Climbing in Meteora – Doupiani Rock – Pantocrator’s Ridge (Ostkante/East Ridge)

Doupiani Rock is for sure one of the most attended rock climbing destination of the Meteora (Μετέωρα) area, whose meaning is literally hanging in the air“, a charming and suggestive climbing site located in the Thessaly region of Greece.

Meteora includes about 170 conglomerate summits of various shapes and types, as massive mountains, rocky pinnacles, minor peaks and spires, some of which are truly amazing and bizarre. The range overlooks the village of Kastràki and the town of Kalabàka and features about 850 multi-pitch and single pitch routes. Due to their singularity and a bit of mistery surrounding the place, in addition to the presence of various monasteries, the towers of Meteora are quite famous all over the world.

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Doupiani Rock as seen from Kastraki village

 

Meteora climbing history

All the towers and spires situated in the Meteora area, even the smallest, have a summit book and usually have two names: the local name in Greek and the German name. This latter custom originates from the fact that the climb in Meteora had developed thanks to the enormous activities performed by a group of Eastern Germany pioneers, in primis the physicist Dietrich Hasse and the photographer Heinz Lothar Stutte. Dietrich Hasse is a famous German climber with a lot of first ascents worldwide. The most well-known is Hasse-Brandler in Cima Grande di Lavaredo, Dolomites. Affected by a fascinating picture of Meteora, since the Seventies they began to explore this mountain range and climbed all the most important summits, with the exception of the five towers on which it was located a monastery. The same climbers published two climbing guides of the area. Hasse together with other German climbers is responsible for the development of Meteora. That’s why in all the classic routes the ethics are so strict: poor protection on easy face climbing, minimal or no bolt protection on cracks and chimneys, always ground up first ascents etc.


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Meteora as seen from Kalabaka’s town hall
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Doupiani Rock
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View in the valley
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Kastraki as seen from Doupiani rock

Approach

Meteora is situated in the Thessaly region of Greece, Northern half of Greece, approximately 25 km NNW from Trikala, and immediately North of Kalambaka and Kastraki, the two main towns in the area, both located very close to the rocks. The closest main town is Larissa. The distance to Kalambaka is about 360 km from Athens and 237 km. from Thessaloníki.

The approach to Doupiani Rock is brief and easy. Getting to the Doupiani Rock from the square of Kastraki village is a 10 minutes walk. Actually Doupiani Rock is on the limits of Kastraki illage. Also you can drive with your car to the base of the tower. There is a parking place 30 m away from the start of the various routes. From here head to the rocks and the first route you meet is Pantocrator’s Ridge (Ostkante/East Ridge).


Pantocrator’s Ridge (Ostkante/East Ridge) 140m. VII-

Ostkante (Pantocrator’s Ridge/East Ridge) is one of the most popular routes in Meteora. It’s located on the Doupiani Rock, which is for sure the most popular rock in Meteora. Although it’s a relative “easy” route, it needs a serious approach, because of the kind of the climbing: slabby and runout. A fall is not an option for the leader in the first 3 pitches.

First ascent: D. Hasse and H.L. Stutte on 17.8.1976.

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East Ridge Route. Falling is not an option in the first 3 pitches.

Route report

Scramble unroped (I) about 12-15m, from the right side (easier) of the ridge, to the start of the route.

It is rated as a VI+ UIAA

At the start of the route, there is a ring for belaying.

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Ring for belaying at the beginning of the route.

Pitch 1 ( 40 m. III UIAA, 3 bolts):

 

The first pitch starts on a rather positive easy slab (max III) for 40m. The first part of the pitch has some loose tiny stones, but with care and delicate climbing technique it won’t be a problem for the climber. There are 3 bolts in the entire 40 meters of this pitch, and therefore a fall is not an option for the lead.

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Pitch 1: Start of the route
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First steps
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Falling is not an option

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Almost at the R2
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Reached R2
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Rope management

Pitch 2 ( 25 m. III UIAA, 2 bolts):

Pitch 2 continues on the ridge on the same average difficulty (III) for about 25m, This pitch has only 2 bolts to the next belay ring. Again, falling is not an option for the lead.

From this pitch, the view starts to become even nicer

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View from R3
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Rope Management R3

Pitch 3 ( 25 m. III UIAA, 2 bolts):

 

This pitch starts by going left (III UIAA) for some meters. There are tiny holds and equally tiny parts for the feet. Most of this part is done by good traction. As soon this small traverse is finished, then you go up (V+ UIAA) to the groove that leads left of the rock gendarm until you reach the second tree on the big ledge.

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Pitch 3 and Pitch 4. R4 is on the second tree as seen in this photo.

Pitch 4 ( 35 m. VII- UIAA, 5 bolts):

This is by far the most serious pitch of this route. Basically, you have to climb the face to the top. The face is almost vertical with tiny stones for holds. This pitch was first climbed on boots and aid (A1), but later was free at VI (Hasse-Stutte guidebook).

Nowadays is a little harder (maybe VII- UIAA), because some crucial stones left from the face. It can be climbed on aid as well. The pitch is getting easier as you go higher, though on higher ground there is only 1 bolt and therefore the lead climber should be very carefull.

At the top of Doupiani rock, you can find a registry (a small booklet) where the climber can write down his/her name.

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Vertical slab with tiny stones for holds
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Almost at the top
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ending the route

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Doupiani rock registry

Having climbed 140 meters of vertical slab, reaching the top of the Doupiani dome feels great. There are stunning views of all the various rocks of Meteora, of the monasteries, of Kastraki village, but also beautiful views towards the mountains of Thessaly and Pindus.

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View from the top of Doupiani Rock
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View from the top of Doupiani Rock
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View from the top of Doupiani Rock

Return and Abseiling

From the top (there is a summit book) you walk the obvious trail going W, downclimb an easy step(I), to the saddle.

There are 2 options:
1. Abseil the N-NW face of Doupiani. A small (8-10m) abseil to various rings and then one 60m to the bottom or 2x30m abseils. You can approach the rings from the right (a little exposed!). Don’t abseil all the way down from the highest ring, a lot of friction on rope pulling because of low angle terrain. This side of Doupiani can be extremely crowded, so take care with loose rocks, ropes, etc.
2. Abseil the S side. This is the classic descent of Doupiani. Find the ring on the top of the ‘canyon’ to the S. One 40m abseil, then walk (for 70m) the wide ridge on the left (as you see down), to a dead end, find a ring, another abseil (10m), then walk to the ground.
In both cases it’s better to carry your shoes on the harness, or you have to walk 5-10 minutes on your climbing shoes…back to the base of the route.

Something very important for abseiling in Meteora is the way of putting the knot through the ‘horizontal‘ rings. You have to put the rope with the knot (the rope for the pull) on the downside of the ring (between the ring and the rock). Otherwise maybe there is a problem, because the pulling rope is blocking the other rope, pressing it with the ring to the rock.

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Abseil point
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Reached the ground
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Abseiling

When to Climb

Spring and Autumn are the best seasons for Meteora. Avoid Summer, especially really hot days. Pantocrator’s ridge (Ostkante/East Ridge) is a good choice for Winter mornings. The route has sun until noon (more or less, depending on the season). It’s also a good choice after a rainy period because is ridge, sunny and east facing, this means that gets dry faster than most routes.

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Face on the rock

See other climbing activities:

2 thoughts on “Climbing in Meteora – Doupiani Rock – Pantocrator’s Ridge (Ostkante/East Ridge)

  1. Pingback: Climbing in Meteora – Sudostwand Doupiani – Southeast Wall – Plaka – Olympus Mountaineering

  2. Pingback: Climbing in Meteora – Pillar of Rain – Doupiani Rock – Olympus Mountaineering

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