The Coolest Climbing Festivals in Europe to Get You Stoked for 2019

Climbing trips are one of the perks of the sport: You get to go to beautiful destinations, nosh on new terrain, and hang out with friends.

Sometimes the hardest part can be choosing where to go. I mean, 8a.nu lists over 3,000 crags around the world.

Well, my friend, let me offer a heuristic: Plan your 2019 travels around The Coolest Climbing Festivals in Europe!

Each festival offers “climbing and…” a little something extra:

Climbing and… neon Lyrca and fresh terry headbands. Check!
Climbing and… developing lines in a post-communist country. Check!!
Climbing and… partying with 700 other people in one of the most stunning places on earth. Check!!!

Doesn’t really work if you can still read the digits… Photo source: Reader’s Digest


I’m not saying only go to climbing festivals…

But I am saying you might want to put your credit card on ice now because it will be hard not to sign up for the lot.

Without further adieu, read on for The Coolest Climbing Festivals in Europe.



February

Check out the cave climbing starting at 3:12!

Ísklifurfestival ÍSALP (Ísalp‘s Ice Climbing Festival) – Iceland

The Icelandic Alpine Club‘s annual event visits popular and remote ice climbing spots across the country. In 2018, they climbed at Breiðdalur and Berufjörður in the east, which ÍSALP described as “the least explored quarter of Iceland.” These festivals offer the opportunity to climb classic lines and forge new ones.

Please note: The weather has been warm this season and ice formation has been poor. The organizers may not be able to hold the event this year.

Event website (2018) / ÍSALP (Organizer)

Additional Information:

  • Date: February 14 – 16.
  • Cost: Information coming soon.
  • Food: Breakfast and Dinner offered by hut. Bring additional food.
  • Accommodation: Mountain hut.
  • What to Bring: Mountaineering equipment.
  • How to Get There: Reykjavík–Keflavík Airport is the main international and domestic hub in the country.




March

Climb and slackline high above this gorgeous terrain. Photo source: JoSiTo

Turkish Highline Carnival – Turkey

Though not exclusively a climbing festival, the 7th international highline meeting takes place in Geyikbayiri, one of the premiere locales in the Mediterranean (over 1,300 climbing routes ranging from 5a to 8c+).

The festival is 8 days long and will be rigged up with 20 highlines from 15 to 100+ meters long (woo wee!). All of the lines are within walking distance of the camps; Once you get yourself to Geyik all you have to do is step out the door of your dorm (or tent, or guesthouse) and you’ll be mere minutes from climbing.

Remember: Bring a costume — it’s a CARNIVAL after all!

Links: Facebook Page /FAQ

Additional Information:

  • Date: March 2 – 9
  • Cost: Suggested donation of 25 EUR / 29 USD.
    Food: The closest village, Akdamlar, has several markets to stock up on produce, meat, and other foods. Hitchhiking is commonly practiced here.
  • Accommodation: There are plenty of campsites and bungalows for rent. I’ve personally stayed at the Flying Goat and would recommend them. Wild camping is strictly forbidden.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 12 to 15 quickdraws and a 80m rope.
  • How to Get There: There are cheap flights to Antalya. Transfers from the airport can be arranged with the camps. Car rentals are cheap at the airport. More information here.



April

Climb in one of Europe’s premier crags. Photo source: Up-Climbing

Paklenica International Climbers Meeting – Croatia

Paklenica is considered one of the top European climbing destinations. With over 600 routes the limestone cliffs of the Velebit Mountain range offer routes from 40m single pitch to big wall up to 350m long.

Photo source: Climb-Europe

Heading into its 20th year, this festival features unique challenges including the Big Wall Speed Climbing, a Kid’s Speed competition, the “From Dawn to Dusk” climbing marathon, and the Paklenica Film Festival, an amateur films showing about, what else, climbing.

Need a rest day? There are over 150 km of hiking and trail running paths.

Links: Event website (2018) /Facebook Page

Additional Information:

  • Date: April 26 – 28
  • Cost: Park entrance is 2.6 EUR / 3 USD and 7 EUR / 8 USD.
  • Accommodation: A variety of camps are available in the area.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 12 to 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope.
  • How to Get There: Located about 46 km/ 28.5 mi from Zadar.



May

Hard to beat the view. Photo source: Dolorock Climbingfestival

Dolorock Climbingfestival – Italy

2019 will mark the seventh year for the event organized by the Alta Pusteria climbing club, Gamatzn. The festival takes place in the Landro Valley, which combines natural beauty and rock climbing history as the area has been under development since the 1980s. The Höhlenstein valley sits near the famous Three Peaks (Tre Cime), some of the most photographed mountains in the world.

The Redpoint Fight is a competition for fun and personal challenge. Climbers are awarded points for their five hardest routes, based on criteria such as on-sighting, flashing and redpointing. There are four categories for competitors: Youth (under 18, F+M); Professionals (F+M); 50+; Amateurs, with awards for each. Yoga, kids climbing, dancing and talks round out the festivities.

Grades here range from 3 to 8c+ and consist of slab, flat wall and overhang climbing. The length of routes vary between 8 and 35 meters.

Links: Event website / Facebook Page

Additional Information:

  • Date: May 24 – 26
  • Cost: 25 – 40 EUR / 29 – 46 USD (depending on when you register).
  • Food: Restaurants nearby.
  • Accommodation: Free camping.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 10 – 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope.
  • How to Get There: Closest airports are Innsbruck to the north, Venice and Verona to the south. Plenty of transport options listed here.


The Legends of Lycra live on

King of Kanzi – Austria

This Lake Faak festival is all about celebrating the joy of climbing in some sweet, sweet spandex style and flashy terry headbands. A nod to history, the 5th edition celebrates the Lycra tights and colourful outfits worn by the early climbers in the area in the ’80’s.

These crags offer over 300 routes, which means you’ll get to sample plenty during the 8 hour climbing marathon as you try and earn as many points as you can. Kings and Queens will be crowned at the evening party, and awards will be given to the team with the most routes complete and team with the hardest route (among other awards). Of course, the place is buzzing with the one question on everyone’s mind: Who will win the “Golden Lycra Award”?!?!? (The trophy for the best outfit.)

Other features include: Climbing workshops with Alex Megos’ Coaches, acro yoga, via ferrata hiking, bouldering, slacklining and talks by professional climbers.

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page / UKClimbing

Additional Information:

  • Date: May 30 – June 2
  • Cost: 69 EUR / 79 USD (Early Bird Ticket).
  • Food: Grocery stores in the area but they close at 6.50pm.
  • Accommodation: Hotels and apartments in the area.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope.
  • How to Get There: The closest airports are in Salzburg and Ljubljana (just over the border). Hire a car as crags are spread out.


Check out the featureful terrain!

Pecka Rock Climbing Festival – Bosnia and Herzegovina

May is reserved for the oldest sports climbing festival in B&H. Held at the largest collection of rock routes in the country, Pecka features “a kingdom of the pockets” and fantastic local food. This is a combo event, teaming up with the Forest Party, the Forest Cinema, and the Pecka Outdoor Festival.

Enjoy more than 120 routes from 5a to 8b, with lengths between 15 and 35 meters. For the low price of 15 EUR, receive a printed guidebook and a Pecka Rock Climbing shirt. The event organizers like to keep things simple: “Come, climb and have fun!”

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page (2018)

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon (May 18 – 20 in 2018)
  • Cost: 15 EUR / 17 USD
  • Food: Not provided. There is a shop ~5km away, on the way to the camp. Possible to buy local goods like bread, kajmak, eggs, rakija and meals in the village (5 minutes walking from the campsite).
  • Accommodation: A camping place is reserved with your registration. There is no electricity (but you can charge devices in the village).
  • What to Bring: A rack of 12 – 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope.
  • How to Get There: Fly into Zagreb and rent a car. You can get a bus from Sarajevo. More details on the event website.



June

Jaw-dropping beauty in Albania. Photo source: Patagonia

Albanian Climbing Festival – Albania

Help develop climbing in Albania!

Albania is a small mountainous coastal country lying on the Adriadic Sea, north of Greece and south of Montenegro and Kosovo. Climbing is young here and this festival — celebrating its fourth iteration — was started to develop the community and showcase the country’s potential. For perspective, the first climbing gym in the country was opened in 2012 and according to the article, “Five years ago, one could have counted nearly every rock-climbing-Albanian on two hands.” Things are changing.

The festival moves around in order to show off the best that Albania has to offer from locales like Gjipe, Përmet and Bovilla. Many of these places are remote, have stunning natural beauty, and limited economic investment for the villages. Through the promotion of adventure tourism, the organizers hope to empower small local businesses and communities.

Climbing routes range in difficulty from 5a – 8b+, from single pitch (12 – 35m) to big walls. All the money from the festival fee goes to equip new routes. And for your money you will get a guidebook, swag, yoga, and a party on the beach.

Oh, and Adam Ondra climbed here in 2018.

Links: Event website / Facebook Page / Climbing Albania

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon (June 1 – 3 in 2018).
  • Cost: 25 EUR / 29 USD.
  • Food: Bring your own.
  • Accommodation: Camping on the beach!
  • What to Bring: A rack of 12 – 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope .
  • How to Get There: Tirana has an international airport. Take a bus to the festival.



August

Welcoming multiple generations of trad climbers. Photo source: UKClimbing

Women’s Trad Festival (WTF) – UK

Last year tickets sold out in 180 seconds, or faster than Glastonbury, according to event organizers.

Heading into their 4th year, the festival aims to promote participation in climbing and encourage a community of support. Their stated aims are: To help beginners transition from indoor to outdoor climbing; facilitate women in outdoor leadership; and to create a network of female climbers

In 2018, they had 200 participants from as young as 8 to over 60 years old. Everyone is welcome, even if you’ve never climbed before!

Links: Event website / Facebook Page

Additional Information:

  • Date: August 2 – 4.
  • Cost: Ticket release date being announced soon.
  • Accommodation: Information coming soon (location changes each year).
  • What to Bring: Trad rack (if you have it).
  • How to Get There: Information coming soon (location changes each year).



September

Thousands of boulder problems at your finger tips!

Women’s Bouldering Festival in Fontainebleau – France

2018 marked the first year for this festival at the world’s premier bouldering destination.

The event has the expressed mission to, “be a platform that allows female climbers to meet likeminded individuals in our sport” and to promote the idea of sustainable recreation.

The festival feature workshops on route-setting (by setters on the French National team!), forest conservation, morning yoga and afternoon parkour sessions, evening talks, and a focus on mentorship. And of course, best-in-class climbing. Attendees last year included the likes of Caroline Sinno, who has done multiple 8B (V13) ascents, and Alice Hafer, a former Blokfest champion.

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon.
  • Cost: 75 EUR / 88 USD.
  • Route-Setting Workshop: 50 EUR / 59 USD.
  • Accommodation: Camping (price included in cost of ticket).
  • What to Bring: Crashpad, yoga mat, camping gear.
  • How to Get There: Only 55.5 km/34.5 miles from Paris. Take a train or rent a car.


The over-hanging route at 5:27 looks fun. Check out the varied rock face at 6:49

Herculane Climbing Open – Romania

Herculane was a Petzl Rock Trip 2014 stop which has put this crag on the world stage. It’s still off-the-beaten track but good enough climbing for Adam Ondra to visit in 2018, and free the first 9a in Romania.

In other words, if you’re looking for high-quality climbing (Cerna Valley has hosted the National Rock Climbing Championship) and economical value, all without the hordes, you’ve found your place. 2019 will offer up the 17th edition of this festival with three days of climbing and 30 designated routes for the competition. Movies, yoga, and celebration are in store for the off-wall hours.

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page

Additional Information:


Make your mark in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Photo source: Drill & Chill

Drill & Chill Climbing And Highlining Festival – Bosnia and Herzegovina

Who knew Bosnia and Herzegovina had such a strong climbing culture?! This marks the second festival from B&H on the list.

Join in to make your mark (literally) with ten days of bolting, climbing, and highlining. Organized by Climbing club Extreme Banja Luka, they set out to “playfully combat the status quo.” If you like to travel and climb off the beaten paths, Bosnia and Herzegovina offers a diverse landscape of forested mountains and an abundance of untamed limestone

Last year the festival focused on the development of the Tijesno canyon, which is nestled in alpine terrain and offers a plethora of multi-pitch climbing.

Please note: Be aware of anti-government tension in Banja Luka as protests have swelled to over 40,000 people at times. It won’t stop me from attending, but something to consider.

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon (Usually in September).
  • Cost: 5 days package: 30 EUR / 34.50 USD. 6+ day package: 50 EUR / 57 USD (climbing guide and t-shirt included in price).
  • Food: Nightly dinner for 3 EUR/3.50 USD.
  • Accommodation: The camp includes electricity, water, shower, toilets. Basic private accommodation can be arranged. Village house option.
  • What to Bring: Everything you need for bolting.
  • How to Get There: Fly to Zagreb or Split then take a bus to Banja Luka. More travel details on event website.



October

The production value of that video! And Kalymnos looks pretty swell too…

Kalymnos International Climbing Festival – Greece

The Gods shine bright on this rock climbing Adonis of crag and sea.

(Just don’t piss off Poseidon or he’ll blow you straight back to Troy — where the climbing isn’t quite as nice.)

Today, the island has over 2,500 sport routes on Mediterranean limestone. The majority of the routes are single pitch, around 20 to 30m, with some 3-5 pitch climbs as well. You won’t be able to cover it all during the three day festival, naturally. Like laying eyes on Helen, you may find yourself drooling uncontrollably… at the anchors staring out at the breathtaking blue Aegean.

The festival features a Climbing Rally, clinics, the chance to chat with pros, deep water soloing, traditional Greek dancing lessons and, of course, parties.

In the words of Rock and Ice, “The search for climbing paradise ends at the greek isle of Kalymnos” (Feb 2001).

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page / More Climbing Information

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon (October 5 – 7 in 2018).
  • Cost: Information coming soon.
  • Accommodation: A variety of hotels and guesthouses are available in each village.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 12 – 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope
  • How to Get There: Easiest to fly to Kos (via Athens) then take a ferry over.


Reiff Climbing Festival – UK

Perched in the North West Highlands of Scotland this festival offers some of the best scenery and landscapes in the UK — plus pure dead brilliant climbing!

Organized by Hamlet Mountaineering, they cater to all your Scottish needs: Salt water, clean lines and a pub two minutes on from the campsite. Workshops are offered for those who want to improve their skills or deepen your understanding (and appreciation) of the sport you love with the “Geology for Climbers” talk. Want some evening entertainment? Rope up in your Highland dress for the Saturday night Ceilidh with accordion accompaniment.

Other activities include a half-marathon, kayaking and yoga. Gie it laldy!

Stellar trad lines and ocean spray. Photo source: Hamlet Mountaineering

Links: Event Website (2018) / Facebook Page

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon (October 12 – 14 in 2018).
  • Cost: £45 / 58 USD (covers 3 nights camping at Port a Bhaigh Campsite and a Ceilidh ticket for the dance on Saturday night).
  • Food: Grocery shop in Achiltibuie.
  • Add-Ons: Workshops range from £30 – £90/38.50 – 115.50 USD.
  • Accommodation: Camping.
  • What to Bring: Ask the organizers for what you’ll need in your trad rack. There are top ropes set up for beginners.
  • How to Get There: Details can be found here.



November

Salivating. Climbing shown at 1:45

San Vito Climbing Festival – Italy

Four days in Mediterranean sun. In November? Yes, please. The tenth edition just wrapped up, for what has become a hallmark event in Sicily, Italy and around Europe. The festival features big names, big sponsors, and big crowds (hundreds of people attend) in this idyllic setting of beach, history, and climbing.

Activities include the “Baby speed climb” (for 6-10 year olds) and the main draw, the “Crazy Idea Boulder Event” where competitors can go against national athletes. For non-climbers there is mountain biking, trail running, slacklining (including a 160m line), stunning beaches, and the opportunity to test new gear, in addition to film screenings, live music, and social hours. Of course, if you want more climbing there are over 600 routes in the area.

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page (English)

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon (November 1 – 4 in 2018).
  • Cost: 25 EUR / 29 USD (covers camping for 3 nights and t-shirt).
  • Crazy Idea Boulder Contest Participation Cost: 25 EUR/29 USD.
  • Accommodation: Timbuktu Hostel. Camping at El Bahira, La Pineta. A whole list of options on the website.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 12 – 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope
  • How to Get There: Cheap flights to Palermo. Rent a car or take a bus to San Vito.


Alex Megos approved. “The landscape looks amazing.” Indeed.

Leonidio Climbing Festival – Greece

Can you name the three most popular crags in Europe for 2018?

If 8a.nu’s Tick List is the be-all-end-all, we have 1) Frankenjura, 2) Kalymnos, and rounding in to form, 3) Leonidio (which saw more ascents in 2018 than the beloved Rodellar, Arco and Railay Beach combined).

Just three hours south of Athens, Leonidio is sheltered along the Peloponnese coastline and surrounded by red and grey cliffs that keep temperatures warm and wind down, making it an idyllic winter climbing destination.

The festival itself is only entering its fourth year, yet attendance skyrocketed with over 700 participants in 2018. Come to enjoy more than 1,000 routes from single pitch to multi-pitch up to 250m high, ranging from 5a to 9a.

You can also steep yourself in history by visiting the Unesco World Heritage sites of Mycenae and Tiryns, which are just over an hour away.

Links: Event Website / Facebook Page / New Climbing Guide

Additional Information:

  • Date: Information coming soon (November 1 – 4 in 2018).
  • Cost: Free!
  • Food: 2 small supermarkets in town, many bakeries, bodegas, and plenty of restaurants.
  • Accommodation: A comprehensive list can be found on the Climb Leonidio website.
  • What to Bring: A rack of 12 – 15+ quickdraws and an 80m rope (you can get by with 60m).
  • How to Get There: The best option is to fly to Athens and then rent a car. There are options to take a bus.



May the Stoke Shine Brightly on Your 2019!

Hopefully you found the list useful (and even signed up for one or two!).

If you have been to one of these events or are planning on attending, I’d be keen to hear about your experience.

Any festivals that we missed?


Please note: The aim wasn’t to be comprehensive, but rather to focus on interesting festivals. I was hoping for more ice climbing and from places like Scandinavia, Ukraine, Poland, the Baltics, Macedonia, Bulgaria, etc. And nothing for Spain? Really?!

If you have any festivals to add, please share them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.

It Won’t Go: On Breaking Up After a Climbing Trip

I’d never wanted a vacation to be over before it started.

Maybe it was because I knew we’d be over when the trip ended. Maybe I was trying to delay the inevitable.

But we were 10 months in and things still weren’t working. 

We tried of course, but when it came down to it, you kept holding back. Something didn’t feel right, you said.

We decided it was time to move on. But not before some fun.

A two-week climbing trip in Turkey awaited. A nice way to end things after the shit that was Kraków. Let’s go out on an upswing, we thought.

Photo by the author

I knocked on your door in Budapest. 

We hadn’t seen each other since that fateful weekend. We were filled with trepidation.

I entered. You gave me a look. I threw myself into your arms. 

We moved to the bedroom and eliminated the distance between us. We fucked then held each other. Hours passed. Sometimes it was so easy.

They were good days. Then we left for Geyikbayiri.

Maybe this will work.

Budapest went well, maybe this will work. Maybe.

I repeated those words to myself like a prayer. I had a bad feeling but tried to be hopeful. My stomach began to knot up at Atatürk airport, not a good sign. 

We caught a flight to Antalya, then took a shuttle to our hostel. I’d tip the driver too much.

Photo by S

It was dark when we arrived. 

The air smelled sweet. Oranges and pomegranates wafted ripe around us. 

There was something else too, the citrus masked a pungent aroma. I breathed a sort of goat, orange, mountain air mélange. It reminded me of the farm. A memory of mixed associations: The smell of verdant life and an imminent season of change; Of the infinite cycle and of confinement. 

The bungalows where we’d stay were coupled off with fruit trees in little vistas of privacy. They were small cottages like gingerbread homes with a Turkish twist. Inside, an Ottoman gourd diffused light through shimmering gems of red, orange, and green. The lamp was too weak to read by.

That night we settled around the fireplace to shoot the shit with our new camp mates. She’d sync in with the rhythm of the place more easily than I would.

She was so god damned cool with everything. 

It was the lightest I’d ever seen her, just carefree and enjoying herself.

I wasn’t able to match the buoyancy.

Why? I didn’t quite understand.

How could she be so at ease when nothing (and everything) was on the line?, I questioned myself. I questioned her.

Photo by the author
Photo by S

We’d talk again about our thoughts on love — how we love.

She’d say, I’d rather give and receive love when it’s there. 

I admitted it sounds good in theory.

I’m not sure why it is like this for me, though. I do find the clarity of knowing things will end to be a relief. It makes it easier. 

Not that I’m happy about things ending, but it helps to have resolution.

I do wonder if I’m the one with the weird strategy, she offered.

She’d told me before that she always feels the emotional pains of a breakup months later. I wondered about the mechanics of regret and grieving.

Photo by the author

The trip would be a tug-of-war with myself.

I was frustrated as hell and felt uncomfortable with us. What we were. It was hard for me to love so freely knowing it was over. It felt pointless at times.

I wondered why I put myself in this mess.

Days passed. It wasn’t working. I needed to get away.

Away from the room, away from the camp, away from her.

We talked and I said I wanted to go for a hike the next day, to get some space to think. She misheard me and thought I was asking her to join.

The next morning, I left two hours before sunrise. Mostly, I stumbled around in the dark. My headlamp was too dim in the blackness, it made me near-sighted. I kept going off-route. 

Come on sun, rise and take me with you. I want to go fast. I want to go far. I want to explode.

In time the sun came. It shone out onto the kingdom in long streaks of color and flare. My feeble eyes tilted towards the sky. I could see a path forward. I ran.

I needed to feel the freedom of movement. 

Photo by the author
Photo by the author
Photo by S

We settled into an up-and-down rhythm.

We had a cadence of a few good days then a fight. I was mainly the instigator. She was always the more understanding one.

On one day the Slovakians went into town for a rest and to re-stock on cigarettes. Only the ear, nose, and throat doctor stayed behind.

We invited her to join us climbing, which made four. We paired off and I chose to climb with Doc. I wanted a day away from her. I felt tight and distracted. Not good for belaying.

I’d lead my hardest climbs to date.



On another day we’d hitchhike to town to buy food. We’d end up with bottles of wine from the driver’s private vineyard and Toblerone. S has her unique social charms, and conversational German. 

It was my first hitchhiking experience. We’d toast to our fortune later on.



On another day I’d surprise her by dressing up the bungalow with birthday decorations. I got her some small things and we enjoyed the morning sipping coffee and talking on the porch. I decided not to make a cake.



Yet another day I’d be cold and distant.

We’d talk through our frustrations and challenges which ironically brought us closer. When we were relaxed we found harmony in continuous laughter. At points we’d feel the closest we ever felt.

It was emotionally taxing.

Photo by the author

The days marched on.

Nearing the end we looked back and wondered where the time went.

I had been agonizing, which had made the days feel slow. Now our time was fleeting and it felt like everything was slipping through my hands.

We left camp and drove down the Turkish coast along the Mediterranean Sea, taking the D400 from Antalya to Çıralı. Three days left, just the two of us.

We each chose one activity: She wanted to go hiking, I wanted to see ruins, and we both wanted to climb.

Photo by S

We walked among the dead.

The mausoleum had fallen into the sea. The foundation was washing away and the walls now spilled into the sand. The cacophonous chambers were aired and quietly filling with empty water bottles.

I seek the ancient world because it reminds me that it was once the present. We will all topple some day.

Phaselis was a prosperous port city that passed hands from Greek to Roman to Persian and on and on, before eventually falling out of favor for larger ports nearby. The slow decline lasted until the 11th century when it stopped being of any importance. Quite a good run, though.

That night she’d tell me, When we were in the car, you were talking with Nico about something — I was only half-paying attention — I was looking at you in the sideview mirror and just felt this overwhelming sense rise up; This swell of love for you filled me.

We did love each other after all.

I pulled her close, held her. What am I supposed to do with that?, I thought.

Quite a good run, though.

Photo by the author

December first. Our last night.

We jumped into the Mediterranean naked.

We’d swam in the ocean — in December — and were all giggles and shivers over it.

Over it. That’s what we were. Tomorrow we’d both fly out from Antalya. You’d leave half an hour before me. We had separate flights because I had bought my ticket later. Because I wasn’t sure if I’d want to jet before the trip was done.

It had been hard. But I was glad I stayed.

A small part of me hoped that I’d run into you on the layover in Istanbul. That wouldn’t happen.

The ocean waves bristled with electricity, the shock absorbed us. We swam with the current then broke the circuit. The lights dimmed.

Photo by the author

We left on good terms.

We had a joke that these were the best breakups we’d ever had. Or maybe it was only me that said that.

Parting at the airport was confusing, difficult. We both admitted we felt closer, more open, more honest. We agreed not to talk for awhile.

Back home she’d show pictures of the trip to her grandmother.

I popped up on the screen here and there. She asked who I was. She said something about a complicated relationship.

Her grandmother said a few words and they both moved on. She told me she really liked her grandmother because she didn’t judge.

In Istanbul I was going through some old emails.

I can trace our time together in the flight details in my inbox. We covered a lot of miles.

In the end, no matter how far we went, we couldn’t bridge that final distance.

Photo by S

Climbing Hostel Review: The Flying Goat Camp & Hostel (Geyikbayırı, Turkey)

The Flying Goat Camp & Hostel is the new kid on the block in Geyikbayiri. They are distinct in the area for their smaller size and communal vibe.

Heading into their second year of operation, owner Fleur Derks wanted to emphasize a hostel aesthetic. The space features a community kitchen (the first camp to do so), they organize family dinners and movie night, and encourage communing in common spaces, like the upstairs “living room” that has a fireplace along with various boardgames.

I had chosen this camp because it looked relaxed, friendly, and picturesque. It lived up to expectations.

IMG_5569
Photo by friend of the author

The Vibe:

We arrived at night and quickly felt at home.

The place smelled sweet, citrus and pomegranates wafted in the air. A gentle breeze rolled through. The silhouette of mountains called forth the adventure to come.

We walked through the front gate, met Fleur and Mümin (5x Turkish national climbing champ), and were handed beers. After a tour we made the rounds of introductions. Everyone from the staff to the guests were friendly and welcoming.

As far as the people, there were climbers ranging from beginner to pro, professional guides to computer scientists, and if you were going solo, it was easy to find a partner or a group to tag along with.

For our stay, we rented a two-person bungalow, one of eight or so that are lain between fruit trees like gingerbread houses with a Turkish twist.

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Photo by the author

ottoman pumpkin lamp
Photo source: Flying Goat

turkish tyling at flying goat
Photo source: Flying Goat

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Photo by friend of the author

Small details stood out, like the Ottoman pumpkin lights in the cottages, traditional Turkish tiling in the showers, and ample coffee-making accoutrement (very important). After a long day of travel, we settled in for the night.

The next day, early morning light pierced through the window. We awoke to the picture-framed Geyik Sivrisi, a 1715m bald peak that shimmered in the rising sun. We took our time sitting on the deck of our bungalow sipping Turkish coffee and gawking at the surroundings. We couldn’t wait to get climbing.

sarkit sector over flying goat
Photo source: Flying Goat

The Climbing:

Geyikbayırı has over 1,300 routes ranging from 5a to 8c+. We excitedly reviewed the guide book for different sectors we wanted to climb. We started by walking across the street.

The Sarkit sector hovers over the camp and looks on with gaping caves and classic Mediterranean limestone tufas. It’s just 5 minutes from the hostel.

All the other sectors are within a 30 minute walk. Given the breadth of climbing and terrain, you can find crags to climb in the shade at all times of the day and even in the rain.

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Photo by friend of the author

Accommodation Details:

  • 8 bungalows (for 1-4 people each). Find pricing here
  • 9-person dorm
  • 2 tents for camping (if you need to rent) + camp space (if you have your own)
  • 4 toilets
  • 3 shower stalls (with plenty of hot water)
  • Big “deluxe” common kitchen with plenty of fridge space, dry good storage, pots, pans, utensils (etc.), and stovetop burners
  • 1 soon-to-be sauna
  • Laundry service
  • Bread delivery daily (which we took full advantage of)
  • Guidebooks available
  • And free çay (pronounced “chai”, aka tea)!

main building flying goat
Photo source: Flying Goat

flying goat dorm
Photo source: Flying Goat

Supplies:

You’ll want to stock up on food as Flying Goat does not have a restaurant on site.

You could eat out each day if really you wanted, there are restaurants in the area, including up the hill in Geyikbayırı and at other camps such as JoSiTo. But then you’d miss out on half the fun of staying there. So don’t do that.

Akdamlar is the closest town and features a daily market, a larger Sunday market, and grocery stores. Geyikbayırı only has smaller bodegas.

Your best bet is to pick up groceries on your way to camp (if you catch a shuttle from the airport, for example) or to hitchhike down to town.

How to Get There:

Antalya Airport is a 45 minute drive (38 km) to the camp (& hostel). You can find the location on Google Maps here.

Three transportation options:

  1. Shuttle pick-up at the airport: Flying Goat can organize a pick-up for € 40 (for up to 4 passengers, then € 10 for each additional person ). We did this, it was simple and easy.
  2. Public Transport (from Flying Goat’s website): “Getting to Geyikbayiri by bus takes around 2 to 3 hours and the fare is around € 5,-. Take any bus from the airport to the central bus station and from there take bus 516 or 521 to Geyikbayiri. Or check the app MOOVIT for alternative routes. Missed the last bus? Catch a cab or hitchhike the last kilometers up hill.”
  3. Rent a car at Antalya Airport. It’s quite cheap: We rented a Renault Clio for our last four days of the trip (to visit Olympos and Çıralı), which cost ~ € 50.

Conclusion:

If you find yourself climbing in Geyikbayırı (you should) and you’re looking for a social place to stay, go to Flying Goat.


Will you be climbing in Istanbul? Be sure to visit Ballikayalar, the best outdoor climbing near the city, or Boulder Istanbul, my favorite bouldering gym on the Asian side.

Climbing Gym Review: Boulder Istanbul (Turkey) – Your Neighborhood Gym

Boulder Istanbul is your neighborhood climbing gym on the Asian side.

It’s akin to your favorite little cafe down the street, full of character and familiar faces. Or it’s the climbing set-up you wish you had in your two-car garage, just for you and your buddies.

The Vibe:

Make no mistakes, this is an “old school” gym and one of the first in Istanbul.

This place has a slightly gritty feel which adds to its well-worn charm. The holds are a little polished, rubber streaks mark the walls, and the paint has faded from years of use.

Admittedly, I have a soft spot for places like this, perhaps because I got my start at the small-town gym in New Paltz, NY (imprinting matters, I guess). I enjoy places and people that have an edge to them, that have been around the block, that have a story to tell.

No gym is complete without a community: The staff and regular climbers are welcoming, friendly, and helpful. They are happy to get to know you, share beta, and connect you with other climbers in the area if you’re looking to go outside.

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Photo source: facebook.com/boulderistanbul

The Climbing:

Let’s be clear: This is good climbing.

The settings are safe, the mats are sufficient, and the routes are interesting enough (if somewhat limited).

It is bouldering-only with 9 walls ranging from just-less-than-vertical incline to 45 degree overhang. The routes trend towards reachy moves and a pumpy style. You will get stronger by climbing here, though you won’t necessarily become a master technician.

Given the set-up, it is better for newer climbers. The routes require attentive foot placement, practice with smearing, and the occasional bridge or heel hook in order to conserve arm strength. Many moves give beginner climbers a taste of the strength and coordination required for outdoors, while also forcing them to push past some sketchy-seeming maneuvers.

boulder istanbul holds.jpg
Photo source: facebook.com/boulderistanbul

With that said, more advanced climbers looking to focus on crimps and quarter-dollar footholds would do well to look elsewhere. The hardest routes are quite difficult, but they are all featured on the overhanging sections so you will be training a very particular style of climbing. They would do well to add more balance-based routes and finger-pocket holds.

If you are looking to improve your strength and aerobic endurance, or want to get started on your climbing journey, I’d highly recommend coming here.

Amenities:

You get solid climbing, two hangboards, a small campus board, and not much else (but really, what more do you need?).

For beginners, they offer shoes and chalk bags for rent, as well as personal training.

They also sell coffee if you need a pick-me-up.

How to Get There:

Boulder Istanbul is located in Kadiköy, on the Asian side of Istanbul. Here is the location in google maps.

From the European side, you can take the Marmary to Ayrılık Çeşmesi station (then it’s about a 15 minute walk from there) or you can take the ferry to Kadıköy İskelesi (which is just three blocks from the gym).

Resources:

Boulder Istanbul website (with the basic info you need in English)

If you would like to climb outdoors near Istanbul, check out my review of Ballikayalar, the best climbing within an hour of the city.

Trip Report: Ballikayalar, Turkey – the Best Climbing near Istanbul

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Photo by the author


Overview

Ballikayalar (or Honey Crag in Turkish) is the best outdoor climbing near Istanbul.

It is about an hour drive from the city of 15 million and consists of over 70 routes on limestone. The routes range from 7 to 35m, and most fall within a difficulty rating of 5.10 to 5.12 (or VI to IX- in UIAA). Many of the older routes were originally climbed as trad, now that they are bolted the line naturally follow the cracks.There are two main sectors, the Left and the Right, as in, on the Left or Right of the valley (when peering into it).

To climb here is to steep in the history of rock climbing in Turkey. Ballikayalar is one of the original crags to be developed in the country. By sheer luck, I had the opportunity to climb with one of the pioneers: Emre has been climbing here for over 33 years and has many first and second ascents to his name.We were joined by Sevki, a big wall climber who has spent time at Yosemite. Fun fact: He met Alex Honnold there… on El Cap!… While Alex was free solo down-climbing!

Overall, it’s a beautiful valley with a babbling brook running down the middle. After spending nearly a month in Istanbul, this was a desperately needed respite from a city sorely lacking in nature. Oddly, Balli sits on the edge of an industrial area. Look one way and you see factories spewing smoke. Turn around and it’s nature at it’s finest.

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Photo by the author


Suggested Routes

I am a beginner and stuck to the lower grades. Sevki and Emre showed me some of the “classics”, which had been developed in 1987 (older than I am!).

Percussion
: VI/VI+. Originally climbed as a trad route (by Emre and others), this follows a thin line on the inner side of a cave. It involves lean-backs, bridging your feet wider than expected, and big reach ups. It is quite pumpy.

Davul (Drum)
: VI+: Emre had the first ascent on this one. This is pumpy, featuring big, juggy holds, bigger reaches and a lot of lean-backs. Drum and Percussion are meant as brothers of sorts, and their names allude to the pounding your arms take when climbing them.
 

How to Get There

The easiest way is by car. Take the E80 or D100 East towards Ankara. The closest town is Gebze.Public Transport: TheCrag.com and RockClimbing.com have suggestions for how to get there by bus. I won’t pretend to give advice here since I didn’t try this myself.


When to Go

Istanbul and the surrounding area to the East has mild weather in the Winter (we had 50 F/ 10 C in late December). Reading other people’s accounts, the area is climbable year round.

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Photo by the author

We started in a corner on the Left Sector away from the sun. The closest area to the entrance of the Left Sector faces the East and was receiving direct sun when we arrived. Around the bend, the sectors stayed in the shade until mid-afternoon. It had rained two days before and the routes were still wet in the shade. The Right Sector receives sun nearly all day.

Supplies

You can pick up food and snacks in Gebze. There are several bodegas and cafes right in town.If you need climbing gear, Istanbul is unfortunately lacking in this regard. I only found two shops that sell climbing shoes (K2 Outdoor and Everest Outdoor). Atlas Outdoor had some draws and biners. Decathalon also sells some gear, but I didn’t check out the selection.

Resources: