One week after marrying my climbing partner and my best friend, my wife and I jetted off to Greece for our honeymoon. One of the places we went to was Meteora, which I first saw pictures of it, I thought “this place looks SO COOL … I wonder if there is climbing?”
Meteora is a village near Kalampaka, a few hours train ride from Athens. There are really cool monasteries built into and sitting on top of the cliff and rock pinnacles and many are still actively used. There are also caves in these rocks that hermit monks would exile to for the rest of their lives to meditate and fast. Kind of neat, but enough with the history lesson… on to climbing.
The route we picked was Traumpfeiler, roughly translated, Piller of Dreams. It is a 9 pitch 5.9 that ascends up the north side of Heilger Geist. From our hotel it looked massive and impressive, but we were stuck idle for 2 days just stairing at this behemoth that towered over our hotel just below as we were sidelined by weather. On the first 2 days we arrived, we would get rain periods every 2 hours as the weather seemed unstable.
Finally, on day 3, I said whatever, lets go for it. It looks like its 30% chance of showers between 7am to 2pm then it goes up to 50%, so lets try to top out early. We woke up at 6am, had a nice breakfast courtesy of our German hostesses at our hotel, and set off to the base of Heilger Geist. The approach was a casuel hikers trail and after about 15 minutes we were at the base, racking up… and trying to figure out where the first bolt is.
WHERE THE HELL IS THE FIRST BOLT?! It took about 5 minutes before we could find it. While Traumpfeiler wasn’t seriously runout or hard, it was sparsely bolted. 1st pitch, 35m 3 bolts. 2nd pitch, same. 40m, 3 bolts, 35m 2 bolts, 40m 2 bolts... You get the idea.
Asuka ends up finding the first bolt hidden away amoung the quartz grains about 35 ft up. Ok, 2nd bolt?
… still looking …
After another 5 minutes, my wife says “lets get going, its going to rain soon.” Now, I’m not exactly the most courageous climber and anyone that knows my wife probably knows she has more courage then I do. Still, being a guy, I try to sack up and not look like a pansy between the 2 of us, so when I said “Do you want first lead?” I didn’t expect her to say yes. But she did. Aw damn it, how embarrassing. She starts racking up, and I admire the cave of ruins just to eh right that the old hermits used as a prison.
My wife takes off, cautiously moving up as the quartz grains are pretty chossy and we have no experience on this rock or terrain. She gets to the first clip, and I brief a sigh of release… “Nice Job!” I yell up to her. I’m a bit embarrassed, but more nervous that I just sent my wife up a pretty run out climb a few days after our wedding. I’m thinking at this time, ok she’s fine… its fine… I really should lead.
After clipping the first bolt, she looks around for a few minutes and still has not found the next bolt. The topo says to traverse a little bit, pull through a roof and there is a bolt somewhere there. She takes the path of least resistance through the roof and after about 10 ft, she says “Ok I found the bolt” …. I’m relieved. “Good job!” At this point I can’t see her, but the rope is moving up and after about 20 feet I hear “Anchors!” Cool…. No off route issues. I follow up the first pitch, which goes at about 5.7 or so, reminded me of Rat Trap at Pinnacles, or whatever the hell its called.
I reach the 1st pitch anchors, and look up. I think I see a bolt about 25 feet up, but I’m not sure. The next pitch goes at 5.7, but didn’t seem as steep so we exchange a bit of gear and I set off. I reach the first and second bolt no problem and felt easy (5.5) but then the terrain suddenly becomes steep. According to the topo, after the 2nd bolt, I traverse right but the rock looks overgrown with moss and steepens a bit. I ask my wife what to do, she says go right, so I go right. After about 10 feet of traversing, this does not look like 5.7, and I’m a bit intimidated by a 25 ft penji on the cheese grater. I tell her I don’t think this is right, but she says keep going its right. Bah, what to do? Screw it…. I’m not listening to her, I reverse track.
Midway through reversing, I blow a left foothold and left hold. Fuuuuuuuuuck… I do somewhat of a self arrest, hold on for dear life on my right crimp and freeze. Ok… haven’t fallen. Still safe. I search around for another hold and foothold and go back to a few feet above my last bolt. After some bantering with my wife, I say I’m going up the path of least resistance and hope I see a bolt.
Eventually, I find the next bolt followed by anchors. Phew… ok. Still safe. My wife makes good speed following up, minus breaking a foot hold and taking a small fall. Yeah… that pitch was a bit chossy.
Ok, next pitch: some easy slab then a prominent off width/chimney. I’m armed with a yellow, green and purple linked cam cause I have no idea what gear I need, and in the end I just used 1 of them (yellow). After lots of Yosemite routes, this is a safe haven. As long as I can jam something into a crack, I’m safe. I plan to link p3+p4 to avoid a hanging belay, and in retrospect, I should have linked p5 as well. Pitch 3 was the crux of the route, which was entering the chimney, and while it was a bit tricky, p3+p4 go down easy as it would for any Yosemite climber. Except… crap, hanging belay. Both pitch 3 and 4’s belays are hanging belays, and I’m out of gear. (So note here for anyone that uses this trip report as belay, link p3+p4+p5 and bring 12 QD’s, and maybe a yellow linked cam to make things casuel). My wife struggles a little bit to enter the chimney as well, but follows with no issue.
Since I’m at a crappy hanging belay that would suck for exchanging gear, she takes lead on the short 15m pitch 5. Pretty casuel.
We swing leads on pitch 6 (me), pitch 7 (her) and pitch 8 (me) on easy terrain, probably finished off these 3 pitches of about 90m in about half an hour. No biggie… runout like Snake Dike, at this point, we’re getting familiar with Meteora climbing and just follow the path of least resistance. Also bolts were easier to see for these pitches. At the end of pitch 8, it took some looking around to figure out how to get onto the platform for the anchors, but by this point, I’m a seasoned Meteora climber!
Great view from Pitch 8 :
Its now about 10:30am, one more 40m pitch till the top. I ask my wife if she wants to lead this one (5.8 or 5.9) and she says no, so I take off. This route was the second crux, but the climbing was very straight forward and the rock was more solid so I’m at the top at just before 11am. Looking at the clouds, we see some dark puffy clouds probably an hour or two away, but the decent is supposed to be ok. Hopefully. My wife follows up with no problems, its about 11am so we enjoy the summit views and have a short snack.
Ok, the decent. We spent our first day at Meteora trying to figure out how to get off this rock after we get to the top, and after having no idea trying to find it but research saying it was trivial, we set off.
We sign the summit register of Heiliger Geist and search for the decent, which rapel’s off the route Weg des Wassers, translated, Route of Water.
After crossing to the other side of the formation, we find the rap anchors and set up for rappel. Oh, I forgot to mention, we weren’t sure if we could rap off this thing with a single 70m, beta from online and word of mouth said they thing they can but they weren’t sure. Fingers crossed…
The answer is… yes, you can.
After rapping the last pitch of Weg des Wassers, skies are still clear and the route looked pretty fun. It looked like climbing a chute with tons of stemming. Weg des Wassers goes at 5.11b and was actually a really fun top rope! We both TR’ed it once with a fall each (a bit of a reachy, static deadpoint of sorts… perhaps a hold broke as she broke off a jug herself while climbing). We take a few more pictures, and set off to town for lunch.
All in all, Traumpfeiler was a really nice route that had great views and a very historic feel. It was really cool climbing beside a old hermit monk prison, with views of monastaries around you. There were even bells ringing every hour from the monastaries which gave it a pretty neat ambiance. The rock was chossy at time, but more solid if you stayed on route. A bit like Pinnacles. Traumpfeiler wasn’t the hardest or hardest route, but it was nice classic route. Anyways, thanks for reading and this TR ends up being useful for someone in the future to enjoy this route!
70m rope (60m will work, probably a rope stretcher for rappel)
12 QD’s (bring 6 QD’s and 3 trad draws, 3 double length trad draws)
1 yellow linked cam (will use on p3 and p9, made things casual… not really necessary though)
BONUS ROUND: Here are some fun cragging pictures from Kalymnos