Having unfortunately missed out on the opportunity to work on a Positiveclimbing.com coaching trip last year, due to rupturing my cartilage in my left knee. It was with great excitement that I boarded a flight to Kos ready to work alongside Adrian berry, Lucy Creamer and Gaz Parry for the first of this years Kalymnos workshops.
I have run many trips to Kalymnos in the past working under the name Make the next move, along side my friend and previous work college Paul Walters. But most of these trips were aimed at young climbers and were to give them there first experience of climbing abroad at world class climbing destinations.
This was the first time I have worked for someone else on a coaching trip and it was a very enjoyable experience. This was due to the fact so often as a coach I find myself working alone, making it hard to share idea’s and concepts, but straight away working with 3 highly regarded and massively experienced coaches this was not to be the case. It was immediately apparent one of the huge advantages to Adrians set up, and probably one of the reasons his trips have been held in such high regard for years, was the pooling of knowledge and sharing of idea’s which intern gave the participants an amazing experience.
One of the biggest lessons I have learnt from my coaching to date is that opportunity has to be one of the biggest factors into someones development. These trips have a magical power about them in that they seem to develop an environment that put the climbers in a mental state that allows them to attempt harder routes and push beyond there normal comfort zone. The evidence of this was apparent on day one with almost half the group achieving PB’s.
As the week went on some amazing climbing took place with my personal favourite including the coaching impact that helped one climber take on and flash of an amazing 6b. It was my favourite moment due to the previous 2 days, from were the climber in question had been suffering with lack of self belief and struggling with his foot work. After a session on weight transfer, some fall practice and some work on mental tenacity we stood under ‘Janis Kitchen 6b’ found at Afternoon wall. Putting all of these layers back together and seeing a climber move with confidence and flow left me and Dave very pleased with a few days work, even more encouraging was that dave continued to use the tactics and techniques we worked on to continue this progress by himself once the trip had finished!
From my point of view it was fantastic to take some concepts that I have worked on in the gym with my comp squad, and put them into play with adults on the real thing. It was fair to say the week was a huge success from a climbing point of view and the feedback has been fantastic form the participants. An interesting observation I and the other coaches made from the week was the number of ‘near misses’ that occurred each day (thankfully not to our clients).
Kalymnos is a climbers paradise with great rock conveniently located just a short walk from the village of Massori. It would be easy to take safety for granted whilst here as in many ways it is setup similar to a climbing wall, with bolts close together and more often than not clips at the chains.
Each day I witnessed a accident or near miss that could have been fatal if not for lady luck being present in some form. Most were due to rock fall, and again Adrian set his stall out early on this one – DO NOT STAND AROUND IN THE GROTTO! or any other tufa infested area. Simply put, they break with little warning and often they are large rocks falling from hight. If one was to hit a spectator, belayer or bystander the results would be serious. Equally once they hit the floor, like a grenade, they can spay shrapnel for some distance. If you do not need to be there don’t! watch from a safe distance etc….
An observation I have made from years of being in hazardous environments is that it is more often than not safer to be in close to the wall than run outwards in the event of a rock fall. On two occasions after a shout that signalled falling rock, I watched in horror as climbers fleeing outwards were almost taken out. Where simply staying in close to the rock would have been a much a safer alternative (especially on overhanging cliffs that we often sport climb on).
the other common cause of near death or at least serious injury is one I have noted for years in Kalymnos, and is the result of stripping equipment from steep routes! I believe that this is a common problem here as the fantastic routes in the Grotta allow climbers to take on futuristic terrain that is normally the preserve of the euro sports wad. As such DNA 7a, must have the most accidents from stripping the draws of any 7a.
On the last day of the trip we were sitting safely away from the grotta with the group after another great day in witch one climber achieved his redpoint of Priapos 7c! Only to watch in horror as a climber on DNA broke his wrist (and was fortunate he was wearing a helmet) after lowing of the steep route removing draws as he went. Using a quickdraw as a tram to keep him in close to the wall, until the lowest draw his belayer started lowering him out in to space before he could be lowered to the floor (leaving the tram on!) This is a common method as a swing would not be advisable from this hight due to the irregular floor in the Grotta. So far so good, but then the climber had a brain fart and remover his tram line, introducing a good 40ft of slack into the system whist he was still 10ft above a rocky landing. If you can follow this you are probably wincing already and the thud, bounce, thud, bounce that followed was not pleasant viewing.
It highlights the need for everyone to check there crag skills, and to double check you buddy especially after climbing when they may be tiered and not focusing as they should. So many experienced climbers have had serious accidents at this point (myself included) and some were not fortunate enough to have a second chance!
Anyway back to good times, Along side working I got to do some climbing which is something of a novelty for me of late. On the last day with a trip to Telendos and a crag I have not visited before, ‘lambda’. This sector is home to many great routes with some 50mtrs in length. Adrian was prepared as ever and had the 100mtr rope to keep faff low. With this it was game on with several 7a’s and a 7b providing the warm up. A short walk back toward Irox passes you by the crag Pescatore witch although shorter has some attractive tufa features that lured us in and although it would be nice to say the 7b+ flash was easy, it was easy simply as its probably 6c! But the 7c+ ‘Amores Perros’ is an incredible line worthy of all the stars a Kalymnos guide will throw at it. Adrian had a brilliant Onsight burn coming so close to the top, Lucy suffered from reach at the large slap in the mid section and I simply was not fit enough, but 7 months of little climbing due to being on crutches were unlikely to be amazing prep for flashing close to my previous best. The route was amazing and I’m keen to get back on it in the future after watching Adrian dispatch the line 2nd go with ease.
It was also brilliant to see a buddy from South Wales on the Island. Paul Rogers happened to be on a trip with buddies and after discovering on Facebook that we were both in town a plan was hatched to get up to the Grotta and for Paul to have a flash of Priapos 7c. Paul climbed amazing well, poised and controlled right till the final few meters were the pump took hold. An epic fight ensued with Paul narrowly missing out on the flash but it reminded me how hard you should be trying if you want to take your climbing forward!
Snorkelling around Kastelli was amazing although how I did not stand on a sea urchin is beyond me as there were hundreds over the rocky exit I climbers out off. It was only afterwards they were pointed out to me and I realised how close i came to a nasty last few days to the trip. The food was amazing as ever with Prego’s being a personal favourite but in reality its hard to go wrong as all the restaurants are fantastic.
Kalymnos has changed in the year or so since my last visit with more climbing shops and cafe’s than ever before, but the charm remains with the locals being so friendly and welcoming. The social aspect of Kalymnos is still fantastic with both ‘Fatolites bar’ and ‘Gelateria Italiana Kalymnos’ being the hot spot for climbers to meet and discuss there days battle!
All being well ill be back on the Island in Sept or Oct and I cannot wait!
check out Positiveclimbing.com for info on future workshops.