Some of the nearly 100 pinnacles of Meteora.
Meteora means suspended in air in Greek. For more than a thousand years people have been scaling its sedimentary monoliths. The first were hermetic monks in search of a place to be alone with god. Starting in the 14th century, more permanent structures were established ultimately resulting in the construction of 20 monasteries--6 remain today. Several are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Climbing is not allowed on spires that contain active monasteries.
More recently, these same peaks were climbed by German and Greek climbers who established bold routes to the tops of the pinnacles. Many of the original routes require very creative gear placement in questionable rock. Quite a few involve long sections of chimney climbing with few opportunities to place gear and even fewer placements that could be trusted to support a leader fall of any distance. Routes were bolted minimally in most cases, most of the bolted routes are really "trad" routes that may or may not take additional gear.
The rock is similar to cement with rounded river stones as aggregate. The size of the stones embedded in the conglomerate varies from peak to peak and from climb to climb. There is also a great degree of variance in the strength of the cementing material. Some routes are solid and it is possible to bear your entire weight on a single embedded cobble. Other routes contain sections that are more akin to stones in dried mud. It's very important to test and retest stones you intend to pull on. It is very unlikely that you will go any length of time climbing in Meteora without detaching stones with your hands or feet. Belayers should wear helmets at all times for this reason. Most descents require double rope rappels. For several days a partner and I were stuck with only one rope, while there was a lot to climb, there was very little that we could descend, until a friend arrived with a second rope.
Guides and Beta
Routes.gr has an online route database for Meteora.
Stutte and Hasse have published two guides detailing climbing in German, Greek and English called Meteora Climbing and Hiking and Meteora Band II Climbing. They cover different routes and are both necessary for a complete overview of climbs in the area. The second book lists the climbs in the first book but provides no detail. If you are proficient in German they can be purchased here. I managed to buy both of them at the corner news stand in Kalambaka near Dimarhiou Place.
General information on Meteora can be found on its Wikipedia page.
The climbing at Meteora is situated around the towns of Kastraki and Kalambaka in Thessaly.
Kalambaka has a train station with arrivals and departures to and from Athens three times a day (4 1/2 hours).
The bus station in Kalambaka, Averof 2, is easily accessed from Dimarhiou Place by walking down hill 200 meters or so on Rodou. The ride from Athens(7 times a day, 5 hours) goes via Lamia and Trikala. Busses depart and arrive at Athens' Terminal B Bus Station.
This is probably the worst option if you are paying for a rental, from a home base in or around Kalambaka or Kastraki it is easy to access everything by foot. From the town of Trikala take the road towards Ioanninon, called the Ioanninon-Trikalon (also E92 or 6). Kalambaka is 10 or so miles down the road.
A word about Greek, German and English
I'm a little torn about what language to use when listing these climbs. The readers of this site, like me, probably only speak English. Meteora is in Greece so obviously most of the pinnacles are originally named in Greek, but few of us would have much luck reading or pronouncing words written using the Greek alphabet. The guides for Meteora are written primarily in German, so for the most part I will list these routes and peaks by their German names, so people are able to use Mountain Project in conjunction with their guidebook.
Browse More Classics in Meteora
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Meteora:
Featured Route For Meteora
Traumpfeiler (Pillar of Dreams)
: ... : Heiliger Geist
This route is a mega classic and a must do if your climbing the grade. You can expect pitch after pitch of quality steep climbing right to the summit with typical but reasonable runouts for the area. Additional protection is most useful on the crux pitch but you could get by without it if your feeling solid. And although this route is called 9 pitches it is easy to link any of the pitches. In fact when John and I climbed it only took us 4 pitches.With a 60m rope we linked the first two, then ...[more] Browse More Classics in International
Monk cells on Pixari. If you get nervous on your ...
Looking east from the top of ?Teufelstrum?...
|By Anthony Baraff|
From: Paris, France
Oct 26, 2009
There's an article on climbing in Meteora in the December 2009 issue of Rock and Ice (Issue 182).
From: Durham, NC
May 17, 2012
A few things to add to the general description above. For climbers used to areas containing solid rock and bomber gear placements, this is a scary area. I've never been to a trad area where we had to back off so many routes. We tried to get on several gear routes that might take occasional cam placements. In my estimation, a fall onto a cam would shatter the rock here in many places. I think it is much better to use large passive placements, such as hexes. We didn't come prepared for this.
On belay anchors: many, many multi-pitch routes in the area include only a single, beefy eye bolt as the belay anchor. Given the general looseness of the rock, this is hard to stomach for climbers more accustomed to two-bolt anchors or good gear anchors. We actually cut our climbing off a couple days early because of concerns about single bolt anchors without available gear supplements. Likewise, many rappel points still include only a single, old eye bolt. While these may not fail often, we decided it was a risk we did not want to take.
The climbing here seems to me to be more about the scenery and summits than the actual climbing. We didn't push into grades that would include interesting climbing, likely because the faith required to place your full weight onto small cobbles was too much mentally for us. Be prepared to be humbled.