High up on Francalypso, I climbed the steep sharp rock, only 15 feet until I reach Joe huddled up in his sweater at the belay station. As I look up at Joe with a look of panic on my face, a storm cloud slowly forms over his head. He looks up momentarily then back at me, all he does is smile and let out a maniacal laugh.
It was early Friday morning, and our gear was laid out before us on the bed. Harness? Check. 80m Rope? Check! 14 Draws? Check! Wait only 14 draws? Are you sure, aren’t there 50m pitches? We take a quick glance at the guidebook again and confirm that it is 14 draws, as well as two 50m pitches. The pitches were graded 5b and 6b, so we weren’t worried about run outs. Jess was still sick and weak from the night before, and with fear of being stuck on a wall with diarrhea, decided to opt out. Joe and I packed our bags and headed for the cliff.
|Joe and I|
The route we picked out is called Francalypso (overall grade of 6c+) and contains 4 pitches (5b, 50m, 6b, 50m, 6a, 20m, 6c+, 25m) a total of 145m straight up the cliff face dubbed Ocean Dream. The approach was the usual stroll through town, walking by all the locals, each one preparing their shops for another day of customers. By now we know the majority of them and wave saying our good mornings as we pass by. It is a long walk on the street to the edge of town where we veer off on an old dirt road going up hill to another road, which we followed for 200 feet before heading up the goat trails. Walking by Odyssey, we passed some climber preparing for their day of climbing. Joe was walking in the lead and due to our 100% focus on where our feet were being placed we missed the trail that split right to head up cliff. Instead we kept heading directly up. There is no exaggeration when I say that this walk; this epic was the most strenuous hike I have ever done. First off I was in Birkenstocks, which had no business in terrain such as that. We were also both carrying 30lb backpacks, not a ton but enough to feel it in the calves. Thirdly we were ascending a shit covered 75 degree ruble field with lose boulders everywhere. Every time you would take a step you would lose a couple inches due to falling rocks under your feet. This was the first time we stopped half way for a water break on an approach. The top ended with a slab section; steep and hard enough to make the hairs on your back stand up. We made it to the beginning of the climb.
After I quick bite to eat, fresh bread bought that morning we geared up. Looking up we could not spot the first bolt, was this where it started? After a couple seconds of searching we realized it was about 15 feet up the climb. Joe you can lead. As he was climbing up to the first clip, the rock was wet in some area, there were no chalked up holds so we had no idea where to grab, but on the plus side the friction was amazing, almost anything could be grabbed and pulled up on. After the 2nd bolt there was another long run out, one which decking was inevitable if he fell or slipped. We pressed on to a ledge where we set up a belay station. We had only completed 15m of the 50m climb, but thought it would help if the belayer (me) could at least see the climber. Once I climbed up to Joe, we quickly did what we needed to do then Joe was off again. There was an 80% chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon and we wanted to climb fast and finish before. But the skies were starting to turn grey. Mother nature had other plans. Joe began again riding a huge flake of rock that looked like it was about to rip off, and came into a sharp slab section. Having to find all the holds, made climbing slow and tedious, the opposite of what we wanted.
Joe reached the top without much problem, setting up the belay station and putting me on belay. I climbed up to him cleaning our gear as I went. It was a beautiful climb, but I was getting a little too high for comfort. I would look out below me and everything was so small, people were ants and the giant boulders we walked by were pebbles. It almost made you feel dizzy, but the view out over the Mediterranean is one I will never forget. I reached Joe, having just completed the first pitch of four. But it was beautiful, the movements, the rock, the view, everything. We traded the rope for the draws and Joe was off again up the 50m 6b. It was the same type of climbing as the first pitch technical and slab. He was maybe 40 feet above me when he yelled back; I don’t see the next bolt. I replied, “It must just be over the next bulge.” It wasn’t. This is one of the scariest moments of my life, the bolt was spotted maybe 20 feet away, and Joe was already 15 feet above the last. We had already found out the grades were a sandbag, the 5b was harder then a 5b and this 6b was not looking like a 6b. Joe put on his game face and pressed on. 10 feet away now (possible 60 foot fall, give or take a few feet for rope stretch) and Joe grabs a jug. He doesn’t use it to shake out, well not at first. First he lends back and looking down at this now useless rope, and then at me and starts laughing, just laughing as loud as he can. I remember thinking, this guy has gone insane with fear, his brain was fried and now he’s crazy and I’m stuck in the middle of this cliff with this lunatic. It doesn’t help the imagination that storm clouds are still over his head as he laughs down at me. After his insane moment end (5 minutes of laughing) Joe shakes out and becomes a hero when he finally clips the bolt. It felt like this had been going on for hours, slow motion took over. He finished the pitch after that without much more trouble. I climbed up to him once again.
Now, 100m high I was shaking in my shoes, when I reached Joe at the hanging belay station, I was so frightened I couldn’t concentrate, ignore all of Joe’s question and breathing very heavily. I anchored myself into the station and Joe mentioned taking my shoes off for comfort, I managed to get one off before the moving around made me uneasy. It took a long time to become comfortable with the heights. The wind was extremely strong, and we were both cold still being in the shadow of the mountain. We knew that if it started raining, we would probably be unable to finish the climbs, therefore being stuck, and hypothermia would have been a likely possibility. But we still yet to see a raindrop fall from the dark skies.
I belayed Joe on the 3rd shortest and most beautiful pitch of the entire climb. The second half of the pitch involved climbing up a massive arête, which finished at the next station. I was able to control my breathing and not make every move a frantic race, thus enjoying the climbing and the movements. The last pitch was the hardest, taking on a slight over hanging face. Before I could say belay on, Joe was off, and quickly under the crux. Unfortunately he read the rock wrong and fell on the crux, wreaking his onsight of the entire route. On his second attempt he made the moves no problem, disappointed he fell missing some key holds. He made it to the belay station and like every other time I climbed up to him, but this time I passed him working my way to the top. We didn’t quite notice when, but sometime during the last pitch the skies had cleared and the sun shined down on our ascent! Just before the top, I stopped and sat down belaying Joe up to meet me and we went onto the top together, and the feeling of accomplishment was greater then I have ever felt before. I can’t describe it. Joe felt the same and we sat on top and had lunch to one of the most amazing views. We were onto of Kalymnos and could see almost the entire island.
The walk down was very easy, but one could not take a step without squishing 8 grasshoppers, they were everywhere. Also on the walk down we found the trail that we were meant to take on the way up. It was way easier then what we did, so the whole walk down seemed like a joke.
|On top of Kalymnos|
The next day Jess was back in fighting shape and ready to go out and battle some more routes. Joe and I were kind of glad to have him back. We head up to a crag called Ivory Towers, which is right near Iannis, the crag we had projected earlier at. We tried to warm up on a really cool 6a+, but in the end it was too easy and none of us felt warm. This is the 6a+ that Joe top roped. We picked out a 6c+ which started in the same area and did some really cool moves, traversing under a roof using tufas, and then up over the roof. I came one move off from on sighting this after missing the key jug! It was then onto a 7b called Dreamline. Jess went first and figure out all the Beta, this was an amazing climb which I’m defiantly going to try for the red point making it my first 12b. After crimping your way through the bottom crux you come up to a huge bulge which you set yourself up on two slopers on either side of the bulge. Almost at full arm span, you hop your left foot up first then right foot and you are really scrunched up. You stand up and there is a jug right in front of your face. The next part I really enjoy happened right after in which you get two crappy crimps making a “V” shape, which you have to pull up on to the jug. I could not do this move until I tied my sweater on as a cap and dynoed from the crimp to jug, just reaching it with my left hand, my feet flew out, but I stuck it. Joe and Jess then proceeded to call me Super Cow. All and all it is a fantastic line!
We moved onto a 7b+ called The Craic. Joe went first getting the flash fairly easily. I was up next. I had never been on a 12c before, and it showed. The bottom section leading up to the main wall was out of this world. It featured some of the thinnest crimps I have ever been able to grab, and a ballerina style of footwork. We danced up this section on nothing more then credit card size crimps on rock that looked like it was from outer space. I loved it. It was the next section the killed me. An over hanging tufa section, which just killed me cardio wise. By the time I got to the top I was exhausted and dehydrated. But other then that it was another amazing climb. Jess got the red point on dream line, and wants to go back to red point The Craic. Joe flashed a 12d called Lactic Shock. He came very close to falling. Coming out of a rest into a sustained section of the climb which traverses over a roof, he crossed his left hand into a 2 finger pocket. The next move was a big throw out right. He missed the hold and his feet cut. Did he fall? Not Joe Skopec. Jess was belaying at the time, and was very confused why the rope did not go tight. Joe was hanging there by two fingers, his legs squirming in mid air, useless. Flailing around his feet eventually got back on the wall and he made the move. It was an amazing fight to the anchors. The Scottish couple were at the crag that day and Ross looked over seeing Joe hanging there and said to himself “What are those crazy Canadians doing.” It was fun to watch and we all had a great day.