It was late one night in July of this year, I was messaging a few friends and tossing around an idea for this year’s off season “retreat”. Some may say that my job is a retreat or a sort of vacation already. I now have numerous arguments against such claims, but this story is not about making that point and trying to establish the legitimacy of a career in outdoor pursuits. I just want to share with you a vacation of my own, the places I dream of when the temperature starts dropping and snow fills the mountain passes.
This idea began last year when I organized an “alumni” trip for anyone who worked with Asia Outdoors, a climbing and sea kayaking guide service in Vietnam that I worked with in 2015. I arranged for everyone to meet in Potrero Chico (Hidalgo, Mexico) for new years 2018. It was a hit. With nearly a dozen people, a mountain side chateau with a view of the climbing areas and a few wild nights with good laughs and plenty of tequila, I just couldn’t wait to plan another trip like it.
So, I arranged with some of the same folks from the Mexico trip to go to Greece with me. My good friend Jake, another local Sierra guide and Asia Outdoors alumni, also really wanted to go. Seeing as I did all the planning last year, I asked him to arrange where we would all stay. He booked a small apartment that we could just barely squeeze the six of us into, but it was a great ocean side property on the island of Kalymnos.
Kalymnos has been through a great change in the last twenty years. Originally it was a quiet destination for Greek people to visit in the summer and maybe buy a few sea sponges. Now it is a world class sport climbing destination filled with an eclectic demographic of climbers of all ages. There are thousands of bolted routes, mostly overhanging with an overload of handholds and tufas to wrap you body around. I have to say, it’s my favorite style of climbing. But I didn’t plan this trip to just go climb hard. I also wanted a bit of culture and a couple wild nights like we had in Mexico.
It was, however, the end of the Kalymnos climbing season. Shops and restaurants were advertising discounts, the rain season was approaching, and the invasion of rock climbers was subsiding. We got mixed reviews from the locals on this. Some welcomed the quiet winter and spoke about how busy it was over the summer. Some, mostly the older villagers, couldn’t wait for their island to feel like home again. Others who have set up a life around the climbing culture of Kalymnos spoke about staying open until the very last tourist left the island. They were the ones who called it a “blessing” to have such rock near to their homes. Regardless of their opinion, each of them was glad to be greeted with an appropriate Kalimera or Kalinychta depending on the time of day.
So, life was good. For a little over two weeks, we climbed in massive caves, we ate fresh caught tuna and local lamb, we drank our fair share of ouzo and mythos, played with street cats, scootered through the narrow winding roads, and even got in a nice day sail around the island of Telendos. It reminded us all of the island life in south east Asia. And we were sure to share all the stories of our time in Vietnam. Yes, most of the stories we had heard before and knew quiet well, but we laughed anyways. Each of us recognizing how great it is to have a “life dedicated to adventure.”
-Calvin TagueCalvin is a mountaineering and backpacking guide for Sierra Mountain Center. He lives in Rovana, at the mouth of Pine Creek Canyon, and when he isn’t climbing or exploring the many hidden gems of the east side, enjoys writing short stories. Calvin has traveled and guided in Nepal, Vietnam and the Sierra Nevada, putting up first ascents and introducing people to mountain culture all along the way.