My annoying vibrating alarm clock gave the bed an earthquake at 4am, I gave Lisanne a big cuddle and off I went to Gatwick. I have never been to Greece before and was ever so excited for a months worth of climbing life. Greece, home of the Greek gods and Hercules who is capable of 9c for sure. At Kos airport I met two of my old Sheffield pals Adam Hodgson and Joe Cook. They were looking strong as ever. I must have been getting weaker since I moved to London after 4 years living in the Peaks. I have missed all these climbing opportunities and now risking my life of possibly being stabbed as I live in a flat near Tooting. Pretty much nearly every week someone is murdered in the area. Joe had recently just ticked Mecca at Raven Tor (8b+) and is as strong as ever. Two days later Ramon Marin from london flew out from a months trip in Rodellar, he had gained an incredible amount of stamina. I am climbing among these superheroes I thought.
Kalymnos is paradise and the Grotta is like climbing in a huge monster mouth. The style reminds me of Krabi in Thailand. On the first day before Ramon flew out, Joe, Adam and I trekked up to Jurassic Park wall. After warming up I decided to go for the on sight on Nicola la Tigre 7c, god it was desperate, I screamed as I was ridiculously pumped and should have came off on 2nd bolt. But instead I fought hard just about catching the holds struggling not to let go. I regret the On Sight because I almost had a heart attack. I had to lie down on the ground gasping for air as if my arms were going to explode. The experience was agony and not worth the tick!
As life on the island went by I managed to make a quick tick of Daniboy (8a) probably the most classic route on the island. I found Sardonique (8a/8a+) kind of hard taking 5 attempts before the tick. The route was slightly balancing which makes it hard for me being profoundly deaf, or I am just a typical Brit finding an excuse? I had a debate with strong Joe whether it is 8a or 8a+. I personally thought it was 8a+ and so did Dave Graham. Joe said it was a 'hard' 8a but not 8a+ so did Adam Ondra. In the end I felt guilty and Ondra is not even human for gods sake. So ticked it off as 'extremely hard' 8a. That will do.
After a week I had to travel back to London for a job interview. I had done my homework and I was prepared. Another long sucky journey from a walk to a taxi to a ferry to Kos, then a bus to the airport. The flight was delayed and I didn't get to Gatwick till 1.30am and missed the train to Victoria. I argued forever till I managed to knock a tenner whilst negotiating with a cab. I finally got home 2.30am and my interview was at 9am the same morning. London was more of a shithole than I remembered. I have been living in a fantasy world by the cliffs in paradise forgetting reality or perhaps avoiding it. As soon as the interview finished I ended up doing DIY for Lisanne all day setting up a study in the second bedroom for her MA. At 4am the following morning I was traveling thousands of miles back to Greece crossing the ocean and cutting myself loose.
Eventually it was time to visit Sikati Cave on the other side of the island where the Petzl Rock trip was based in 2006. Sikati cave is a wild, massive hole in the ground which looks like it's been created by a giant meteorite impact. After a 30 minute scooter ride with slow ass driver Ramon we trekked another 40 minutes across the hills till we approached the cave. It took my breath away, the cave was enormous making the Grotta look like a kitten. As I stood underneath the huge overlooking stalactites I simply felt 'out of this world' as said in the guide book.
Another friend of mine, Dave Garry came along to Sikati and said 'Andre, this is where you were born, from the meteorite just like in the movie superman' then he went on to say 'Since you have returned home, your here to find out more about yourself' In other terms to find out how hard I can really climb. I was climbing near the top after a steep tufa approaching to the warm sun from the shade, I was sweating like hell and my arms were throbbing as if my biceps were bleeding inside. The rope got caught around my leg and I was getting scared. why can't I be normal? why can't I watch the premiership in the pub like all my other friends? I screamed as I threw myself dynamically onto the crimps near the top gasping for air. I had just On Sighted my first 8a (Super Lolita) being my 25th grade 8. It was a lifetime experience. I continued ticking the amazing tufa stalactites forrest marathon climb 'Adam' 7c+. The line was awesome. Maybe I am a superhero in my own way?
Ramon Marin had heaps of stamina and wanted to get his first ever 8a, I suggested he tried Super Lolita in the Sikati and after a quick try i filled him in with ideas for the tick.
1. you get stronger on your rest days not your climbing days. Ramon rested for two full days before he went for his next go.
2. Eat like a pig, a true cookie monster will get you up that route. Cookies, muffins and cake is the key.
3. clipping in the draws is the last thing you want to think about. I am famous for skipping draws, i am totally stupid but i get to the top of my routes.
In the end Ramon got Super Lolita first go of the day after two full rest days! effort. I went on to try Por La Socidad Con Mujeres Satisfechas, an 60 metre 8b petzl rock trip route and managed to On Sight the first part (8a). As I continued the extension approaching the crux I had only 3 quickdraws left, I had used nearly all 33 draws and it still wasn't enough. The route wasn't good, as the rock was lose and muddy. I was sweating like fuck and the tubes of my hearing aids filled up with water and suddenly made an awful buzzing sound. It was so highly irritating but i couldn't let go to take my hearing aid out. if i did, where would i put it? in my chalk bag? at 60 meters? with the sweat and busted hearing aid I gave up. What would Wolfgang say? Moffat? my dad? probably that I should simply try harder...
I filmed Tim Emmett for yamgo TV at the Grotta