Flashback to mid-March 2013, just over a year ago.  Four friends and I were nearing the end of what was almost certainly the first descent of the Kamariano Gorge, north of Sougia.  The difficult part was over  –  a vertical & overhanging 6m drop involving lowering and abseiling.  All that remained was a steep groove into a 3m wall, then an easy walk down the riverbed to the gorge exit, cars, and a celebratory drink in Sougia. I safeguarded Michelle, Phil, Dick and Laura as they climbed down a fixed rope, then clipped my doubled rope into a karabiner, and set off to join them below.

Accident black spot!

The accident blackspot – March 2013

The next thing I knew, I was sprawled in a tangle of ropes, head spinning, with concerned faces looking down on me.  The anchor point I used had failed.  I had checked it (the same one used on a prior exploration), but should have been more thorough, and (with hindsight,) should have used two.  Bruised and shaken, but with all limbs intact, we completed the descent.  Phil drove home and helped me to bed.  Next morning I could barely move.  Friends drove me to Chania, where investigations revealed nothing more than a broken rib and badly dented pride.  My first injury of any consequence in over five decades of climbing mountains and rock-faces, during which I’d used anchor points a million times.  It could have been far worse ….

A year on, fully recovered, it was time (and important) to return to the gorge and “lay the ghost” with another descent.  Dick was on Gavdos island, Phil feigned injury, Michelle was “busy”, but Laura was as enthusiastic as always (and I know, two is below the minimum for safety, and we’ve seen ‘Touching the Void’, but we went anyway.)

Kamariano downThe Kamariano gorge ends on the main Chania road, 2km from Sougia, although the valley leading into it begins far higher, at Mertes (see ‘Explore’, March 2014).  A waymarked path (red paint dots) climbs up left (west) from a clearing, then swings north, contouring high above the gorge.  (Note that the path south to Sougia, marked on the Anavasi Topo25 map, does not exist.)  The path, clear, narrow and scenic, eventually descends to become wider, alongside a fence, through a ‘gate’, and on to a second, where it becomes a track.  Just 75m beyond here (at a cairn of stones) we dropped down into the riverbed.

Kamariano upwardsKamariano gorgeThreading our way between oleanders and gorse, occasionally over boulders, we soon reached the point where things become serious  –  a ledge with an enormous lodged boulder above, and the valley floor an intimidating and daunting distance below.  But first, lunch in the sunshine.  Thus fortified, we were soon at the foot of the “mauvais pas”, pulling in the rope used to first lower Laura, then for me to abseil down to ‘terra firma’.

A long way down

A long way down

Ready?

Ready?

Safely down

Safely down

Several obstacles later, requiring hand and footholds but not the rope, we arrived at the scene of last year’s mishap.  Fully concentrated, it was all quite simple, and in fact there’s a way around not necessitating a rope, although it’s still not easy.  Now all was straightforward, and this time I could relax and enjoy the last half-hour’s walk back to the road  –  the total tranquility, wild flowers, birdsong, and aromatic scent of the pine trees.

Don't jump !Lightning never strikes twice in the same place, they say, and thankfully not in the Kamariano gorge ; this time we were really able to celebrate our descent in Sougia. Then we could relax & watch the world go by while we wait for the ferry back to Paleochora.

Share This:

There are many villages in western Crete located amongst impressive landscapes, but very few as dramatically situated as Roka.  It’s 41km from Paleochora, an hour’s scenic drive through Sassalos (either via Kandanos and Floria, or more easily though Aligi and Milones), then on through Malarithos and Sfakopighadi.   Leaving Sassalos, stop and look down into the deep Porofarago or Halasses Gorge, the most impressive and difficult gorge in the area ; more of this later in the year.

P8200709 (2)

With snow and low temperatures on the mountains, and water flowing down many of the gorges, early in the year is a good time to visit Roka, and maybe climb the ‘mountain’ – Trouli  – which rises dramatically above it.   We first went there on a blisteringly hot day one August, with no more intentions than to look around.  There is no taverna or cafenion in the village, but two Greek ladies who confirmed this invited us to sit in their shady garden, and made us coffee, so perhaps there is.

P9291054

On our next visit, finding nothing written about the ascent, we took climbing equipment just in case. “Is the climb difficult?” we asked a group of young men at a house by the ‘platea’.  “Not difficult, but not easy ….,” they advised us, “keep to the right, then go left.”  And so we set off.  The way is obvious enough, through some occupied and many ruined houses, rising to ‘Ancient Roka’, and what must have been a huge settlement during  the Byzantine era (330AD – 1204AD), possibly even earlier.  The area must have housed a considerable population, and the ‘fortress’ above provided safety and security.  The site is fascinating, but why no history available for such an important heritage?

Ancient Roka

Ancient Roka

We chose a route through the rocks above, which became alarmingly steep over sharp limestone blocks, with even more alarming views into the Rokas Gorge way below our feet.  With much relief we emerged onto the rounded summit, scrambled over more rocks to the highest point, 267m, and relaxed to enjoy the views, possibly the finest in NW Crete.

The view to the north

The view to the north

The two peninsulas of Gramvousa and Rodopou stretched away to the north, Chania and Akrotiri distant, the White Mountains hazy, with areas to the south more familiar to us.  Just 50m almost vertically below us, but seemingly far more, was Roka village and our car.

The view to the south

The view to the south

Whilst I was taking photographs, and contemplating (and not relishing the thought of) how we would get down again, for our route up had been more than a little scary, Laura found the correct way.  Marked intermittently with red paint dots, the direction slants left from Ancient Roka ; we had climbed far too high before beginning to ascend.  As we’d been advised, it’s still not easy, care is needed with hand and footholds, and some might like the security of a rope, especially near the top.

The correct way down

The correct way down

Back below Ancient Roka, we followed the signs and path, and spent the afternoon exploring the Rokas Gorge, which leads up to the larger village of Deliana.  More about that too, in this year’s “Explore” series  –  what a lot you have to look forward to !

The winner of the 2013 Christmas Puzzle was Eeva Koskela, from Finland, but now resident in Paleochora.  Commiserations to those unlucky in the draw, and to those with the incorrect answer (the remaining gorge was ‘Kritsa’.)

 

Share This: