Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The end of an era

I have never really classified myself as a trad or sport climber. I learned to climb in Squamish, where many of the really classic lines are cracks, so I have tended to focus on trad climbing, both at home and on trips. My first sport climbing trip, apart from a few days here and there at Skaha and other random destinations, was Thailand in the fall of 2005. Ironically, Thailand wasn’t even the intended destination, it just happened to be a possible stopover on another climbing trip (my honeymoon, in fact) to Australia and Tasmania. We had 10 days to climb at Tonsai in Thailand, and I got pretty schooled. I had never really climbed anything steep before, and endured the frustration of lining up for and projecting the warm-ups that ascend the cliff right above the bar on the beach. Needless to say I was acutely aware of the onlookers who sipped their pina coladas or Singhas while I dogged and flailed up the easiest climbs on the beach. My persistence paid off, though, and by the end of the 10 days I had begun to grasp the basics of movement on steep limestone. More importantly, though, I had caught the bug. I wouldn’t necessarily call it the sport climbing bug. No, I love gear climbing and its unique challenges too much for that. It was the whole package: living in a comfortable bungalow, eating out every night, drinking beers with your friends, laying on the beach, going snorkeling or exploring exotic sights on rest days, and of course, amazing, challenging, not super-scary, low-commitment climbing. It’s the climbing holiday with the emphasis on HOLIDAY.

Part of me feels that I am too young to seek out this kind of experience, that I should save it until I am too old, tired and rich to shiver on a moist ledge, 15 pitches up, with only a sweat crusted Houdini and half a stale Clif Bar to get me through the night. I mean come on, only a few short years ago I was living out of a Chevy Corsica, bivvying in the pine needles and bear shit in Camp 4, climbing walls, eating good ol’ pb and j several times a day and duct taping my climbing pants together so they would make it up one more offwidth. What happened to me that suddenly I want to spend my holiday time doing something that even non-climber, non-mountain types could envy?

Well here I am, in May of 2009, in my bikini on my own private marble-tiled balcony, tapping away on the keys of my laptop while less than 100 m below me, the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean lap away at the rugged limestone shoreline of Kalymnos, Greece. Although I still have no answer to the question posed above, I haven’t spent much time trying to figure it out. My days are far too full: first I climb pitch after pitch of super-ultra-mega-classic climbs until I can no longer hold onto even the hugest of smooth, limestone jugs, then I wander on down to the sandy beach where I go for a refreshing dip in Mediterranean before wandering up to the bar for a celebratory cocktail and some Greek salad (every day I am lucky enough to spend here is reason enough to celebrate), up to my cute little studio apartment for a shower before meeting up with a posse of friends new and old for a long, leisurely dinner of delicious Greek food at one of the many restaurants within a 10 minute walk, then wander back home to fall into bed, exhausted, happy and ready to do it all again the following day.

Today is day 7 of my 27 day climbing vacation here in Kalymnos with Evan. If life gets better, I can’t imagine how. I’ll keep you posted.

Sitting on the plane for many hours (and forking out oodles of dough for a plane ticket) is all you gotta do to get to heaven

Evan wolfing down some delicious Kalymnian fare

You can hold onto the rock here with everything, and I mean everything (future post on that)

You'd better like Greek salad if you're going to come here!

Enjoying some melon and Vergina after a sweaty day at the crag

See, you really can hold onto this rock with EVERYTHING!

Another 5 (billion) star route, the island of Telendos in the background

The view from our apartment, the Grande Grotta climbing area upper right