My interview in KORFES (Greek climbing mag)

Thanks to Aris Theodoropolous who did an interview with me for KORFES magazine. Here it is. The translation follows...

How did you start climbing?

I started climbing in 1994. I was 17, went to a climbing gym a few times and was hooked, and immediately started venturing outdoors. This was before climbing info was available on the internet. We had to work out everything ourselves, which meant rope was purchased from the hardware store, the same 8mm nylon rope you use on your trailer. We made harnesses out of the same rope using a soldering iron. The exceedingly painful G-string configuration we came up with led to some seriously bruised kidneys. We used D-shackles to belay. It's amazing none of us got badly injured.

Which climbers have made a lasting impression on you and why?

The people who have made the biggest impression on me are the local climbing warriors who took me under their wing and acted as mentors, pushing me to improve. I'm indebted to Duncan Steel in particular who recently climbed his first 8c at the age of 50. Inspirational.

The best thing about your climbing life?

Adventure and travel. Exploring cliffs I haven't been to before, establishing new routes, training and helping other climbers.

A memorable story from your climbing life?

It was New Year’s Eve 2005 and we were chilling out at the Freedom Bar on Tonsai with a very extended dinner. I managed to talk my girlfriend Sam into doing the multipitch classic Humanality with me first thing in the morning. The alarm went off before 6am and I dragged Sam and the gear down to the beach. The party was still going at the Freedom Bar, with music blaring and people dancing around in various stages of drug-addled intoxication. We were the first ones on the route (the first party of 2006), and climbed as quick as we could to put some distance between us and the German party who’d just arrived behind us. The third pitch is amazing, stemming out from a smooth wall to a huge stalactite behind you. As Sam met me at the final semi-hanging belay she was absolutely spent, which of course was part of my plan, and I asked her to marry me. She was obviously too tired to think clearly and said yes.

Other interests (besides climbing)?

Traveling, fishing.

What’s next – short and long term?

More of the same. Life is good.

When did you first visit Kalymnos?

2007 during our honeymoon.

What did you think during that first visit?

We loved it. We were there in November and it was quite cold and many places were shut, but it still left a lasting impression.

How many times have you visited Kalymnos since?

Three more times. Nearly six months of time spent on the island so far.

What –if anything—differentiates Kalymnos from other climbing destinations?

The sheer quantity of routes within easy walking distance, and the quality of the guidebook.

As a climbing destination, where does Kalymnos get it right?

The support of climbing from locals, and from local businesses is great to see. The fact that the bolting of routes follows a set of guidelines to ensure consistency and quality is a smart move for a 'holiday cliff'.

And where does it go wrong? Any suggestions for improvement?

I feel more support (and money) needs to be thrown behind people doing rebolting and maintenance, and the scale of this program expanded. When routes are rebolted, they should be equipped with glue-in bolts rather than expansion bolts. This will increase the lifespan of the fixtures, and eliminate problems of nuts loosening and hangers falling off.

Most recently you stayed in Kalymnos for almost two months. What were the highlights of that trip?

The highlights were getting to introduce the island to another group of friends who hadn't experienced Kalymnos before. From a climbing viewpoint, I really enjoyed doing Sardonique at Odyssey and Punto Caramelo in the Grande Grotta, as well as discovering the delights of the Secret Garden.

Tell us about your climbing camps on Kalymnos. What made you choose it as the venue?

Climbing, food, accommodation, seaside setting, easy access -- it's the whole package that sets it apart. There are areas in the world which perhaps have higher quality easy and mid-grade routes, but nowhere else can tick all the boxes like Kalymnos.

As a coach, how do you help students become better climbers over the course of a climbing camp?

We do pre-work with our students to determine where their weaknesses lie before the camp, and help them with their goal-setting. Each day during the camp we all participate in a discussion module covering one key aspect of climbing performance, which helps provide a focus to the day's climbing. We constantly shoot video and conduct a video analysis session with each climber to help identify weak areas and analyse ways to improve. But mostly, it is the positive and supportive vibe of the team which sees each climber try a little harder and achieve more than they thought possible.

Most memorable routes you have climbed on Kalymnos (regardless of grade)?

    •    Axium 6c+, Ghost Kitchen
    •    Biloute 7a, Olympic Wall
    •    Aegialis 7c, Grande Grotta
    •    Zawi Nul Syndicate 7c/+, Grande Grotta
    •    Fun De Chichunne 8a, Grande Grotta
    •    Lucifer's Hammer 6c, Spartan Wall
    •    Phineas 5c, Symplegades
    •    Chameleon 8a, Spartacus
    •    And now for something completely different 5c, Arginonda
    •    Kerveros 7a, Spartacus

Some climbers may be worried about visiting Kalymnos due to the ongoing economic crisis in Greece. How did you experience Kalymnos this year? Was your stay in any way affected by the crisis compared to previous visits? What would you advise a first-time visitor to Kalymnos?

We weren't affected at all. There was some strike action during our stay but we luckily avoided it. A first time visitor should take a 70m rope and more quickdraws than they think they will need. Try every restaurant, and drink lots of frappes!

When will we see you in Kalymnos again?  

We never know for sure if we'll go again. And yet we always seem to find ourselves back in Masouri. It's beginning to feel like a second home. Who wants to help me get a Greek working visa? :)

Aris also has the interview online on his excellent ClimbKalymnos site.


Trav said...

One of the reasons that I am climbing now because it gives you an excuse to travel all over the world and see interesting places. I would love to go to Greece sometime and visit Kalmnos. Reading the article sounds like a great all around place. I have a blog on Climbing Training for anyone who's curious.


Love your memorable story of climbing!!! said...

Great post.