Peloponnese is the south west peninsula of the greek mainland, some 2-3 hours drive away from Athens. Lagada is a small but amazing climbing area 14 km away from the bustling city of Sparta. If you’re looking for a cool spot away from all the heat, then look no further. There’s about 100 routes ranging from 5c to 8c+ and a few sectors where you can choose from sun to shade or vice versa. Embedded between the valleys of Mount Taÿgetus at 800m high, this is a no fail place to cool off and climb.
Now why would you in the first place want to climb in the shade, when you’ve paid all the money to come to Greece for lots of sun?
Lets come to the point.
We spent an extensive time climbing in Lagada. Primarily because there was a camp ground 10 minutes away from the site. At the same time, it was the only climbing area in the peninsula that was described to be cool and shady. That was of course, before we discovered Kyparissi with all its shady sectors! So how will you want to convince your best partner in crime, who has been already sceptical, that he won’t burn off his fingers on the wall or melt the rubber under his shoes and that everything will be still good? Lagada!
We arrived here after a fun week of beach and sea in our sun scrub skin with a broad Tatoo over our foreheads – “Mr. and Mrs Surf God” and stood under the foot of Mount Taÿgetus, staring at those cliffs in awe. The first thing I did, was grab my jacket.
Lagada lies at an altitude of 800 m in a beautiful setting. There are sometimes strong, chilly, breezes on some days, allowing you to climb even on the sunny side of Sector Petsanes on hot days. There are sectors facing all directions and there’s something for everyone moving from the 6th grade and above. (only a few 5s) It takes a while to appreciate and see these things. You will certainly not find it very interesting if you stand at the parking lot and look up, like most of the other tourists. Because, they look up, and see “just another” mountain. You will first have to walk a small distance up, and maybe even further up till you reach the cave, turn around and look out. Inhale. Exhale.
So once the climber has discovered the beauties of this climbing spot, it would be now his duty to keep the rest of the family in a good mood, so that they would stay long enough. How? Jump immediately to the end of this post.
Ice ice Baby, Sector Splithari
To detox all the sun rays we have been collecting, we decided to start off in Sector Splithari. It stays icy cold most of the time as the sector lays right before a (dry) river bed. It can be 27 °C in Sparta, and just 14°C in Lagada. On breezy days, the wind chill makes it even colder. The left side of the wall (the cave) stays in the shade the whole day. Stani, a newer roadside crag has just a handful routes on the opposite of this sector. We parked by the main road, just next to Stani, and walked 10 mins to the sector instead of driving down. Null Problemo.
The sun arrived here after 3 pm, shining only on the right side of the wall. Actually, I was glad when it came. We started off our first climbing warming up on steep, juggy, 35 m routes on the right (the first few 5s didn’t look very inviting) We could not miss out Kathepexi, 6c+ which was the longest route in the wall. 40 m long! The bolting here is well spaced, not very typical for the greek standards. You need a good head to climb here, especially when you head towards the cave ! We wanted to do a Stefanos Voreios 7a, but ended up in another Stefanos “notious” variation that felt more like 7c.
I went back around the corner where we deposited our bags, and saw something huge, black and flurry going through our bags. The local goats! They were monstrously big and scared the shit out of me. The way they ran off, it was probably the other way around.
Sector Aloni and Petsanes
Sector Aloni is the most frequented crag from all sectors. Huts, Arena, meadows, toilet and local furry goats adds some alpine excitement and entertainment throughout the day. When you first approach the crag Apse Svise 6b+ springs right into your eyes as it was the easiest warm up that looked inviting. Not surprising if everyone else had the same idea, judging from its polishness. Arpyia 7a was interesting. Just keep going on till the end, after the scary traverse. I was just thinking of what to do next when suddenly from behind, a fellow climber shouted out “Rocks!” Instinctively, I jumped as near to the cliff as I could get before a whole bunch of stones rained down a few centimeters away from where I was standing. Goats! We’ve heard them out and about, but what gave them the idea to want to always get the last bush at the edge of the cliff?!!?? We changed over to sector Petsanes then as the sun was finally out of the wall and it was time to look for a tiny project. We got ourselves busy till late in the night.
The next morning I wanted some sun to start off the day. Sector Petsanes was the keyword! I marked Leonidi, 5c+ as one of the nicest warm ups in this sector and got it in. Long but sharp routes in the 6th grade are found more on the right, just next to the ladder. You will need a good layer of thick skin to climb them all. Ermafroditos 6c, was next on the list. It was crimpy, and terribly sharp. I felt as if, my skin wouldn’t hold much longer if it goes on like this. An onsight, and the day was saved for me as I turned into belay modus for the big boy.
The amazing cave above in Petsanes gives you an amazing view down the valley. Mr. Bob 8a+, Pull Up 7c+ or Efialtis 8a+ are some of the routes that makes it the perfect playground for strong roof and cave climbers. This is Sparta 7c, has everything in it, don’t miss! Some sharp wall climbing below leads to tufa pulling and an overhanging finish above. There are more routes on the right of the cave, but we couldn’t climb there as the goats were about and kept causing an avalanche of stones down the area. They seemed to have found it amusing to follow us wherever we go.
We had a great week climbing in Lagada. The rock was varied, compact and always interesting. The cool, breezy conditions made it comfortable to climb, away from the heat. We would’ve stayed here much longer, if I had not received news from Nima from Abenteuer-unterwegs that a new online Topo for Kyparissi was out. And the camp grounds by the sea were certainly much more attractive than those on the mainland!
And so we took off.
Useful information and Logistics
If you’re coming after October, you will find yourself in the middle of the off-season. A few of the Taverns and Guest houses are closed till the season in April starts off. However, it always pays to step out and ask, or phone if you have a number.
Best time to climb here is spring till late Autumn (November, depending on how the weather goes). A 70m rope would be fine, with 20-25 Quickdraws. Since a breeze is always blowing, you might want to dress appropriately. (in your ties and suits please).
We had the place to ourselves most of the time (except for one day when the crowd = 2 sets of climbers came in.)
There are 2 campsites which is just about a 15 minutes drive away from Lagada. Castle View and one further up the road towards Sparta, Palaiologio Mystras. These two are the only official campsites in the area. I won’t stay here for the rest of my life, but they give you the necessities of a shower and trees to hang your laundry. Since they are situated just right off to the Archeological site of Mystras, they are both not cheap, even during the off-season in october! Palaiologio is open all year through, with pitches under a walnut plantation. (Note that in october, falling walnuts can cause lovely dents on your vehicle, but are terribly delicious).
Guesthouses, Rooms, Hotels:
- Mazaraki Guesthouse
- Knakion Filoxenia
- Menelaion Hotel
- Mystras Inn, etc
The alpine club specially built up a wooden hut that makes a bivouac possible. The luxury of an outhouse / pit latrine nearby makes the logistics for the bivouac ideal. You can put up a tent too around the areal. But avoid areas where rockfalls can happen. (You will see those rocks spreaded out on the grass) Spring water can be found in the next village below in Trypi or further off in Parori. The spring waters here tastes so good we filled up our canisters instead of using the waters at the campsite!
If you are coming with a van or truckmobile, the parking lot seems to be the usual place where everyone else stands. While wild camping is mega cool, keeping the premises spotless is too! Keep the low key and keep your chairs and tables in your vehicle when you go climbing!
Supermarkets and eating out
Small supermarkets, butcher, bakery can be found on the same road when you head from the camp ground to Sparta. Bigger ones in Sparta.
If you’re feeling brave (with the car), take a stroll down town Sparta and enjoy a modern Frappe in one of the many Cafés.
Some Greek Taverns we recommend:
- Town square Mystras (there’re a few to choose from – touristy, (get less, pay more) but ok)
- Parori (the first on far left serves fresh rainbow trout) All the taverns here are placed directly next to the springs where you can observe how the locals fill up their water reserves.
- Vozola Georgios – Trypi (has a big balcony outside with a magnificent view down to the Valley) Seems that everyone was ordering eggs and tomato. The wild greens were not in season while we were there, but I got something else. The lamb chops and chicken stew were great.
- ΕΝΑΛΛΑΞ was our favourite coffee shop in Sparta. It was the spot to catch up for the middle-aged ladies. Very cool modern Reggae music and nice snack foods. Away from the main road.
- Stavros: Pikoulianika has a down to earth cooking with melt in your mouth meat. Try the rabbit stew or the Meatballs.
You will soon realise that eating out is a treat. A meal with starters, wine, mains comes around to prices at 10 EURs. In almost 99% of the restaurants, you will get your dessert / sweets on the house. For this money, I would rather not make a meal myself – sometimes, food shopping can be more expensive. Try the local Rosé in Laconia. It’s goes great with the food, has a sherry note and amazing prices! (1 Jug / 500 ml for 2,40 EUR). The Melitzsano salad (eggplant salad) is differently prepared in each restaurant. So yes, try it all the time.
- Visit the amazing site of Mystras (12 € pP /day for the whole site. The place to empty the cash in your wallets, but get richer in culture. The rates drop 50% in November – March, 1st Sundays of the month where the entrance is free. Times and prices are subjected to change!! )
- Visit Sparta for a local greek Beer on the central square, or get a Coffee Frappe. Everyone seems to be having one on their tables (even at midnight!) There are various modern places to eat (greek fast food). Shops are opened for your shopping galore till late at night. If you’re coming in with the car, good luck!
- The nearest coast is either in Kalamata (> 1 hr) or in Githio (40 mins). Just incase you need to touch up your tan.
- There are numerous paths in the region for hiking. One of them starts off right after the Taverns of the village Parori. This trial leads you first to a the Church of Panaga in an enormous cave in the Gorge. Following the path, it continues to lead you to a Monastry up to the Taygetos mountains. There is a detailed map at the start of the trail showing you all possibilities. More hikes in the area described here.
- If museums and ruins are your thing, there’s an Olive Oil Museum and Ancient Theater / Acropolis in Sparta.
- Read up on the history of Sparta. Some of those legends are horrifying to learn what they did with their crippled infants.
Are you planning on a trip out to the Peloponnese sometime? Check out my other two episodes of “Climbing in the Peloponnese”.