Climbing in Meteora – Sudostwand Doupiani – Southeast Wall – Plaka

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.

South-east face – Sudostwand


Although in Meteora there are many different sectors, we decided to climb again in Doupiani, but this time a much more serious and rather difficult route. The first experience in Meteora, and especially on the  grey-brown conglomerate, was positive enough and therefore we headed for the Sudostwand that was first ascent by Sepp Eichinger Hans Weninger and Stefan König on April 11th 1979.

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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 village. Also you can drive with your car to the base of the tower. There is a parking place right at the bottom of the South East wall, and just next to the Papastathis Guesthouse.

Sudostwand Doupiani – Southeast Wall – Plaka Doupianis 160 m. VII- (VI+ obl.)

Sudostwand, is located on the Doupiani Rock, which is for sure the most popular rock in Meteora. It has less than one minute approach from the parking lot, and is a serious but beautiful route. It offers different kind of climbing techniques and the view from each belay is simply magnificent.

First Ascent: Sepp Eichinger, Hans Weninger and Stefan König on April 11th 1979.

Sudostwant 160 m. VII- UIAA

Route report

Hike for less than a minute to the base of the face. There, is an easy ground to belay.

Pitch 1 ( 25 m. VI- UIAA, 5 bolts):

The Sudostwand starts relatively easy, and actually is easy to underestimate the first pitch. The first part of Pitch 1, is going for about 10 meters on III UIAA with good holds and foot placements, but near the belay, the pitch becomes a bit tougher with tiny holds and poor stones for the feet. Near the first belay (R1) the difficulty of the route is about VI- UIAA. For the first 25 meters, there are only 5 bolts and there is not any option for gear placement.

View of the entire South East face
first meters of Pitch 1


Beautiful view from R1

Pitch 2 ( 30 m. VI UIAA, 5 bolts):

The R1 is not very comfortable and not in the ideal spot, and therefore we had to move rather fast towards the R2.

This second pitch, has a constant difficulty of V+ UIAA, and the crux is rated VI UIAA.

The R2 is within a large hole/cave in the rock and it is very comfortable. On that point, we were able to decide the strategy for the upcoming pitches. Also in this pitch, there are 5 bolts.

R2 – view
Cave on the south-east face

Pitch 3 ( 35 m. III UIAA, 1 bolt):

The third pitch is the easiest pitch and starts right at the right end of the cave. The difficulty of this pitch had nothing to do with climbing, but it has to do with the run-out management.

One has to first climb about 15 meters of III UIAA, and then to traverse almost walking. Though, all this is done with just one bolt in place. The R3 is located on the second cave as we see the south east face from bellow.

This easy pitch, is very important to be climbed fast because the upcoming 4th pitch is a much more difficult one.

Pitch 4 ( 35 m. VII- UIAA, 9 bolts):

Pitch 4 starts at the far left side of the second cave and the beginning goes with a rather exposed traverse with tiny holds and minuscule stones for foot placement. I found the traverse quite difficult, because the climber is very exposed and the technical difficulty is about VI.

As soon the traverse is done, and you might think that the traverse was the crux, the real crux starts and is a VII- climb with a rather good run-out. The climb can become VI A0, but I certainly felt uncomfortable on that point.

The traverse is well protected with about 5 bolts, and the rest of the pitch and till R4 had another 4 bolts.

The traverse on the Sudostwand (Photo by C.Rigas)
The traverse on the Sudostwand (Photo by C.Rigas)
Belaying at the R4

Pitch 5 ( 35 m. VI- UIAA, 3 bolts):

After the exposed traverse and the VII- crux of Pitch 4, it was time to move ahead to the last Pitch of Sudostwand. This is a really nice chimney with a V+ difficulty. The climber will find only 2 bolts in the entire chimney, but can protected with gear placement (nuts and friends).

At the end of the chimney, the climber should go to the left side and come again onto the vertical slab that will lead to R5. The final part of the climb,  on the slab had an extended run-out but can be well protected with nuts and/or friends.

Pitch 5 – Chimney V+
Pitch 5 – Chimney V+
Pitch 5 – Chimney V+
Pitch 5 – Chimney V+

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.

Abseiling to the North Side of Doupiani

Geology and rock climbing

The rock is a grey-brown conglomerate. It is believed that the needles began to form in the Tertiary – about 60 million years ago – starting from the materials deposited at the border of the Thessaly plain when the prehistoric sea waters, which previously covered the plain, withdrew. Slowly the conglomerates needle were then sculpted over the millennia, by water, wind and earthquakes. The texture of Meteora rock results from a mix of pebbles, cobbles and larger stones, packed into a rock surface which appears like concrete but actually is a mixture of conglomerate and sandstone. Sometimes cobbles have come loose from the rock to leave shallow holes in their place.

What emerges is a peculiar climbing style, mainly slabby and balancy on cobbles, consisting in exploiting small or large pebbles protruding, or otherwise the holes remained where the same pebbles were formerly located. As soon as you get used to it, the climb will provide fun and generally little tiring.

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6 thoughts on “Climbing in Meteora – Sudostwand Doupiani – Southeast Wall – Plaka

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