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Meteora

By: Jenny Karali
Country: Greece, Region: Thessalia, Town: Meteora (Thessalia)

There is an area called Thessalia, in the heart of Greece, in which one of the most well-known and best climbing areas of Greece is situated. It is called Meteora, which translated means: the ones that stand, hang alone in the air. The first people who climbed these rocks were shepherds who carried their sheep up to the top to graze to ensure their survival. Moreover, there are indications that as early as the 9th century AD, monks had climbed to the top of the towers and monasteries were built. Monks withdrew there for solitude and spiritual communication with the divine. The place radiates a special atmosphere and that was the reason that the early inhabitants chose it, to express their ultimate communication and closeness to God. Now, let's go back to 1958 and to Germany, where a tobacco advertisement caught the eye of Dietrich Hasse, a physicist and alpine climber. The advertisement used as a backdrop some magnificent rock towers. He was stunned and discovered that the area was in Greece, that it was called Meteora and that no form of climbing had ever taken place there. Despite this he constantly postponed his visit to Meteora (as at the time he was occupied in the Dolomites) to as late as 1975, when he visited Greece in collaboration with the photographer Heinz Lothaz Stutte and other German climbers. They immediately started climbing all the major peaks in the area with the exception of the five peaks on which the monasteries are located.

The first routes to be climbed were the cracks and chimneys similar to those climbed in the area of Saxony in East Germany. As is the custom a small notebook was left in a metal box on the top of every peak. What is amazing is that on some infrequently climbed towers you can still find the notebooks dating back to the seventies and read the notes of the first climbers. On the first page the major routes of the pillar are denoted, as are the ways to descend (rappels) followed by the names of all those who have reached the top up to the present day.

FINAL NOTE Last but not least bear in mind the following: It is forbidden to climb to the towers on which Monasteries exist! There are no routes! This was what Dietrich Hasse and his team agreed together with the church authorities back in the 70's and this still applies today.

GETTING THERE

By car: Meteora lies circa 360km NW of Athens. Drive north following the signposts for Trikala then Kalambaka - Meteora. By Bus: From Athens get to the main bus station EL ATHENS at 260 Liosion str Athens (tel 210 8311434). A one way ticket costs 18,50 Euro. Useful telephones: KTEL ATHENS : TEL 210 - 8311434 KTEL THESSALONIKI : 231- 0517188 KTEL TRIKALA : 2431 - 0 - 73130 TOURIST INFORMATION OFFICE: 2431 0 25306 & 2431 0 25343.

THE CLIMBING

Climbing in Meteora never ends. With over 670 climbs, there is an unlimited selection of routes.

Some of the most beautiful routes, as given by the Hasse & Stutte guides, are the following: "The pillar of Dreams" V+ 250m, Holy Ghost "Hypotenuse" VI 225m & "The line of fallen drop" VI 170m, Sourloti "The eggs dance - Eiertanz" VI- A1 130m, Kelch tower "Community Route" VI A2 320m, Alyssos "Glockenspiel" VI 125m, Bell tower "Swiss cheese" VII, Bantova rock "Ostkante" VI 125m. & "Dickes Ende" VII- 145m, Doupiani rock "The corner of Madness" VII 180m, Holy Ghost "Roussanou End" V+ 160m, Caucasian tower If you prefer a little bit of everything (cracks, traverse, steep) try "Dohlewand Direct" VI- 145m on the Meteora tower.

FOOD AND ACCOMODATION

There are a great number of hotel rooms and rooms to rent in the town of Kalambaka and Kastraki which lie just 2km from each other. Kastraki is closer to the climbing areas. Vrahos, the well-known camp site for climbers is located here and has complete facilities, toilets, restaurant and swimming pool. (tel: 2432 022293/ 6 Euros per night). The climbing guides can be bought here. Other camping areas are Cave (tel: 2432 0 24802) and Meteora Garden (tel: 2432 0 22727). In terms of food, I have never heard a climber complaining about the food in Meteora. After climbing all day, the habit is to join with others, relax and drink beers. Around the area there are a number of restaurants and tavernas offering delicious Greek food. Plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, delicious feta cheese and the well-known mousaka and souvlaki dishes. Do not forget to taste the delicious meat steaks, kontosouvli and the Greek kokoretsi made from animals bred in the area.

NOTES

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS
In my personal opinion, you get the best grasp of the beauty of the area when climbing the towers and pillars, but if you enjoy sightseeing here are some suggestions:

If you find yourself there during the Greek Easter, don't forget that this is the major celebration of the Greek Orthodox Church. You can visit the Monasteries, but bear in mind that you have to be dressed decently to be admitted.

Also, don't miss the celebration of Saint George, on the 23rd of April or the Monday after Easter. It is the religious celebration of Saint George the Scarf (Mantila). Perhaps you will notice some Scarves hanging 30-35m above the earth, on the pillar of Agio Pnevma, this is the church where the celebration takes place. The custom dates back hundreds of years. On the above date, young people climb and take down old scarves that have been hanging there for a year and replace them with new ones. The new scarves have been previously blessed with the wishes & requests of the pilgrims. The old scarves are torn and divided among the people, who keep them as something symbolic to protect them and bring them luck during the coming year.

If you find yourself climbing on towers close to monasteries, it is probable that you will become the tourist attraction to the monastery visitors, as they might congratulate and cheer you, when you find yourself on the top of the route! It has happened to many of us!

BIBLIOGRAPHY

There are two useful guides to consider before you decide to climb there. A. Dietrich Hasse and Heinz Lothaz Stutte : " Meteora Climbing and Hiking Guide" 1986, in English and German. It contains around 230 routes. Also, it provides general information about mountaineering, hiking in Meteora, maps, directions. B. Dietrich Hasse and Heinz Lothaz Stutte: " Meteora Climbing Part II" 2000. It is the additional climbing guide with the added routes of the area that were created from 1986 to the present time. Those are 440 in number. This guide is translated in English, German, Italian, French, and Slovenian. In total the area of Meteora offers, up to 670 climbing routes in 170 peaks

Greece Sport Climbing: The Best Of
by Aris Theodoropoulos
Includes the following area:
Thessaly: Meteora; Pyli Little Gorge; Mouzaki; Almyros
Athens area (Central Greece): Mavrosouvala; Hasia Cave; Acharneis; Mikri Varasova/Epos Filis; Sesi; Vrachokipos; Lelaki; Chaos
Patras area (Western Greece): Alepochori; Chatzouri; Kleisoura; Varasova
Peloponnese ( Southern Greece): Nafplio; Leonidio; Kyparissi; Zobolo; Lagada; Nedousa
Aegean islands: Symi; Anafi; Crete (the crags: Voulismeno Aloni, Plakias and Tersanas Cave)

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SECTORS AND ROUTES
BEAUTY

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BEST TIME OF YEAR

The majority of climbers start visiting the area during Easter time. But this is not the only period! The ideal weather conditions of Greece (Mediterranean climate) permit climbing starting from the spring, late April to middle of June and after the hot Greek summer from September till the end of November. Generally speaking, climbing is possible throughout the whole year. In the summer, you can choose climbing routes, based on their orientation to the sun and shade. You can climb from 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. avoiding the heat, as the northern and western sides are in the shade and between 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. when the sun starts to set. Before you go, have a look on the weather forecasts: www.noa.gr , www.weather.in.gr

HEIGHT

300m

ROPE

Two 60m half ropes recommended.

GRADES

4a-8b

ROCK

The type of rock is unique and quite different from other climbing areas of Greece. The rock is mainly pebbles, stones, gravel and frail sandstone. Hundreds of big and small pebbles are all joined together in an integrated mass creating these pillar

ORIENTATION

N, S, E, W

NUMBER OF ROUTES

670

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