Think of climbing in Greece. The obvious crops up: Kalymnos. And then the new hot-spot of Leonideo. And that’s about it. Some may remember the old-school conglomerate of Meteora, and others know of the stuff around Patras. But just think of all those pictures you’ve seen of rocky coasts and boulder fields spread across the multitude of sun-soaked islands. Surely there has to be tons of climbing.

I first figured this when myself and Sharma were invited to a mini festival around Athens back in 2005. There were loads of cliffs dotted around of great quality that I’d never heard about. Towering orange tufa strewn caves with excellent rock were interspersed between more easy angled grey faces with technical 6’s. The local scene was awesome. I left with the intention of heading back soon and wondering why I’d never heard of this area before.

Roll by 14 years (13 with kids) and I never made it back, until now, when yet again, I was invited to another festival. This time with big wall star Nico Faveressi. Again the locals were awesome with a busy vibrant scene, and again the cliffs were awesome, leaving me wondering again – why no one knows about them! In a nutshell the climbing is as good as Leonideo.

Athens is the city you land in before you head off to somewhere else. Maybe you’ll visit some touristy things but you’ll not even consider exploring the area. It’s a shame as some of the cliffs within an hour or less of the airport are better than the ones you are going to! Maybe it’s the grades; the areas have been around a long time and are fair with their ratings – not the holiday ones, though of course, that won’t put you off – will it? It shouldn’t, as the quality is generally excellent. Well bolted, short walk-ins, and surrounded in mountainous countryside you’d never have expected so close to the city. And the Greek culture seeps out of everywhere, from the tiny farms you pass through to the chaotic little villages where you’ll stop for utterly fantastic food in huge proportions for hardly any cost!

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So what’s on offer in terms of climbing?  Typically sectors are spread around. Though many are really very good, few would be enough for an entire two week trip, unless you are focussed on a specific redpoint project. Some of the bigger caves deserve at least a few days though, but a trip will be at its best when exploring – you’ll feel like you were away forever. All the routes are single pitch. Best time is probably early spring, or late Autumn, or even winter as it rarely gets Baltic. Cliffs face just about every direction so you can choose to top up the tan or hunt for primo conditions

So why are we not all going there? The one answer – there is no hub! No beautiful little village nestling in a sun-baked cove with a sparkling sea surrounding it, or quaint little town where all the climbers hang out and drink local beer together in the square in the evening warmth. A hub does make things popular. Think Kalymnos, Leonidio, and then Gekibari in Turkey, Tonsai in Thailand, The Pines in Arapalies…. With the cliffs surrounding Athens being dotted around as opposed to clustered in one area, as well as Athens itself, I can’t see a hub popping up any time soon, and maybe it will remain the secret of the rapidly growing numbers of Athens based climbers to flock to their local hills every weekend. But if you fancy something different, or even a stop-off on your way back from somewhere more holidayish, then you’ll be rather glad you made the effort. If anything, it’s like 4 hours from Athens to Leonidio, it might make sense to break the journey. Those that were in Leonidio this year will wish they had, as most of the crags there have been under water (or even snow) since December. And of course the crags around Athens are fine.

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The Athens climbing guidebook by Verticalplanet has all you need for info. I’m biased on my choice of crags, favouring steep orange rock with lots of routes between 7b and up, but there are literally hundreds of venues. Must visit hard crags are Platosi, Spilia Roussou and Magoula. These are excellent, particularly the second two, which are worthy of many visits. Platosi is also great (pic below), with a full range of routes from 5+ to 8b including ‘Antidrasi’ an amazing 7b+ journey. The crag is pretty much roadside and near a village so perfect for a quick stop off. At Spilia don’t miss ‘Aralou’ (pic above) at 7b+/c this takes an outrageous line, and ‘Darda’ at 7c+. This cliff is about 15 mins hike into lovely unspoilt countryside. Magoula has just loads of hard routes, and is pretty much on route to the other Greek destinations so certainly worth stopping off. (last pic)

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In summary, the cliffs around Athens are excellent. They are probably as good as other areas in Greece. They are close to the airport and can easily be combined with a trip to somewhere like Leonidio. It’s very likely that if leonidio is wet, these places will still be dry.

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