I first got to know about Leonidio from Shihui a fellow climber, who posted a video of the “Twin Cave” sector. That lead me to check out other videos of Leonidio, fuelling my interest further and helping me decide what my next climbing destination would be.
Getting to Leonidio
Getting to Leonidio is pretty easy, it’s about 3-4 hours’ drive from Athens, with great coastal views along a long stretch of the road leading to this beautiful town. I was a little lost on the first few days, as every street looks the same, and people often give directions using landmarks instead of street names as references. I quickly realised that the main road of this little town is only as wide as the smallest street in Singapore. Driving was tricky yet fun, where certain sections of the 2-way main road narrows to a single lane so someone needs to reverse ever so often to give way, and scratch marks on walls of houses can be seen along spots with tight turns. Food is cheap and good, and the locals are super friendly and sincere.
In a nutshell, week 1 can be described as cold and mostly wet, which was made worse by this nasty bug which I caught from a school camp just before the trip. Nevertheless, I still managed to meet and climb with some really nice folks on days where the walls are dry enough to climb on.
“Mars” sector is pretty nice and always dry, with tons of fun climbs on 3D features. For first timers, the cemetery where the track begins is pretty hard to find as the best description you can get is to get to the end of a small nameless street. Many routes there have easy 6b/c starts followed by 7a/b/c extensions, though you may have to wait if you wish to project the 7’s as they often begin with the popular warm-ups. Bring your knee pads and make sure you have good hiking shoes for this! After you have tracked up the hill for a while and come face to face with what you think is the sector, it is not. Keep going right and up till you come to what seems like the ruins of a stone wall and you will see another wall after the bend. Nope. Keep going for a bit more till you finally see a giant wall facing you directly and you know you have landed.
The other popular sector for wet weather is HADA, which is a fairly short drive from Leonidio along the road leading to Kosmas. The track leads you up a fairly steep hill and eventually going down to a small valley, with the sector hidden just a few more minutes away. The climbs here are pretty nice too, with a good mix of grades between mid 6’s to high 8’s. Tried a few classics including the pumpy “Medusa Extension, 7b+”, which I failed quite miserably due probably to the lack of fitness or the cold that had been bugging me for a while. But I still had fun. Zero expectations for the rest of the trip. Just chill, get to know the locals better, try new recipes with (often given free) local produce, and see how things play out. I guess the only decent climb I did was at the “Twin Cave” sector towards the end of week 1. It was freezing and I had just fallen off a 6b+ with my hands numb (but fingertips screaming in pain) from the cold. I saw some British lads working on “Autopsia”, a short and bouldery 7b+ and decided to “kaypoh” a bit. Since the climb is super short, I reckon I might be able to make a quick sprint before my hands get frozen again. True enough, my flash attempt saw me past the main crux without much trouble but almost falling on the last 6a+ section as my hands turned to ice once again. Nevertheless, it gave me a glimmer of hope that the following week might bring better luck.
Things looked a little brighter as the weather cleared a little more, with the arrival of Rebecca, Lynette and Shihui shortly after. I moved to another B&B since there were now 4 of us. The new place was awesome. The apartment was super comfy, clean, spacious and cosy, and cost each of us just under 13 Euros per night. The well-equipped kitchen and giant fridge meant we could stock up on tons of groceries and free food, and spend our evenings experimenting with more dishes.
La Maison Des Chevres Sector
“La Maison des Chevres” sector is one of our favourite sectors. It’s relatively easy to get to (15 min further than HADA), the conditions there is mostly good, and the climbs and view are fantastic.
Rebecca was working on a very nice 7b route (“Amalthee”). So I decided to try the super classic “Mr Nice, 7c+” a few routes to its left, which was graded 8a in the old guide book. After working out all the moves, I got slightly delirious from my fever and nausea. I was feeling cold despite the glaring sun and got knocked out for half an hour curled up like a baby under my puffy down jacket.
I felt a little better after I woke up and decided to give the climb a shot, supported by some cautious encouragement from my friends. In the next few moments, I totally forgot about my discomfort and just kept going, eventually clipping the chains, to the amazement of everyone, including myself. LOL. Guess it’s the best thing that could happen on a bad day!
My 2nd trip to “La Maison” was on 2 days of consecutive climbing, where I was pretty thrashed from trying the moves on “Tufandago, 8a+” and “Patata Negra, 8a” the day before. Back home, such an undertaking would warrant at least 2-3 days of icing and resting. Perhaps it’s a mixture of company, psyche and sufficient sleep, I was able to summon enough courage (or recklessness) to give “Mr Seguin, 8a” a try. Lynette had sent “Mr Nice” and spirits were high. With good beta from Shihui, I managed to work out the crux moves on this bouldery route fairly quickly. The sky was getting dark fast so without resting too long, I had to give it a redpoint go before it got even colder. In my favourite cold-weather climbing style, I climbed the easy first half with my puffy down, shaking my hands out for a few minutes before I could summon the courage to remove my jacket. But once my down went down, it was once again a mad sprint to the anchor! I hit the crux section (about 7 moves of V7?) as perfectly as a frozen shrimp could and barely held on to the 6a+ section near the top, with frozen hands as usual. Another lucky strike, LOL.
The send train continued as Shihui finally sent her dream project “Tufandago, 8a+” at “Twin Caves”, a route which she had so painstakingly worked towards since her last trip the year before. Clipping the chains in the midst of deafening cheers and much psyche from the crowd below, emotions were sky high. We just had to keep the positive energy going for the rest of the trip.
Back to “Twin Caves”. Meanwhile, I had previously worked on the moves of “Patata Negra”, a super nice but fairly long 8a with all kinds of funky moves, which I personally feel is the best of the three 8a’s I did this trip. It was too dark and cold to give it a go the last time, so with the glorious sun out once again, plus the positive psyche from Shihui and Lynette who also wanted to work on it as their next project, I decided to give it a more serious shot this time. Trying out the moves once again to warm up and to familiarise the sequences (which now looks very different under the strong sunlight), I managed to send it on my 1st redpoint attempt. Strangely, I felt less pumped during the send than when I was previously moving from bolt to bolt. Guess the psyche and flow made the difference.
Back to “La Maison” sector to make sure Rebecca sends her project, I decided to try the moves on “Popo, 8a”, a route just beside Rebecca’s 7b, which I saw some guy climb a few days ago. Working out the bouldery sequences was a pain. I was clueless, frustrated and whining most of the time working the crux section. During my rest, I was optimistically observing the sun as it periodically peeped through the clouds. Here, the temperature swings from pleasantly warm to freezing in an instant, depending on the sun and clouds. Eventually, the clouds won, the winds picked up a little, but I had to go. Managed to pass the crux section on my 1st redpoint go, and as usual, fumbled on the section afterwards. It was a tricky fat tufa section and I almost fell from the pump, recomposed a little, and managed to clip the chains thereafter. Another close shave!
Back to the “Twin Caves” area. Shihui was trying the moves on “A Pig in the Roof”, an 8b that traverses a part of the super steep belly of the main roof. Super athletic and powerful moves to a tricky tufa formation guarding the chains. Meanwhile, I was observing some guys working on “Fata Morgana, 7c+”, which was graded 8a in the old guide book. Seems like a super cool route with good rest below and a tricky tufa formation above, so I decided to give it a shot. Everything went well. Very well actually, till I was almost at the anchor and missed a crucial good hold, and fell with a huge sigh. The next couple of tries were disastrous, slipping off holds below which resulted in an angry flow of blood which made it difficult to locate the wound on my finger.
After applying more tape over the blood, I managed to send on my 4th go before it got too cold. Funny how being my easiest mini-project on this trip, it took me 4 frustrating attempts to send. Whereas the other 7c+ and three 8a’s all took one redpoint attempt each. Guess some times we must not underestimate smaller challenges in view of bigger ones.
Last Climbing Day
My last day was spent at “Twin Cave” once again. In a completely free and non-committal state of mind, I decided to jump on “A Pig in the Roof”. Seeing Shihui screaming hysterically while trying out the moves and previously having seen this climb on Youtube definitely picked my curiosity and I just had to find out for myself what this 8b is all about. Tried all the moves once, though not very thoroughly, and not surprisingly, had less trouble with the supposed roof crux section compared to the easier tufa section above. Gave it a link-up attempt just to see how far I will go, and managed to traverse the entire roof section only to fall just where the angle eases near the start of the tufa section. I was happy with my progress thus far. I’ve satisfied my curiosity on the last day. I had no expectations (or stress) to send. I am happy that 8b now seemed pretty possible considering a few trips ago I was struggling to complete 7c+’s. Lastly, I was thrill that this pig on the roof will finally be able to pig out at a fantastic pizza place tonight!
In summary, I would say this trip was fantastic in so many ways. I love the beauty of the place and the genuine generosity of the locals. I love the local food (and freebies LOL) and the climbing culture. I love the interactions with the climbers who came from all over the world, different walks of life and different stages of their lives, which shaped their attitude towards climbing. I also got to know my climbing peers better despite coming from completely different social groups back home and of course, coming from completely different generations. It’s like trying to sync a pager with the latest iPhone if that’s the best analogy I can find. Interestingly, climbing, though is still the core reason for the birth of my trips, stands less and less alone when it comes to defining what makes my climbing trips fulfilling and memorable. Perhaps it’s because I’m at a different stage of my life now. I feel a greater sense of urgency, yet I’m more relaxed and open to uncertainty while pursuing my goals. I’m more focused, yet less goal-oriented while I’m on the rock. It’s more important for my peers and me to send our projects and celebrate our individual successes together than to do so alone. This trip seems to have accomplished all these. And yes, Rebecca finally sent her project after much “coaching” from the teacher, Hur Hur……
Extras: FOOD & CO.