The UNESCO world heritage 250 km southeast of Thessaloniki is one of the most beautiful destinations of Europe. We spent sightseeing there, however, in our own way.
After the first expedition in 2008 had been a great success we knew that there were more first ascends.
The result: 8 new highlines and a new project!
Find the whole exciting story here:
Welcome to Meteora
In the spring of 2009 we went to Greece a second time to revisit our dream 250 km southeast of Thessaloniki: gigantic rock formations, on which monks had built their monasteries hundreds of years ago.
The landscape there is like a fairy tale. In order to understand it, you have to see it in real.
The ambience is perfect: wonderful plants and flowers, turtels living isolated on top of a rock, sunsets like I had never seen before, strange rock structures..… making this region so attractive and unbelievably fascinating. I'm sure Meteora is one of the most beautiful places of Europe.
Exploring such a landscape by climbing and highlining is the only and true way of travelling to me.
I experienced so many funny, dangerous and especially shaping situations there, which eventually I'll still be able to talk to my grandchildren about.
By the way, the Meteora area served as a set for the James Bond film “Deadly mission”, which inspired me to rig my highlines there after I had seen it for the first time in 2008. In the final scene Bond fights against nuclear super weapons flying in a helicopter.
But what are highlines/slacklines in the first place?
Balancing on a 25mm wide line originally comes from the legendary “Camp4” in Yosemite Valley.
In 1980 some climbers were bored during some rainy days and used their climbing ropes for balancing, which were then developed to lines.
Scott Balcom, one of these pioneers, had the idea to try balancing on lines at Lost Arrow Spire, 400m above the valley.
This was the moment that a human being walked across an abyss on a flexible webbing for the first time thus inventing highlining.
Here is the video to this first ascent:
Thousands of people have been inspired by him.
Let's move on: Trip to Meteora
The climber who travels there loves exposed, wonderful and badly secured multipitch routes.
And the highliner? He has to climb rocks, too. He has to climb up on a rope transporting lots of gear and has to rig slacklines, which isn't easy at rock towers more than 200 meters high.
Exactly for this reason I had taken a crossbow with me, which is illegal in Germany, to shoot the line across the abyss. Luckily, everything went well at the customs, although it was quite risky.
After our experiences from the year before we wanted to open up a kind of
“Highline Arco“. Well-prepared, Bernhard and me had planned to do at least three new first ascents.
Equipment for such trips is always a problem. Here is a short survey:
Personal climbing equipment:
• climbing shoes
• mountain boots
• locking biners
• climbing sling
• abseiling device (ATC, eight ..)
• ascender (Hand & breast version)
• foot sling
• headlamp --> important!
General climbing gear and accessories:
• 9x quickdraws (Helmar)
• Grigri (Bernhard)
• 9x nuts, from 1 to 3,5cm (Helmar)
• nut set all sizes (Hannes)
• 70m climbing rope (Anatolij)
• 60m semi-static rope (Bernhard)
• 70m semi-static rope (Janek)
• 2x 30m semi-static rope (Janek)
• 2x climbing rope (Janek)
• climbing guide "Meteora Band 2" from Hasse (Hannes, bzw. Bernhard)
• 2x Walkie Talkie (Bernhard)
• 2x Walkie Talkie (Grischa)
• 2x Walkie Talkie (Andreas)
• First aid kit (Bernhard)
• small single pulley (Bernhard)
• Haulbag (Hannes)
• Gri-Gri (Faith)
• Gri-Gri 2 (Janek)
• Petzl ID (Johannes)
• Petzl ID (Janek)
• 15 quickdraws (Janek)
• 2x 60m semi-static rope (Hannes)
• Petzl hand drill and hammer (Jordan)
General camping gear:
• 2 man tent for Janek and Faith (Janek)
• 4 man tent for Anatolij, Alex, Andreas (Alex)
• 3 man tent (Hannes)
• 2 man tent (jordan)
• 4 man tent (Daniel)
• 2 man tent (Marty)
• towel for drying dishes (Bernhard)
• rubish bags (vor Ort)
• small pot set (Daniel)
• Primus stove (Helmar)
• gas- or petrol stove for Bivouac (cartridges from the local camping shop)
Personal camping gear:
• sleeping mat
• sleeping bag
• eating plate, cutlery, cup
• Bivaouc sack
• chewing gums
• ID or passport
• charger for mobile phone
• 25m webbing from Slacklinetools for Lowlining (Helmar)
• Netbook with external HDD for transfering Photos (Bernhard)
• Ixus-Digicam (Bernhard)
• HD video camera (Grischa)
• big HD-videocam (Marty)
• EOS-Spiegelreflex-camera (Marty)
• iPod (Bernhard)
• USB 2 mini wire(Bernhard)
• JBL sound station with charging function for MP3 Player, mobiles etc.... (Johannes)
• speaker, not really loud but working (Janek)
• probably his laptop and definetly my camera (jordan)
• GPS datalogger (Alex)
• 110m Distance Line with sewed loop (Anatolij)
• 110m Control with sewed loop (Anatolij)
• pulley system (Janek)
• 60m Distance Band with sewed loop (Anatolij)
• Slackline-Tools 18:1 pulley system with 30m static rope. (Helmar)
• 60m Distance Band with sewed loop (Anatolij)
• Slackline-Tools 18:1 pulley system with 30m static rope (Daniel)
Additional highline material:
• 10x industry slings 500kg WLL 1m (Anatolij)
• 2x 15m webbing "Control" (Anatolij)
• 10x stainless steel shackles (Anatolij)
• 2x 5m ratchet "Guide" (Anatolij)
• Superlink-ratchet (Anatolij)
• 80m Type-18 webbing (Janek)
• 4x industry slings (Janek&Faith)
• crossbow (Johannes)
• 10 arrows for crossbow (Grischa)
• fishing cord 100m (Johannes)
• laser range finder with tripod (johannes)
• reep cord 60m 2mm (Johannes)
• Petzl knive (Bernhard)
• Leash (everyone)
• slackline shoes (everyone)
• 9x triangle maillons (Janek)
• 5x oval maillons (Janek)
• 6x maillons (Bernhard)
• 2x line lockers (Anatolij)
• 4x industry slings (Hannes)
• 4x industry slings (Janek)
• 4x slackline bananas (Faith&Janek)
• 5x steel carabiners (Daniel)
• 4x 0,5m and 4x 1,5m firehose (Helmar)
• 2 Stahlringe für die leash (Helmar)
• 2x firehose 1.70m. (Grischa)
• 2. fishing cord
• 2x tape
• pulleyfor crossing a highline
• steel carabiners
• 3x eights or rings
• Makita drill (Bernhard)
• 2x 14,4V Li-Ion batteries
• charger for Makita
• Bosch SDS drillbit 14mmx250mm
• cleaning brush 18mm
• wrench 19mm
• latex gloves
• Bosch Gbh drill (Johannes)
• 2x 36v Bosch batteries
• charger for Bosch
• 2x SDS 12mm 150mm drillbits
• 1x SDS 14mm 150mm drillbits
• big blow pump
• Petzl hammer
• bags for the glue
• 10x 12mm/1m long A2 threaded bars cutted and filed off = 40 x 25cm pieces (Johannes)
• 10x injection adhesive glue from Fischer and MKT (Johannes)
• cartridge applicator gun from Hilti for adhesive glue (Johannes)
• 30x static mixer (Johannes)
• 10x special anchors 14mm/130mm (Johannes)
• 30x Fixe hangers 12mm (Johannes)
• 1x SDS 12mm/210mm drillbit (Grischa)
• ball pump with extension (Grischa)
• 15x nuts M12 (Johannes)
• 30x nuts with washers M12 (Grischa)
Those who have been on a plane before know that normally you are allowed 20 kg for luggage. Mine weighed 97 kg that time and I definitely won't take a plane again with such heavy luggage.
Jan Galek, Jordan Tybon und Faith Dickey, the highline elite frome the USA hitch-hiked from Poland to Meteora. They didn't have to spend any money on the ride, had great experiences meeting up with cool people and avoided 6 kg CO2 emissions, which they would have caused on a plane.
Making telephone calls with the airline because of my luggage got on my nerves during the final weeks of preparing the trip. When I checked in, there was of course the question: ”Any excess baggage? We are afraid it isn't in the computer. So that makes 15 Euros per kilogram!” 1.100 Euros just like that? Finally after some discussions we were relieved to pay only 200 Euros.
The plaster you need no fill the drilling holes has always been a problem. No matter, which airline you choose, they confiscate at least part of it. Transporting plaster is legal, that's why I found the airline. But at the airport nobody knew about it and when we opened our luggage in Greece, we had to find out that half of our so important plaster was missing. It had probably be taken out by the airport staff. That's everyday life for highliners!
We set up our base camp on the campsite Varchos at the foot of the rocks.
After this stressful trip we were of course all glad to see a well-known face at Meteora. Gustl, the local heroe we had met a year before, joined us this year again. He had supported us a lot during our first trip. As Gustl had climbed more tours solo than me with a rope, he could give us important information about climbing and possible highlines. Sometimes Gustl says about himself that he is crazy. Listening to his old climbing stories every night was usually really funny, but also a bit tiring on the long run.
At first sight there are thousands of possibilities for rigging highlines in Meteora in theory. However, after having struggled through thorny bushes to the rocks, you tend to be less enthusiastic quickly. An estimated distance of 50 meters turned out to become difficult 300 meters.
In the evening we often sat together at the camp fire and talked about our plans for the next day:
- Which team works where and on which project?
- Where do we have to put fixed ropes?
- Who organizes food and beer?
By the way, we almost only spoke English, as this makes sense when Polish, German, Swiss and American people want to get something going together.
Right on the second day after our arrival Grischa, Daniel and me wanted to climb “Pixari”: it's a rock that looks like a huge butt situated above the village of Kastraki. It was our aim to put fixed ropes on this rock.
It took ages to reach the seemingly right summit, however, we had to dismiss the plan to rapel the estimated 70 meters and land on the rock, where we had supposed the butt* was.
* Intersection which looks like a butt from below (planned highline from one cheek to the other)
There was a storm that prevented us from standing up. It was so strong that we couldn't even talk to each other not being able to understand a word. We almost lost our balance on the narrow ridge when trying to walk forward. That was the only experience that in retrospect gives me a queasy feeling.
The 70 meters for abseiling turned out to be 300.
From the summit you could clearly see where we went wrong. The correct turnoff ran through thorny bushes 500 meters long.
So we turned back and started another try. We were all soaked with sweat, totally dehydrated and of course sun-burnt.
After another three hours we were finally standing at the beginning of our tour. Grischa lead the first pitch, Daniel and me followed. Now we had reached the famous “Sachsenband” Gustl had warned us of. It isn't even a meter wide, but almost 100 meters high, of course badly secured like all Saxonian routes.
None of us felt like leading the climb. After seemingly endless discussions and suggestions how to secure each other by e.g. setting additional hooks or returning, I had enough and crawled towards the end of the ledge, which was almost 15 meters long, dared to do the decisive jump towards the rock and landed safely on the very same rock, which we had wanted to reach for the last 10 hours. The first highline spot was ready for the first highline.
Each team had similar experiences as we every single day. Connection ropes had to be saved or dodgy descents had to be mastered at night (For example 12 pitches had to be climbed down in the dark).
In the end such exertions were rewarded with the coolest highlines I have ever walked.
Like the saying goes: “The journey is the reward”, which I think is true.
Lots of thanks to the IG-climbers, who supported me with materials, and to Emil Ducke, without whom we wouldn't have got such impressing photos.