Learning to bolt at “The Magic Roundabout,” Kalymnos

I hadn’t planned on going to the Kalymnos this year -much as I love it there -but when a friend of mine, Andy Hedgecock, offered to show me how to bolt- I thought, why not?

bolting a new crag on kalymnos

The crag we were given permission to bolt was on Telendos, near Irox. This was the first time I’d ever stayed on Kalymnos’s little sister island and it had a very different, peaceful vibe…. but a bit of a pain if you went out on Kalymnos and needed to come back over  -as the ferry can be a little irregular! Neverthless a good experience which I would recommend.

I wasn’t sure what to think when I first saw the crag. It needed a fair bit of ‘gardening,’ and was definitely going to be full of sharp technical slabby routes…. with a bit of a bulge at the top. Not my favourite! But we spotted about 11 potential lines that looked good so I was pretty psyched to get going on it….

The crag

Firstly, three of our team ( Tony Heathcote, Phill Beddow and I) set up an abseil from above the crag where we wanted the routes to go. From here a lower off had to be drilled, ( two bolts joined by a chain carrying one or two stainless-steel carabiners for lowering off) then a rope passed through the lower offs for the cleaning and drilling of the line. Me and Phil then must have spent about two days de bushing a few routes and knocking off any loose blocks. The first thing we learnt was that when knocking the blocks off you must cordone off the area and pick a time of day to do this when the minimum amount of people are around…..

Andy then showed me how to drill and clean the holes properly and after a few practices on some blocks at the bottom of the crag, off I went part climbing and part shunting up the line I’d picked. This was very hard work, the line being very technical and sharp, and me being weighed down with drilling equipment.

drilling a hole

When bolting there are a few important things to remember: over drill the hole so its longer than bolt . This means at the end of its life you can knock it into crag and resin over it as if it was never there.  You must then blow and brush the dust out of the hole with straws and bottle brushes, repeated about three times so its immaculately clean. Then you can knock the bolt in, making sure the hanger is flat against the rock, screw it in so it’s tight and tap it to make sure it “rings” – a sound which indicates it’s tight enough.

It was also important to think about where the bolt was to go. Near the ground they needed to be close together so the climber doesn’t hit the deck- higher up you can spread them out a bit more, but its good to have one near a hard move- this is why I preferred to bolt ‘bottom up’ ( climbing the route) – so you could see where bolts are really needed…

Also, when drilling, don’t let the drill piece touch you when you’ve finished as its very hot and leaves an interesting shaped burn on your leg!

I found it very difficult to get the drill to puncture the rock- i just couldn’t get enough weight behind it. The only option was to get my belayer to hold me in with his end of rope and me push against it! I also got very bloodied knuckles from tightening the hangers and chipping the stone to make the drilling area flat.

It’s amazing how much time and how tiring it was to bolt a few routes. Andy decided he wanted to call the crag The Magic Roundabout, so we picked names based on characters from the programme. I picked ‘Mr Rusty’ for a few reasons; it was so sharp, like rusty nails on the fingers….and pretty painful to climb.

naming the route

The crag still has several lines that need bolting. But the routes we put up and estimated grades are:

Brian the Snail: 6b

The Magic Roundabout 6b+

Mr Rusty 6c ( mine)

and two other lower offs are in so we can put some more lines in next time we are there. 

mr rusty

A bit of history of bolting on Kalymnos:

The climbing potential of Kalymnos was first discovered in 1995 when one of the best greek climbers of the time, Giannis Torelli visited the island and took some uninspiring photos of the crags.

Italian climber Andrea di Bari visited in 1996 and recognised the quality of the rock, returning in 1997 with some friends. They opened 43 sport climbing routes in sectors Arhi, Odyssey and Poets.  Bari said the island would be a climbing mecca and from then on Steve McDonald who owns the Glaros bar started the bolt fund. Within 4 years lots of teams from the UK, Italy, France etc where opening up more crags. Bari returned again in 1997  with photographer, Andrea Gallo who was working for Alp magazine. After an article was published there the island was open for drilling action from 1999 and climbing on Kalymnos took off. From then the Kalymnos municipality started collaborating with Aris Theodoropoulos to instigate measures to develop and promote climbing as well as scrutinise the the protection on the routes. The first guidebook came out in 2006- and by 2012 Kalymnos was the sport climbing capital of Europe.

There are now two bolt funds on the island which people contribute to. Bolts are provided for free for bolting new routes and re bolting old ones. The two main funds are the Glaros Bar administred by Steve and Sue Macdonald, who supply equippers such as Andy, Claude & Yve, Gaz Parry etc and Kalymnos Adventure Centre who supply Aris with gear for maintenance. Currently expansion bolt are mostly used but they are slowly moving to resin bolts as they last much longer- about 25 yeas.

You now have to get permission to bolt:

To get permission you need ask he new mayor , speak to rescue team and sit through a lecture by them. (Local company, Alternet, organized and funded the creation of the rescue team.) You then get the ‘rubber stamp’ to bolt. Then you must make an appointment with AlterNet, and Glaros bar will provide the bolts.

There are no formal qualification for bolting. The route is not your responsibility or the first assentors or equippers. The municipality of Kalymnos now have Aris to check the routes and equippers are asked to do maintenance on them but there are no real formal structures……


More info about Kalymnos here:

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