Andrea Base Camp Makes a Stop in Manikia
Andrea Base Camp is an incredible project dreamed up by Nina Caprez and her partner, photographer Jérémy Bernard. Andrea is a 9-ton truck filled to the brim with climbing gear and flanked with a traveling climbing wall. It's built to handle any road and provide an escape with meaningful exchanges facilitated by climbing. In September, after spending 10 days in Romania with a community of young climbers from the neighborhood of Dallas, near Vulcan, Andrea hit the road for Greece. The destination? The village of Manikia, where Nina would meet up with the Petzl team for 3 weeks. The itinerary? Exploring new routes, getting to know the local community, holding introductory climbing lessons for the elementary school in Konistres, and leading workshops to promote the upcoming Petzl RocTrip. All this in a small village on the island of Evia. And thanks to the lovely location and friendly locals, it has the potential to become an exciting climbing destination. Nina looks back on this incredibly rich experience.
April 14 2022
Tell us about your first impressions of Manikia
I know the group of climbers from Grenoble that have been developing routes here over the last four years, and every time we cross paths I can see a twinkle in their eyes. They told me about a remote place with kind people and an abundance of crags that had not at all been affected by tourism. In short, it's the dream climbing destination that I've been searching for and I was a little worried that I would get my hopes up and then be disappointed. Fortunately, we were able to drive Andrea to Manikia about 10 days before everyone else arrived, and we found that it was exactly how they'd described. It's a small village on a hill with only two taverns, seemingly untouched by the outside world, and with strong roots. Not a single person here speaks English and no new face goes unnoticed! It's truly a little paradise, where everything is bolted and ready to go, with hundreds of incredible routes across more than 30 sectors just a stone's throw away. The perfect setting; half an hour from the sea, but with a bit of harsher, mountain climate — just how I like it.
What did you think of the routes, the rock?
It's very pure, solid limestone, so it's fresh and new. It all really depends on the exposure though. At the north-facing crags, you have big rock features that are different from the stalactites we find in Kalymnos, for example. In the overhanging faces, you really feel like you're climbing in 3D, as if you were in an underground cave with really beautiful, sculpted formations. On the southern-facing cliffs, there is more slab climbing, vertical walls with long tufa columns, and ripples formed from water droplets. The routes are really featured, with lots of holds, and grades up to 8c+.
How was Andrea received in Manikia?
The locals really understand what's happening with the Petzl RocTrip; creating a common project and developing a form of ecotourism driven by climbing. Over the last few years, the route developers have gotten to know the people that live here and in turn, the locals have learned about climbing. We received an incredible welcome, despite that most people here have trouble believing that rock climbing is a real sport, that you can spend all your time climbing, even make a living from it! In the town, people get by on very little. Manikia is a village with a lot of older people living there, and they love young people! When I arrived with Jérémy, we parked the car right below the climbing and rode bikes to the crag every day. From the first night we arrived, we'd take walks through the town, sometimes looking for something to eat. People in the village prepared food for us, Greek omelets with fries and salad, and they always refused payment. They just wanted to enjoy our company!
As a team leader, what was your role while you were in Manikia?
I didn't have time to establish a single route while I was there because of the tight schedule we had for creating content for the upcoming Petzl RocTrip. We filmed for different clinics, like multi-pitch, safety, rescue, using a portaledge — it was new for me. In addition to the purely climbing aspect, there has been a real desire to include the locals, and we shared a lot of moments of daily life with them, like harvesting olives or mushrooms. We also cooked traditional meals together. Collaborating with the community is extremely important — the goal is for the Greek people to be the first to benefit from all this development.
How did Andrea find a role to play in this project in Manikia?
When we arrived, we contacted Kostas Argiris, who we had talked to at Petzl. He's a climber, a member of the rescue team, as well as a beekeeper and owner of a small shop. Kostas was our guide for exploring the region. Thanks to him, we were able to meet other people from the area. And show that we were curious about them and their lives, not just arriving as consumers and then leaving right away. We found it hard to believe that in this rock climbing paradise, there wasn't a sole climber! The kids in the town don't play a lot of sports, so we decided that it would be great to organize an introductory session with them at the elementary school in Konistres. We wanted the kids to see that it was a sport they could participate in, not just be spectators. We asked everyone we knew in the area to help us prepare for this day, and we also invited kids from neighboring schools to join us. In total, 150 kids were able to participate and have fun on the Andrea wall. Charlotte Durif and Aymeric Clouet from Team Petzl gave us a hand setting up the wall in the school courtyard. We also held workshops for slacklining and rope access, and we screened a short film about what we've done so far. The idea was to contribute in a concrete way to the project in Manikia by including locals from every generation, and showing them that we are doing something, moving forward together to create a brighter future.
How do you imagine Manikia in the future?
The opposite of what happened in Kalymnos, where climbing was considered from an economic point of view without worrying about the locals or the environment. We just saw a climbing paradise, everyone wanted to take a climbing vacation there, and today this poses major health problems. The Greek people didn't necessarily benefit from the climbing boom. In Manikia, the energy is coming from the locals and there will be training on how to bolt the climbs, develop a rescue team, think about and then create infrastructure. The idea is to create awareness and educate above all else, and to put things in place little by little. And things are happening — in one year, a local from the valley opened a bar-pizzeria and it has become a staple for climbers! We encourage people who live in the valley to take action to make Manikia an attractive and well-preserved place, where it makes sense to come and climb, to benefit the people here without causing damage.
To learn more, create an account on the Petzl RocTrip online portal.