From Athens we drive to Corinth, turn South to Argos, then follow the sea shore all the way to Leonidio. There are countless serpentine turns to navigate the coastline. It takes us about 4 hours and the last hour is in darkness.
We arrive at the Red Rock Cafeteria and use their free WiFi to WhatsApp the AirBnB host. Alex is from Romania and her husband is an avid rock climber. She shows us the apartment, which has been recently renovated. Her sister operates a wood-fired bakery in town, and she has provided us with a plate of pastries both sweet and savory.
It will rain non-stop for the next 48 hours. We go to the local market for provisions. Jess and I hunker down, watching much Netflix and recovering from our jet-lag.
We don’t have one of the rock climbing guidebooks, but OpenStreetMap has the crags and approach trails, and there’s sufficient free information on the Climb in Leonidio website to keep us busy for the next five days.
On the first climbing day we walk from our AirBnB about 15 minutes uphill to the Hospital and Red Rock sectors. Many of the routes have their name written in paint at the base. The Red Rock wall steepens halfway up, so many routes have multiple anchors; beginners can climb the first part, and others can continue up to the higher anchor. Madri and Kosmas (both with the extension) are the highlights. At the Hospital sector Manolis Glezos and Pretty Woman stood out.
The next day we drive across the river which runs through the middle of the city, and go West and up into the mountain to the sectors near the monastery of St. Nicholas Sintza.
The drive to St. Nicholas Sintza brings us through olive groves, and provides a very different perspective of the valley. The monastery is stark white and built into the side of the mountain. We realize that this patch of white is visible from the village. We park and have our first of many close encounters with goats.
I climb Taraxippus (p1: 6a+, p2: 6b+) in one long monster pitch. The climb is safely bolted and longer than I thought, so I run low on quickdraws. I girth-hitch a sling to one bolt, so I only need one carabiner to attach the rope. Later, when three bolts are in direct line, I use the saved carabiner and clip the rope directly to the bolt. I do this a couple more times to conserve gear and not introduce too much drag. When I reach the top anchor all I have left is one locking carabiner in addition to the one with my rappel device. Jess informs me that I’ve passed the halfway mark of my 80 meter rope, so I rappel to the first anchor, cleaning as I go.
The South side of the valley is in the shade and windy, so Jess is cold. We do one more climb on the sunny side and then head to the beach. We have lunch at a seafood restaurant near the docks and restrain ourselves from feeding the many cute stray cats.
Over the next few days we climb at Sabaton, Twin Caves, Dornröschen (the original German fairy tale we know as Sleeping Beauty), and King of Thrones. Highlights at these sectors are Podikos, Tsibouri (extension), Blutspur, and Mächtig Gewaltig respectively.
For rest and relaxation we go to beaches. There are plenty to be found; just look for signs that say παραλία (paralia). In this region they all consist of pebbles rather than sand, but swimming at the mouth of the Argolic Gulf is wonderful. Out of the three beaches: Plakas; Poulithra; and Thiopafto, the last was our favorite.
The town of Leonidio is lovely. Much of the architecture is old, the streets are narrow, and every roof is terracotta.
The week is up. We pile into the Fiat and drive back to Athens to catch a flight to Kalymnos.