I first went to Kalymnos in 2013 and whilst I top roped a couple of 7a’s I still wasn’t getting on the sharp end of the rope above 6c.
I can do the moves, I have the technique – just lacking on the head front mainly. I’ve a background in UK trad climbing and I guess I’ve always worked on the principal that leader never falls…it’s more or less been that way for the last 20 years!
Well in 2013 I’d watched a female climber work the route DNA 7a in the Grande Grotta and I knew I’d be coming back for a go myself.
I’d had a few successful top roping attempts on 7a routes at Malham Cove since the 2013 trip so I knew it’s a grade I could achieve. So 2015 – the opportunity to head over to Kalymnos with 14 other friends came about and DNA was on my tick list. I spent the start of the week ‘warming’ up and getting used to the rock – or practicing my 7a lead avoidance techniques.
The boys were working a 7b in the Odyssey sector – Amphora 20m. I tried it on top rope and my first attempt was pretty smooth at the start – just running out of steam near the top. My second go was totally rubbish, still not fully recovered from the exertions of the first attempt. I let the boys carry on with their redpointing and resorted back to easier grades for a couple of days.
It wasn’t until the end of week that I finally jumped on DNA. I’d led a soft touch 7a on Magoulias Wall at Summertime (Toni) the day before with one rest on the rope – the last clip before the top – looking back I could and should have led that clean. The head not willing to push through till failure.
DNA day! Partnered with Matt who was also keen for a go we warmed up on Happy Girlfriend 5c+ and Monahiki Elia 6a+. After a bit of rest and chatting to a couple of climbers (Rachel and Simon) using DNA to warm up I opted to go first. Quickdraws were already in situ so that was one less factor to worry about.
Rachel gave me a few pointers and I was on lead! I seemed to sail up the first section where I’d seen other climbers struggle with the start and got to just above the 6th clip. My arms were starting to feel it and my head gave way – I dropped. I took a fall – albeit a small one but it was a starting point. After a decent rest I moved on and reached the ‘sitting’ rest I should have pushed on to.
After an eternity I moved on again and then struggled to find the right moves for me just below the 7th clip. Simon suggested going right but from here I struggled to find something decent for my right foot and was ‘crimping’ with bent arms – the next clip in front of me, but not feeling able to let go and clip. I panicked and grabbed the draw – pulled up, clipped and sat on the rope! Arghhh so close.
After a decent rest I then climbed through to the chains. I’d reached the top of a 7a under my own steam – ok it wasn’t a clean ascent but as a first attempt this was a good starting point for me and has left me psyched to start pushing things. Finally after all these years. I just wished I’d tried the route earlier in the week and worked it a bit more. It will be mine – along with others…need to find a 7b to aspire to now.
A huge thanks to Matt for belaying, especially whilst I sat down on the job and took in the views and to Rachel and Simon based in London, for taking the pics, providing me with beta and lots of moral.
Other highlights from the holiday were climbing the multi-pitch route 3 Stripes, deciding Gin and Tonic isn’t that bad (attempts to keep the mosquitoes at bay) and simply having a great time with friends.
We stayed at the Philoxenia Hotel – booked directly and flew with BA from Heathrow.