Climbs among monks and hermits, whom once sought to hide away from the world in solitude – Meteora, Greece.
Climbs among monks and hermits, whom once sought to hide away from the world in solitude – Meteora, Greece.
With a second 300 movie coming out and my college forays into climbing having been influenced by the scene in 300 before the Oracle scene (i.e. the approach), when roundtrip tickets to Athen’s fell to less than $200 dollars it was time to escape for Meteora. Meteora is a collection of three-hundred meter high conglomerate sandstone towers, where monks and hermits once sought to hide away from the world in solitude. Today, Meteora is still remote but its UNESCO status brings busloads of tourists and the stray climber to visit the collection of its still operating monasteries.
We landed late Thursday night in time to get out rental, find our hotel, and grab Kebab. The next day we toured Athen’s until we had our Acropolis fill before beginning Google’s four hour to Meteora. Some 6 non-stop hours later we arrived at our hotel in Kastraki. Our receptionist spoke more German than Greek, but we somehow managed to check in. The first ascents of the towers date back into the thirteenth century but a lot of the modern equipping and routes were put up by visiting Germans in the 70s before being surpassed by the revival of the local scene. Today, it seemed the overwhelming majority of international tourists of Kalambaka and Kastraki, the towns at the base of Meteora, are German.
February is not really tourist season. It rained the night of our arrival, a blessing in disguise, as outside Athen’s most of Greece burns its trash providing the air an ashy palatable texture. Rain threatening in the forecast, and some caution about rumored gear scarcity and rock quality led us to choose Traumpfeiler (Pillar of Dreams) on Heiliger Geist (The Holy Ghost) for our first route. Weather held, as luck would have it, so on topping out we descended to Sourloti and tried our luck on Hypotenuse.
I would strongly recommend Traumpfeiler (Pillar of Dreams) on Heiliger Geist (Holy Ghost) as a first climb at Meteora. The positioning is spectacular, the rock solid, and the protection adequate. This was the only route we did with two ringbolts at each anchor.
APPROACH: Heiliger Geist is the massive tower just outside of Kastraki heading onto the Monastery loop. You can park at the turnoff on the right for Agios Nikolaos Anapafsas shortly past Doupianifels. Head just up the road from the parking lot and there is a path down across the fields which crosses the streambed and then carries back up to the base of the North foot of Heiliger Geist. The trail deposits you almost directly at the climbs base.
Traumpfeiler (VI/5.9, 9 pitches)
- Pitch 1: (IV/5.5) Head straight up the first ring bolt, or traverse in on the ledge running to it. Continue hard left along the ledge until you are on the prow proper at which point lever up at the ring bolt and trend left following the beefy steel pro.
- Pitch 2: (V/5.7+) Swing up the face via a winding path to a right traverse towards the base of the chimney.
- Pitch 3: (V/5.8) Up the chimney. If inspired link into Pitch 4 as the belay looked unpleasant.
- Pitch 4: (V/5.7) A potentially awkward off width roof gives way to pleasanter ground up a crack.
- Pitch 5: (V5.7) Trend up left on some fun large cobbles in great position.
- Pitch 6: (IV/5.5) Up an arching crack in a left facing corner which wraps you onto the East face.
- Pitch 7: (IV-/5.4) A long easy water groove brings you to the next belay stance.
- Pitch 8: (IV/5.5) Traverse right around a blocky corner crossing back around the prow, then swing up a crack to the next big ledge.
- Pitch 9: (V5.8) Traverse left off the ledge and then up a bit of crack onto the face and the top.
DESCENT: Follow the trail to the summit. From the summit keep moving South, the direction you came to the summit by, and you will soon see cairns. One short and then two long double rope abseils get you down to a hermitage in the saddle. There were sufficient anchors the rappels could be split and accomplished with a single 60m or 70m. From the hermitage, scramble, down the gulley that is to your right when facing the abseil route. Eventually you reach a col, here the path forks and you can head back to the base of the route or into Kastraki.
Sourloti is a huge block of a tower looming above Kastraki.
APPROACH: The last bit of the route approaches seemed a bit bushy. You can drive most of the way to the route starts by heading out from Kastraki, weaving upwards, and parking at a small pullout by a church/monastery where the paved road ends on the hillside. There is a well-developed trail heading up from here built with railroad ties. Follow this for approximately 500 meters, at which point cut left at a water drainage heading towards the wall or simply take the path of least resistance.
Hypotenuse (VI/5.10a, 6 pitches)
- Pitch 0: (III) Climb the corner up to the ledge if you are sick of whacking up the base of the formation because you lost the trail.
- Pitch 1: (II) From the anchors on the far left of the ledge move out onto the face. Continue up the massive conglomerate stones trending up and left to an anchor, sling cobbles for pro or do without.
- Pitch 2: (VI-/5.9) Up the headwall from the anchors, then tenuously pinch on up and right, fun climbing with good protection.
- Pitch 3: (VI/5.10a) Continue up right into the black water streak. This pitch is horribly protected compared to the last but finally a bolt in the black streak! Carry upwards to the anchor with one or two more bolts. The first bolt is at least 70 feet beyond the anchor.
- Pitch 4: (VI/5.10a) Hard right, lots of bolts, especially after the last pitch. This pitch felt much easier than the second pitch.
- Pitch 5: (VI-/5.9) Follow the bolts, you guessed it right. You enter into a water groove passing rounded bulges to the top.
- Pitch 6: (III) The previous pitch can be divided into two.
DESCENT: Make your way to the summit registry, and then backtrack. Descend to the lower North-East summit between Sourloti and Modi and locate the rappel station. Two rappels, the first to the base of the chimney (faded red dot) and the second to the ground will put you on a trail in the gully between the formations and lead you back to the start of the route.
This the most popular towers and so we had to check it out. The tower is set apart from the two main clusters of formations and so the summit view is quite spectacular. A route on Doupianifels would be a good first at Meteora with great views and the climbing, protection, and rock all quite good. The approach is non-existent, park just past the formation and then walk back down the road to the start of your route. The first pitches of most of the routes get a lot of traffic, with the upper pitches, especially of the harder routes, being significantly less frequented. After trying Duett, a local was waiting for us to get an opinion of the upper portion of the route, not having tried it yet himself.
APPROACH: There is a pullout on the left just past the tower whose base reaches to within a few feet of the road. The parking directly below most of the route is for the campsite across the road.
Duett (VIII/5.11d – 5 pitches)
- Pitch 1 (VII-/5.10c): Climb a fantastic water groove to a belay at a roll over before a small roof.
- Pitch 2 (VII-/5.10c): More brilliant climbing as you move over the small roof on its right and up to the long hole. There is an anchor when you first reach the hole that you can extend for your second before moving to its far left side where there is another anchor.
- Pitch 3a (VII/5.10d): Step out left and traverse to an arching crack. Lever up this and continue up the face to the left side of the long hole in the face. We belayed here as the next vertical section was leaking water and turned out to be as hard as it looked.
- Pitch 3b (VIII-/5.11c): Traverse left, lever up through some steep moves heading back right, and as your stand on your toes wondering where the bolts have gone and where to go next, the answer is straight up. It’s up there, just about 20 feet away over the roll, just out of site. The rock has definitely changed in quality so the sudden change in bolt spacing, which has been quite friendly to this point, might test the nerves.
- Pitch 4 (VIII/5.11d): An easy traverse right with a beautiful backdrop takes you to the route crux. I found the rock quite friable, as what I considered first a key foot and then a key crimp blew off upon weighting. Still, the bolting was A1 when the climbing was hard.
- Pitch 5 (VII+/5.11b): Traverse up and left, mantle a microwave, and then traverse out right across some heaving lichened rock, a few more moves to success and another summit.
DESCENT: Abseil straight down the route. 3 abseils with doubles, more if using a single 70 meter.
High above the Western formation the Ypsiloterafels’ sunny South face offers excellent views on large solid cobblestones.
APPROACH: We parked at Moni Varlaam (Monastery Varlaam) and descended through the monastery gardens into the formations on a nice trail, at the fork in the trail, head back uphill towards Moni Megalo. After 200m break off this trail onto a cairned climbers trail heading to the saddle between Ypsiloterafels and Teufelsturm. Follow the trail up to the saddle of the two formations and then down passing the start of Dr. Faust. Swing around the foot of Ypsiloterafels and then back up to the highest point on the South Face from were the routes begin.
Danae (VII-/5.10c – 2 pitches)
- Pitch 1: (VII-/5.10c) Climb up the most obvious line of bolts leaving from the highest point at the top of the saddle. It starts with some interesting moves into and then out of a pod. Midway up the pitch traverses right entering a water groove. Follow this until a dish with a single bolt belay at almost exactly 60 meters. A bit of rope drag at the top depending on how you use runners but the climbing eases off substantially. (Can be split into 2 pitches)
- Pitch 2: (V/5.7) Continue up the water groove slinging some fantastic cobbles and clipping the odd bolt. The face rolls over and the fixed protection improves just before the top. Belay at the first anchors on the lip of the formation or move another 20 feet to belay at an anchor right before the summit grass. I am not sure you can make the second anchor with a 60m. (Can be split into 2 pitches)
This is the small tower (50m) in the middle of the major saddle below Sourloti, it is unmistakable.
APPROACH: Park as for Sourloti and follow the well built railroad tie path straight to the base of the slender tower. The tower is shaped a bit like a boot with most of the routes starting off the top of the foot on the South side.
Gordischer Knoten (VII-/5.10c)
- Pitch 1: There is an anchor for the belayer up on the right side of foot. This is the side away from Sourloti, where the majority of the routes start. Pull up the overhanging rock on good conglomerate. Use your feet or fight the pump! Upon reaching a cave at about one-third height either belay or begin the traverse across the face moving up and left to the arête on the left side of the formation. Belay at the arête at two-thirds height or continue up the arête to the top for the ultimate pitch if you used your runners well. (Can be climbed as 2 or 3 pitches.)
Descent: Lots of anchor choices on top from which to rappel off. If you have doubles a single rappel will do. With a single 60m its will take 2 or 3 rappels.
Quick Reference Guide
Location: Metéora – Kalambáka, Greece
Getting There: Fly into Athens, Greece. Either rent a car and drive to Kastraki, Greece (6 hours) or travel by Intercity Train from Larisis Train Station in Athens to Kalambáka Train Station (10-12 hours), switching trains at Paleofrsalos. From Kalambáka Train Station, either walk or taxi a few miles to Kastraki.
Best Time to Climb: Fall, Spring
- Camping Vrachos in Kalambaka.
- Rock Climbing Europe (Regional Rock Climbing Series), by Stewart Green
- Dial ‘100’ for emergency services