Turkey and Petzl Roc Trip

After climbing in Athens we hopped on another overnight ferry and after a little stop off on Rhodes Island we arrived in Turkey (see my last post for travel details)!

We arrived Geyikbayiri late at night under a full moon, the first thing I noticed was there was rock everywhere! Once at one of the many accommodation options in the valley there is no need for a car, stacks of amazing climbing is a flip-flop'able 5-15min walk away, this made a refreshing change from the daily driving to the crag we did around Athens. 

Friendly JoSiTo Camping Bar 

Geyikbayiri South Facing crags, too hot for these!

Crawling out of my tent in the morning the next couple of things I noticed was that there where pomegranate and persimmon fruit trees everywhere and that it was hot! Unfortunately it was way to hot to climb on many of the crags overlooking the campsite, which was a bit of a shame. However luckily there was one crag 10min walk away called Trebenna which gets shade all day and it rather good indeed if a little polished.

Amazing rock structures in Trebenna

The rock in Trebenna is often steep and always amazingly featured with lots of tufas on all angles which results in lots of sometimes painfully wide bridging, contorted positions and unexpected rests. 

More amazing rock in Trebenna

Jon on a super steep 7c+ roof

Lowering off

Wide Bridging! 

Sampling some local gozleme, savoury pancake

Turkish Tea (Cay)

Onsighting Ying Yang 7c in Trebenna

Super tasty, BBQ trout at down the road from JoSitoCamp at Geyikbayiri Alabalik. Highly recommended :-)

Petzl Roc Trip arrives into town

It was cool to meetup with the Petzl Roc Trip in Geyikbayiri, hanging out with other enthusiastic climbers is always motivating. Petzl laid on a bus each day to take us to a rather impressive newly developed crag 40min away called Çitdibi. This crag had lots of super long and super impressive tufa lines with the best looking lines around 8a+. There was also a few easier (6b-7b) long 40m wall climbs which where fantastic. The consensus of the Petzl climbers was that many of the grades of the new routes at Çitdibi in the new guidebook where a bit of the stiff side! There is currently a refuge being built near the bottom of the walk-in to the crag, I think in the future this will become a great place to stay for a couple of weeks of hard climbing. 

Long 8b tufa at Çitdibi

Octocopter filming at Çitdibi


After just under a week in Geyikbayiri we moved on with the Petzl Roc Trip to to Olympos, a couple of hours drive away by the coast. I was looking forward to a change of scene, some warm water sea swimming and some deep water soloing. We had one really good days climbing on a nice vertical wall Cennet which made a welcome chance from steep tufa pulling.  Unfortunately on our second day in Olympos Jon and I got taken down by food poisoning. Jon managed to recover after about 24hrs but it's taken me a week and a half to get over it! The remainder of the trip was mainly spent either in bed or on the toilet!    

Watchout for turtles

Olympos Beach

UK to Turkey via Overland Transport (Train + Ferry) Adventure

As I mentioned in my previous post on Athens climbing Jon and I travelled out to Turkey 'overland' i.e. not flying. I try my best to keep my emissions of carbon to the minimum*. Avoiding flying is not always easy, my desire to travel to see beautiful and exciting places conflicts with not wanting to cause damage to the environment along the way.

Prior to flying to Morocco earlier this year I had not flown for several years, so it was with excitement a slight feeling of guilt when I heard of my prize winning: a place on the Petzl Roc Trip in Turkey, accepting the prize would involve flying for the second time this year.

Travelling overland via train has become a regular exercise for me to get to European climbing destinations. European trains are fast, effective and reasonably priced when booked in advance. In recent years I've travelled to Chamonix, Ceuse and Chuilla in Northern Spain all with relative ease via train. I actually find train travel much more enjoyable and fulfilling than the non-experience which is flying. Train travel allows for time to sit-back, unwind and experience the changes in scenery, culture, food (and beverages!) along the journey. Also train journeys are a good time to finish off some work (or write a blog post!), most trains have power sockets for laptops and some have free wifi.

However, looking at the location of Turkey on the map it seemed a very long way indeed from North Wales! An altogether more involved overland journey then Western Europe destinations. For this reason I had pretty much written off reaching Turkey overland and resigned myself to flying until I chance meeting with Jon Morgan while walking into Ceuse this year. In-between heavy breathing and a lot of sweating during the 40min uphill walk with heavy sacks Jon revealed that he had successfully travelled to and from Turkey overland, being a mountain guide and a doctor I figured Jon must know a thing or two! Excitedly I got Jon to sketch out his travel itinerary for me.

Luckily I managed to convince Jon Leighton that this trip was a good idea. Always up for a good train-travel-adventure, Jon agreed to join me.

There are two main routes overland to Turkey from Western Europe, Man in Seat 61 was an invaluable resource for planning the journey: http://www.seat61.com/Turkey.htm

1. The landlocked train option linking Eastern European city's:
Bangor > London-Paris > Munich > Budapest > Bucharest > Istanbul > Ankara > Antalya
Bangor > London-Paris > Munich > Zagreb > Belgrade > Sofia > Istanbul > Ankara > Antalya

2. The ferry hopping option: Bangor > London (train) > Paris (train) > Milan > Bari (train) > Patras (ferry) > Athens (bus) > Rhodes (ferry) > Marmaris (ferry) > Antalya (hire car)

We decided to go for the ferry hoping option as this gave us the opportunity to break the journey with some climbing around Athens. We also thought mixing up travel with ferries would be quite exciting.

Our actual route map see link below for live zoomable version

The ferry hopping option got us to Athens in three days of traveling from London where we stated climbing for a week. Then a further night ferry, a short afternoon ferry then a 4hr hire car journey saw us in Geyikbayiri campsite where we joined the Petzl Roc Trip.

It felt immensely satisfying to reach our destination in Turkey via overland travel. The journey itself was varied and interesting, and never boring. It's given me memories of people and places which I won't forget. It has also widened my horizons to the possibilities of overland travel; I had almost written off ever being able to justify flying to China to meet my work contacts, however the Trans Siberian Express could be another adventure...

Here are a few sights from the journey I would never have the joy of experiencing had we flown:

Milan Train Station

Small Streets of Bari, Italy
Local shop in Bari, Italy. Selling Italian Essentials!

Getting Ready to Board Ferry in Bari for Greece

Boarding Overnight Ferry from Bari to Greece (17hrs)

Breakfast up on deck, nearly arriving in Greece

Passing some Greek Islands

Leaving Greece for Rhodes Island then onto Turkey, now got the whole ferry cooking thing down!

Rest day on Rhodes Island

Clearest Sea I've ever seen on Rhodes

More old little side streets in Rhodes

Obligatory Seafood Dish with some Dolmathakia (stuffed vine leaves) on Rhodes 

Arriving into Marmaris Turkey to the sight of a ridiculous boat! Don't think it counts as overland slow travel if you have your own helicopter waiting on the roof!     

I should mention that due to work and time constraints was with a guilty conscious we opted for the quick option of flying home :-(. At least we reduced our flying by 50%.

* Travelling via train emits 80-90% less carbon then flying [Source: http://www.seat61.com/CO2flights.htm]. The international 'safe' level of emissions per person is around 2T/yr to contain global temperature changes at or below 2 deg C which will 'hopefully' keep runway climate change and subsequent rise in sea levels at bay. Return fight from London to Málaga will emit 2/3T of carbon per person. 6.5T to Auckland Australia or 2T to New York. [Source: Only Planet, Ed Gillespie 2014]

Athens, Great Greek Climbing

Jon in the marvellous tufa jungle of Marvrosouvla doing battle with Straggalistis 7b
I sit back against the crag, comfortable propped up by my rucksack with a tied off grigri in one hand and book in the other while Jon takes a 'rest' jammed into a small cave halfway up the route he's trying. I can't help but feel that during our week visit we've only scratched the surface of Athens climbing potential. It's our last morning of climbing before getting a ferry onwards to Rhodes then finally onto Turkey, Jon is high on the route Aides 8a in the marvellous tufa jungle of Mavrosouvala cave.

I read another paragraph of my book as Jon shouts down from 20m above "I'm giving it five more minutes to wait for the sun to go behind a cloud", he's now been awkwardly squashed in the cave giving his forearms some welcome rest from the imposing steepness of the Mavrosouvala cave for almost 30min! The book I'm reading is called Only Planet by Ed Gillespie is a very apt choice for our trip. The book is a story of Ed's adventures, travelling around the world overland; Jon and I have travelled out to Greece and are travelling onto Turkey via overland transport. I will leave Jon to explain the details but the short is that it took almost three days on trains and a couple of ferries. The journey was comfortable, interesting and enjoyable while emitting much less carbon that if we would have taken an aeroplane instead. See my previous post on day one of our journey. We have now made it to Geyikbayiri in Turkey. It feels great to have travelled this far seeing all the sights overland and experiences the gradual changes in language, culture and cuisine. In a couple of days time we will be joining the Petzl Roc trip.

It's Jon's last attempt at the route (which was to be his first 8a) before we need to leave to return our hire car and board our overnight ferry to Turkey. "ok, I'm going.." I hear shouted down from above, I put down my book and pull on Jon's belay glasses and resume belaying stance. I watch Jon make upward progress through the rectangular prism lens of the special glasses as I generously feed out rope shout out encouragement.

Jon puts in an amazing effort getting higher then ever before but sadly a sub optimal two finger pocket sees him flying through the air. Like all things which are ultimately satisfying climbing and pushing your limit is hard and takes time. Unfortunately for Jon our time had run out.

For the past week we have been enjoying exploring the climbing around Athens. This has been made easy by the fantastic guidebook to the region which was released earlier this year. Interestingly this has been the first guidebook to ever have been funded via crowd source funding; "it was the only way we could do it" Giorgos one of the authors of the guide book tells me as we hungrily tuck into a post climbing tasty Greek salad and Gyros (Greek pitta wrap). Chatting to Giorgos and his friends it's clear that a lot of work by a lot of people has gone into producing this new guidebook. They have done a great job, the guidebook is one of the best I've ever used. We never had trouble getting to the crags and finding the routes. The guidebook lists 33 crags all within a couple of hrs drive from Athens. Some crags are amazingly quick to access from the city.

The indispensable Athens climbing guidebook

The aforementioned Mavrosouvala cave  
As well as frequent visits to Mavrosouvala, we also enjoyed climbed at:

Spilia Daveli 

Spilia Daveli and Damari are old marble quarrys where marble which was used to build the Acropolis in Athens was said to have been sourced. It was a real experience for us to climb on marble, I found it similar to Slate but much brighter and with a little bit more friction.

Spilia Daveli Marble Quarry

About to tackle the big marble roof crack of Gerakina 7b+ in Damari 

Great view of Athens from Spilia Daveli


Another superb limestone tufa crag, facing south this crag makes a perfect winter venue. 

Tou Thoma to Magazi 7b - Vrachokipos
Myself on Gefsi Asvestolithou 7C - Vrachokipos, Photo: Andreas Markou

We camped at Camping Nea Kifisia which worked well for us since it was located in the outskirts of the city in the suburb of Kifissia. This allowed us to quickly easily get onto the main routes for accessing the climbing without hitting much traffic as well as being able to access the centre of Athens via the metro from a near by metro station. Within 20 min walk from the camping there is a large choice of restaurants, coffee shops, excellent bakeries and supermarkets.

It was my first time in Athens and Greece. I was very impressed with the climbing. Athens has lots of potential to become (and no doubt will become) an international climbing destination. On rest days we enjoyed being a tourist taking in the culture of the city walking around round the ancient buildings and ruins in and around the centre.

For the duration of our stay in Athens we failed to find gas which would fit our stove so we ate salad every night...which was great! Fresh fruit, veg, nuts and seeds and in abundance in Greece and seem to be cheaper than in the UK. Here's Jon tucking into one of our finer creations out of a Greek edible bread bowl! There are not may days I get to climb an amazing 8a then eat a bowl! Apparently they are sturdy enough to hold soup..for a limited time!

After Athens our next stop was the Greek island of Rhodes as a ferry stop-off to Turkey, relaxing on Rhodes was a great rest day, if it little bit touristy. Hold tight for a blog post on Turkey climbing and Petzl Roc trip.... 

Links and info:

Thanks to Giorgos from +Athens Climbing Guidebook for cafe and camping recommendations:

http://athensclimbing.com/ - Buy the Athens climbing guidebook
http://www.camping-neakifissia.gr/ - we camped here, reasonable price, wifi that was sometimes good sometimes not, friendly owner, good showers and shady flat but hard gravel tent pitches.

https://www.facebook.com/AthensClimbingGuide?fref=ts - latest info and photos from Athens climbing

http://www.avocadoathens.com/ - Super nice veggie cafe in the city centre, can recommend their Avocado burger. They had wifi but it didn't work.

https://foursquare.com/v/pure-bliss/4b24fb6ff964a520f96a24e3 - Another nice cafe in the city centre, we didn't eat here but food looked good. Wifi was super fast and solid :-)