The town of Kyroneri is somewhere you’ve probably never heard of. I’m not really sure why. There is beautiful blue Mediterranean coast. The weather is sunny and stable. It is everything you would expect from a Greek seaside resort minus the high rise beach front hotels and hordes of shirtless, sunburnt, foreigners.
We were drawn there for the 912m limestone massif, Varasova, climbing almost vertically from the water. According to the guide book Greek sport climbing took some of its first steps on this very massif and the climbing possibilities of the colourful featured faces are endless.
We parked at the “free campsite” aka. the end of the road, right at the waters edge, with Varasova towering above. It seemed almost too good to be true and in some ways it was.
The beautiful beachside location, not such a novelty in Greece, didn’t seem to attract enough climbers to maintain the site. The wall being so close to the ocean had trouble with rusting bolts, long run outs and/or a need for trad gear on all of the multipitch routes. The rock was razor sharp in places, the cracks were dirty, and our ropes constantly tangled in wild sage bushes on rappels. Rovin described it as “Mediterranean Alpine Climbing”. All the suffering of alpinism in a Mediterranean climate and landscape. We couldn’t even find the approach to the long 600m route that was our main objective through the dense spikey bushes and face height spider webs. (We did, literally, stumble across wild turtles though)
The climbing is almost a reflection of the small seaside town beneath Varasova, Kryoneri. It seems at some point, someone, had big plans for the town. They built a charming cobblestone path next to the pier where the 5 old rusty fishing boats dock. They got half way to building another story on a beachside building, perhaps for accomodation. But all that is left, and functioning, are three big but empty restaurants which I assume survive from Patras locals visiting on weekends. Just as the crag survives.
We stayed longer than any of the other travellers who passed the campsite while we were there. Most came and left within a night or two. We could see the potential in the wall. We didn’t want to give up on it so soon. However after four days of battling the conditions and climbing style we waved our white flag.
As a first stop, it really made me question the whole trip. We could’ve stayed in the Alps, climbed beautiful, clean, secure granite faces. It would have been a climbing style I was used to and better at. I would have understood the alphabet. I wouldn’t have been so afraid of stumbling across big spiders, snakes, and ticks. There would have been mountain rescue if something was to go wrong. Life could have been so easy. But I often reminded of a quote from Nathan Faa’ve, one of NZ’s top adventure racers, “when you’re safe at home all you want is to be on an adventure but when you’re on an adventure all you want is to be safe at home”. The next 2 months are going to be one hell of an adventure. A Mediterranean Alpine Expedition of sorts and it’s time to strap in for the ride.