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September 25th, 2016

08:03 pm: Return to Exeter
Still running on Greek time, I woke up extremely early despite yesterday's late night, and pottered around in the morning talking to J. Opting for an early train, J dropped me at Paddington and I caught the next train to Penzance. On the journey back, I sat behind a couple of composers who seemed to be on their way to the West Country and who spent their time nattering about the contemporary music scene.

Arriving home, I went for a quick shop to stock up and settled down to sort through my photos of Greece. Rather annoyingly, my iMac kept on shutting down partway through its boot sequeunce with no clear indications of an error. When I put it into verbose mode, I discovered a message indicating that it couldn't fsck the file system and that instead of doing something to fix the problem or to alert me, it was simply shutting itself down. Bringing the system up in single-user, I fsck-ed the file system with various fix options and brought rebooted, at which point the machine came back up.

After a happy afternoon of trawling through my stuff, I went to bed at around eight o'clock, exhausted, and not anticipating getting much done at work tomorrow...

September 24th, 2016

11:55 pm: Return to England
Up early to sort out my packing, I had a shower and finally managed to get out early enough to take a pre-dawn shot of Telendos — something Izzy had been wanting to do all week. The weather was clear enough to give a good view of Leros to the north and to give a hint of something else — surely not Patmos? — in the very far distance.

Returning to the hotel, I went down to breakfast with the others where we settled up our breakfast bills and I arranged for a taxi to take my to Kalymnos airport. While we were waiting around, Tom came by to pick up Andrew for a morning of climbing, bringing the news that Gav had crashed his scooter the previous night, picking up some nasty road rash in the process. Sure enough the man himself arrived a little later, looking suitably banged up, to take Izzy up to Iliada for a final attempt on Lucky Luca.

The taxi arrived at around nine and Eve and I got in. The taxi dropped Eve in Myrties, where she was going to meet up with Hayley with the idea of spending the morning in Pothia ahead of the ferry, and then continued on up the mountain to the airport. It was very cold and windy when we arrived and the taxi driver gave me his card, telling me to give him a ring if my flight was cancelled and I needed a lift to the ferry port; something, he warned me, that had happened before.

The small terminal building was surprisingly busy, with a large extended Greek-Australian family, some locals, and a few Americans, all waiting for our plane to land. Around 40 minutes before the plane was due to depart, it became clear that conditions were too windy for a landing and were all being re-routed via Kos. I got my ticket changed, jumped in a taxi with the Americans, and was soon at Pothia ferry port. There I bumped into Gaz Parry, who pointed me to the ferry kiosk where I bought a ticket — the man behind the counter wasn't fooled by my bad greek for a second!

Once the ferry started boarding, I went and sat in the cabin where I got talking to one of the Australians. She said they'd been in Kalymnos to visit her mother-in-law's grave and they were supposed to be heading to Kalamata for a wedding. They'd tried to leave on yesterday's flight, only to be stopped by the wind, and they'd decided that it was better to go from Kos than to risk being stuck in Kalynos for another day. As we were talking, I got a surprise when Hayley wandered through the cabin. It turned out that she and Eve and Andrew, who'd stormed his climbs this morning, were all up on the top deck. I went up and joined them for the rest of the journey, catching a final shot of the island as we were leaving.

Arriving in Masticheri on Kos, where the wind was strong enough to throw spray over the breakwater, we joined forces with Gaz and one of his group to share taxis to the airport. Once their, the girls soon disappeared off for their flight, leaving the three of us to await our five o'clock flight to Athens.

Once check-in was open, we went through the process of getting our bags through and our seats allocated. Andrew and Gaz, who were catching their scheduled flight, breezed through with no trouble. Whereas I, when I tried, got told to go to the Aegean Airlines desk to get my ticket fixed. On initially presenting my ticket, the woman on the counter told me I needed to go to check-in. Once I convinced her I wasn't in the wrong place, she made a few phone calls, told me everything was fine and sent me back to the desk. Bypassing the queue, I tried again, only to discover that there was still a problem. There then followed a few frenzied bouts of typing by the women on the desk, following by one of them going over to the Aegean desk, followed by more typing and lots of rapid phone calls in Greek. After half an hour or forty minutes of this, during which I'd been blocking the check-in queue, they finally fixed the problem, slapped a quick transfer tag on my bag and pushed me through into departures where I met up with a very baffled Andrew.

The flight was very smooth and we arrived in Athens in well under an hour. We made it through the airport in good time to get to the departure gate for the flight to Heathrow and we left around twenty minutes behind schedule. After a fairly smooth flight with only minor turbulence, we arrived in London at around 9pm local time where, much to my surprise, I found my bag waiting for me on the carousel.

I said my goodbyes to Andrew, who was off to catch the bus to Woking, and caught the Piccadilly Line to Leicester Square where I changed to get myself to Chalk Farm. I arrived at my uncle's an hour and a half later, tired but extremely pleased to have made it back to England — there were moments during the afternoon when I doubted I'd ever get back.


September 23rd, 2016

11:54 pm: Poets
With the wind blowing strongly on our last day, we walked up to Poets to try some of the routes there. Eve and I, given the goal of putting in some mileage, started the day with Demeter which, at 4c, was a total cakewalk. The others tried harder routes — I think Izzy climbed Ganymede — but we quickly decided to move round to the main area.

As we were packing up, I got talking to Gav about his bag — a now-discontinued Quechua rucksack with all sorts of climbing-specific features. As he was going through it, giving us the grand tour, he spotted what looked like an extremely mouldy banana in a plastic bag and promptly freaked out. Closer examination proved that the object was not a banana but a severed goat's foot which Tom had found lying and around and had stashed in Gav's bag!

As we were leaving we a goat's skull and, unable to resist temptation, Izzy and I set about taking some photos. Firstly with the skull balanced on top of a nearby rickety gate:

And then with it hung off a piece of rebar attached to the gate. Unable to reach from the ground, it was clear that one of us had to pick the other up. As I was still wearing my harness, I got to be the one to pick Izzy up on my shoulders and while I may not be able to one-handed pull-ups, I was able to lift her up with no trouble at all. And once we had the skull positioned, the resulting photos more than justified our efforts:

At the main area we split up, with Tom, Hayley, Andrew and Izzy going round the corner to Couer D'Armeos work some harder stuff, while Eve, Gav and I stayed to rack up some mileage. Here's the main wall from the approach, with Gavin at the base of the crag giving an idea of the scale:

This shot of Eve on Sapfo might just be my favourite shot of the week — I especially like the depth of field and the way you can see the next four quickdraws:

We finished the day with Mustass, which featured a nice slabby start with tufas at the top. I climbed first and Gav, who was super-psyched, stormed up to stripped the route:

With the day complete and the week's climbing done, the three of us went down the hill for showers and a rest before meeting the others at the cocktail bar ahead of our final dinner at the Ageaen. Eve and I hit the bar, where we spent a while drinking tea, before deciding heading back to the hotel to change into long sleaves. On the way we met Gavin and we stood about debating the situation for a while. Just as we'd decided to go to the restaurant, the others arrived and we all walked down together, pausing briefly to allow them to buy tickets on the ferry to Kos for tomorrow.

Sat indoors, out of the wind but with big windows giving us a fantastic panoramic view of Telendos and the bay, we were amused to see Gaz Parry's group sitting not too far away — we think they might be stalking us, because they were also at Prego yeseterday. I had the same mixed Greek vegetarian dish as before while the others all had seafood, with everyone but Eve, who had red snapper, opting for a tuna stake.

Towards the end of dinner, Gav and Tom decided to do a bit of coaching. They decided to make a paper fortune teller — I'm sure I remember these being called chickens when I was at school &mdsah; to help them identify our weaknesses. With Andrew's help, we soon had a fortune teller made from a paper place mat which identified everyone's areas for improvement with uncanny accuracy. We concluded that the thing was clearly inhabited by a great spirit and should be destroyed at the first possible opportunity, least it fall into the wrong hands.

After supper we adjourned to the cocktail bar were we again met up with Gaz, now without his group, and we settled down for some proper coaching and some homework. Tom, a primary school teacher by profession, made up a grid and got us to write down the things we thought we'd done well at this week, our areas for improvement, and our goals for the future. Once we'd done this, they turned the piece of paper over and compared what they'd said with what we'd said and assigned us some things to concentrate on to help us improve.

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September 22nd, 2016

10:35 pm: Return to Odyssey
After a slightly slow start this morning — some people were clearly still recoverying from the excesses of yesterday's cocktails! — we scootered out to the crag, skipping the usual supermarket stop on the way.

Once up there, Izzy and I were planning to warm up on Mikrotera Kalamarakia but ended doing Haryvdi because it was free. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a total nightmare. Izzy took two goes to get up to the second clip after having serious worries about just how polished the bottom part of the route was. I seconded and confirmed her opinion: the bottom was like glass and without good feet, the second clip felt very exposed.

After the horrors of that, I belayed her on Haryvdi and went off to lead Nausicaa Nausicaa. The long slab route was really charming and enjoyable with good feet and some non-obvious hands. Partway up I encountered someone climbing Mon Amour who seemed to be in a bad position: off her route, without an obvious bolt to clip to, and with a big fall looming if she feel off. It turned out that the person who put the draws in the route had skipped a bolt and she'd got lost as a result, so I clipped her into one of my bolts until she lowered to a safe point, unclipped her, and carried on with my route.

Eve on Nausicaa Nausicaa:

The main aim for the day was to allow Hayley to take a crack at The Beast, which she'd stormed on top rope last year. She warmed up with Imia:

And because the route shares an anchor with The Beast, she was able to put quickdraws in the harder route on her way down. With everything set, she then began her assault on the 7b:

After Hayley redpointed it, Andrew decided to give it a go too:

While this was going on, I seconded a short, very boulder 6b+ with some serious coaching from Tom. The route featured a couple of crossover moves in the middle, which involved shifting from one layback position to another, with a powerful move through a big tufa formation in the middle. It took me a few goes to get, but once I'd cracked the crux, I stormed the last section. Later in the day I was gratified to see a couple of Australians climbing it and making a horrible mess of it — certainly my Newberry-assisted beta was far more elegant — and basically thrashing their way up.

Once I'd finished the 6b+, I gave Imia a crack, making it a fair way up the route before running out of beans. I ended the afternoon with Odisseo, which I quite enjoyed, even though I didn't quite top it but instead interrupted Gav's conversation with Hayley about falling by chucking myself off.

We finished the day in Marci Marc cave, with Izzy almost topping Lucky Luca. She panicked when her feet were in the wrong position on the very last move and failed to clip the anchor, but the other moves looked super smooth. Andrew powered up Amphora, finishing it with an amazingly slick bit of clipping: he popped a quickdraw off his harness, clipped it to the anchor, clipped the rope, clipped the rope into the anchor, unclipped the rope from the QD, unclipped the draw and had it back on his gear loop in one completely seemless movement; it was pure poetry in motion.

After finishing up, we went back down for showers before heading to Prego for dinner. I went for a really good pappardella alla norma made with local Kalymnian goat cheese. I'm pretty sure that Andrew went for pasta and I have a feeling Izzy went for some sort of seafood, but I can't really remember what the others went for.

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September 21st, 2016

11:24 pm: Rest day
With a day off from climbing, Izzy and I decided to do a cycling and swimming tour of Kalymnos. After Izzy bought a mask and snorkel, we hired a couple of bikes and set out early with the idea of powering off to Emporios before the sun got too hot. The journey was actually much easier than I thought and we reached our destination in next to no time.

We spent a while swimming around the bay in Emporios, checking out the fish in the clear, deep water close into the shore. Having worked up an appetite we went for lunch at the Dreamcatcher taverna, where we both had spectacularly good vegetarian gemistas, and where I was extremely impressed by the quality of the loos — far above and beyond anything I've ever seen in a taverna before.

Leaving at around two, we went round to the next beach, only to discover a couple of little tavernas, including one where the staff were dressed as pirates. The water was clear and the wildlife was interesting, but we eventually decided to continue our way back, stopping at Skalia and Arginonta for more swimming and drink at the last taverna before town.

Back at the hotel, we got changed and messed around with the camera, trying to get some good shots of the sunset. Here's my silhouette shot of the trees and chimneys:

And here's one of Izzy's pictures of the cacti on the terrace:

We eventually located the others at a cocktail bar on the edge of town, where they didn't so much measure out spirits by the shot as by the glass. By the time we arrived, the others were feeling the effects after one mohito while Eve was completely smashed on a single white russian.

When Tom and Gav returned from Skikati Cave we helped Eve walk to the same taverna as Monday. Here I had an excellent briam, while some of the others had the chicken kiev that Gav had had earlier in the week, and Tom had the chicken pasta on the grounds that it was the most filling.

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September 20th, 2016

10:08 pm: Grande Grotta and Afternoon
Out for my usual early morning walk, I got as far as Myrties before I decided to return to the hotel. Inevitably this was the point at which the heavens decided to open and I found myself pretty soaked by the time I got home. Fortunately, the temperature was already in the high twenties and I was dry before I knew it.

After breakfast, we hopped on the scooters and made our way to Grande Grotta.

Neither Izzy nor I enjoyed our warm up on happy girlfriend — a slab route with some easy tufa climbing that neither of us particularly enjoyed. I tried to lead monahiki elia, had an attack of nerves, came down to allow Izzy to lead it, and then powered up it on top rope.

Hayley stormed up taz, climbing head to head with someone else working their way up monahiki elia:

Moving round the corner to Afternoon, we did l'amico ralph, blu, kalo taxidi and l'uomo che non credeva. Here's Gav on the 6b:

Hayley and Andrew finished the day with clare, a tough 6c, and called it a day — although I think Izzy may have been jonesing for one last climb.

We went to Prego, the restaurant directly below the hotel, for supper. The food was very good and the portions large enough that Tom was able to forego his usual post-supper gyros. I had the vegan special, falafel with hummus and pita bread, while Izzy had seafood pasta, Hayley had a seafood platter, Andrew had chicken pasta, and Tom had a giant plate of cutlets.

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September 19th, 2016

10:20 pm: Iliada and Odyssey
Up to Iliada first thing to climb some of the routes before they caught the sun.

I managed to take my first fall high on one of the routes. I fell quite a distance — Gav though I was reaching for the next clip, so he had plenty of slack out — but there was no damage and it massively boosted my leading confidence. I climbed a nice tufa route to finish before we followed the shade round the corner to Odyssey, stopping at X to allow the others to have a go at dolonas, a roof route in the cave.

Tom made pretty easy work of it...

...while Andrew made a pretty good attempt to lead it, even if he didn't quite manage to stick the dyno on this attempt...

...Izzy seconded the route, getting close to the final clip...

...while Tom, belaying her, hung around in space...

At Odyssey, I did a couple of easy slabs, Andrew and Hayley went round off to on-sight some hard stuff, while Izzy and Gav went round to work lucky luca in Marci Marc cave. I made my way through the crux on penelope only to come off on the next move. After finishing the route, Eve hopped on and seconded the first part before asking Tom for beta on the second part as he stripped the route.

Retreating from the sun once again, we all moved round to the cave were we found Izzy still working lucky luca. Having finally tired herself out, she came down and Andrew gave it a try, flashing it on his last climb of the day! Tom ran up amphora, Hayley gave it a try, and we called it a day and returned to town just as the first signs of a change in the weather — clouds over the island of Telendos — started to make themselves known.

Off to the taverna for supper, where I had vegetarian mousaka — very nice indeed — Izzy had the meat version, Gav had chicken kiev and, I think, Eve had roast chicken.

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September 18th, 2016

09:52 pm: Ivory Tower
Got up early to discover I'd been eaten alive by mosquitos during the night. Fortunately the bites are ugly rather than itchy so I think I'll probably survive unscatched. Went for a walk through Masouri while Andrew, my roommate, got himself up, and met the others for breakfast in the restaurant below the hotel.

As we were fuelling for day at the crag, Tom dropped by to tell us that the plan was to spend the day at Ivory Tower. We walked up to one of the ubiquitous scooter hire shops and turned right to walk up the approach path. The view from the base of the crag was pretty amazing, with clear views of Emporios and Kalavros close by and Leros in the distance.

On arrival, we got ourselves established, consulted the guidebook, and waited while Tom and Gav picked some easy routes to get us going.

We warmed up on some easy slabs, did a slightly more tricky 6a-6b+ routes. Eve made pretty light work of bloc volant:

Andrew, who reckoned himself a 6c climber outdoors, easily on-sighted sunrise (part 1) graded 7a and came within one move of on-sighting the craic at a heroic 7b+. Here he is, taking full advantage of a particularly good rest:

We had to keep a careful eye on the local goat population. Given half a chance, they will eat anything edible left unattended and they're canny enough to wait until you're belaying before diving into your rucksack in search of a snack.

After a solid first day of climbing, we hit the beach where we met up with Ben West, Cailean Harker and others, relaxing after their first day of climbing. After Izzy, Tom and I went for a swim, someone came up with the suggestion that we use our rest day to swim to Telendos. The distance looks pretty trivial — probably no more than a kilometre — but which may be a bit risky given the levels of boat traffic in the area and which probably isn't an ideal rest day activity!

We went for supper at the Aegean Restaurant at the southern end of town. We were joined by Cal and Jake, but Eve was missing after going down with heat stroke. The food was very good. The vegetarian option was a mixed plate of various different Greek veg dishes, all of which were extremely nice.

Over supper Tom and Gav went through their assessment of our climbing, based on today's observations — despite having known them and been taught by them for years, this was the first chance they'd had to see some of us climb outdoors. They came up with some recommendations, based partly on the routes that people were interested, and suggested mixing specific hard routes with work to maximise milage on the rock for those of us who needed it.

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September 17th, 2016

11:56 pm: The others arrive
The others arrived a little before midnight local time, having managed to get themselves from Kos airport, via Mastichari, to Pothia and, eventually Masouri. After a little bit of pondering, Eve and Izzy opted for the room next to ours, deciding that access to the large balcony was more important than two single beds.

Tom showed up to check the arrangements for the morning, something that made us all decide to opt for hotel breakfasts, and we knocked off ready for the early start — far worse for those still running on BST — the next morning.

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06:40 pm: The Bone Collector
While with my folks, they mentioned that one of their guests had persuaded them to read Jeffery Deaver's The Bone Collector. Not wanting to lag behind the curve, I read it this afternoon.

Lincoln Rhyme was New York's best forensic scientist until an accident left him quadriplegic and suicidal. But when a former colleague arrives with a juicy case, Rhyme reluctantly allows himself to become involved. Recognising that the only person who attempted to protect the evidence of the crime scene was patrol cop Amelia Sachs, Rhyme recruits Sachs to be his eyes and ears on the case.

Following clues left at the scene of the first two murders, Rhyme and Sachs race to decode the evidence to locate the murderer's next victims before it is too late. Despite some close calls, the police manage to save most of the other victims, but struggle when a fire in a church causes the next set of clues to be lost. Eventually, the murderer starts to become frustrated when his actions are thwarted one to many times and turns his attention to the police.

Despite the absurd conclusion, Deaver does a nice job of capturing the mind of psychology both of the increasingly unhinged murderer and of Rhymes, who has lost all enthusiasm for life following his accident. There are a few errors in the science — obvious enough that I was able to pick them up without recourse to wikipedia — but otherwise the details seem pretty well done.

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