sense of calmness. This is Karpathos – an island between Crete and Rhodes, one of the last to maintain the bucolic atmosphere of ancient Greece. With its stunning villages built on steep mountain slopes situated in the middle of the island, with Kalilimni – its highest peak measuring 1215 metres above sea level – it still attracts only a handful of tourists and one can still see the locals wandering in their traditional costumes.
If you like the climbing style of Kalymnos or Leonidio, but yearn for peace, beaches and forested hills, Karpathos may well become your next destination.
Tradition is actually the key-word here – the Greeks from Karpathos don’t want to turn their island into a crowded tourist resort, booming with the sound of motor boats and disco music. This is one of the reasons why beautiful valleys, covered with trees and rocks as high as two hundred metres, have been resisting climbers for so long. If you like the climbing style of Kalymnos or Leonidio, but yearn for peace, beaches and forested hills, Karpathos may well become your next destination.
It is true that first routes were bolted here already in 2000 by Franz Ehrnthaller and Emmanuel Aussedat; they were, however, quite simple and aimed at windsurfers visiting the island. More professional routes were set only a few years ago, when a group of polish climbers and route equippers was brought by Piotr Barabaś. He recalls, ‘Kalymnos became very commercialized and lost its old charm. With the crowds all around it is difficult to enjoy the mountain exploration. This is why we started looking for a new place to go climbing. We came to Karpathos and fell in love with the island’.
More than two hundred beautiful routes on massive walls along the sea and caves hidden in charming valleys have been set by Polish climbers. It is just a small percent of what the island has to offer. It is just now that they have decided to reveal their discovery and many routes are still waiting to be repeated. We will also find here difficult, open projects without any first ascends. When being there for the first time, it is easy to notice the island’s immense potential for climbers, which may become their next climbing Eldorado. As of today, the regions that are best-prepared for safe sport climbing include Adia and Yvonne.
Taking its name from a nearby village, picturesque Adia is currently the best developed region on the island. We will find here plenty of accommodation, restaurants and a superb beach.
Eighty new routes have been set in a beautiful green canyon within a short walking distance from the village. The biggest sector – Eiar – has thirty beautiful long routes (see the attached topo) set by polish equippers, most of them between 6b and 7b+. If you are looking for a good warm-up, I recommend Kate (6b+) – an endurance climbing on positive holds. As for more difficult routes, Baltica 7b+ and He-Man 7a+ shouldn’t be missed, however all the routes on the central wall are real gems.
Beginners will find a few easier lines, suitable and safe even for children. Regardless of time of the day, we can climb both in the sun and shade. The closest sectors - Cheimon, Theros and Windy Cave – offer thirty new lines of different difficulty. Theros is all day in the shade and is best-known for long orange limestone lines that can go up to 40 metres. We especially recommend Spujnia 6b+ and Slow Motion 6c+. The first one goes over an interesting corner and requires some special climbing skills. The second one has some remarkable last few metres and is a mix of everything you can expect while rock climbing.
Sunny Cheimon is a great option for cooler days, although don’t count on too many of them on Karpathos. Sector Chickens Bay is a gem itself, with easy routes from the year 2000, just next to a beautiful, small beach. It’s an ideal spot for family, recreational climbing or rest days.
There is still plenty of exploring to do in Adia. Polish equippers are planning to set new routes on the right side of the canyon in 2018.
The region of Yvonn is situated on the other side of the island, and getting there by car from Adia will take us only 30 minutes. The two canyons discovered there by Piotr Barabaś are truly unique – they are one kilometer long and up to 70 metres high, and descend onto a path leading to the sea and a beautiful small beach. The exploration of these untrodden canyons has just begun, and one can marvel at their pristine beauty. Couple of sectors close to the sea are already ready. One of the most interesting sectors is Iwona, with nearly 40-metre lines set among overhang tufas and pinch grips.
Those who enjoy higher grades, overhangs and tufas, will appreciate Wild Bianka sector. It is located on a picturesque hill with a beautiful view over the sea. Another advantage is that the rocks are in the shade for all day and you can fell gusts of light breeze there.
In October, Polish equippers set eleven routes from 7b to open 8-projects, but there is still potential to set at least three times more new routes. It is one of the sectors where the first 9a on the island might be set. Daredevils are welcome! Classic routes in the sector include So many pussybilities 7c, which will put our endurance and finger strength to test in numerous tufas and a trick ending. Another interesting route is an open project Pilling me softly 7c+? – a 20-metre single tufa line. Polish climbers opened other sectors in the region too. The easiest routes can be found in Buczek sector – the closest one to a parking lot. It offers interesting slab climbing of intermediate difficulty (6a-6c).
Leisurely sightseeing, sunbathing and delicious cuisine – rest days won’t be boring, unless you want them to be. One of the island’s highlights includes Olympos – a village in the hills with unforgettable views. Beach lovers will be delighted with Makris Gialos – a sandy beach with a gentle drop, making it a great choice for families with children. Lovers of active recreation can rent a mountain bike or go trekking. The trails are well-marked and often lead to some amazing places, inaccessible to cars (especially in the northern part of the island). Karpathos is a heaven for windsurfers, with crystal-clear water and ideal, often extreme, conditions with wind force 8-10 (Beaufort scale) being the norm, as well as good rental shops and professional instructors.
The island is accessible all-year round by plane from Athens, and the airlines that do the trip include Aegan Airlines and Sky Express. In summer we can take advantage of charter flights to Rhodes or Crete where we can board a ferry to Karpahtos.
The cheapest and most comfortable accommodation is renting a studio or an apartment. There is a wide range of options aimed at different budgets. I recommend Kathy's Island Retreat in Adia, situated 5 minutes from the nearest sectors. Renting a car or a scooter is a good idea in order to move between the sectors, and there are plenty of car rentals on the island.
Karpathos is becoming a small climbing paradise, and without doubts it will become one of the most interesting climbing regions in Greece. But there is still plenty of work to be done. This is why we kindly ask you to follow us on Facebook (facebook.com/ClimbingKarpathos) where you will find current information about climbing in Karpathos. We would also like to invite any experienced equippers to collaborate. Artur Kraszewski is the author of the Karpathos Rock Climbing Guidebook that can be purchased from our shop.
The best time to climb on Karpathos is spring and autumn. Most of the sectors have been opened in the last couple of years, and there is still a high risk of loose rocks falling down – remember to wear a helmet!
PS. We would like to thank Fixe Company for giving us a discount to buy the bolts.
The Karpathos Rock Climbing Guidebook is the comprehensive guidebook covering the sport climbing on Karpathos. It details nearly 250 routes from F3+ to F8c+.
Buy this Karpathos Rock Climbing Guidebook from our shop.
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