Climbing and Culture in Turkey: Part 1

Climbing in Turkey revolves around Antalya. When climbers think of Antalya, one name springs to mind: Geyikbayiri. To most climbers this is what puts Turkey on the climbing map. This is the hub of climbing in the country, with the highest concentration of routes and easy access. However, not exploring Turkey’s other offerings would be a mistake. Çitdibi and Olympos are both fantastic places to climb, easily done in a day trip from Geyikbayiri. There are also other areas spread throughout the country, such as Datça, Izmir and Bafa Gölü. One of our biggest regrets was not visiting Datça, which looks like a fantastic venue. We spent three months climbing, mostly based in Geyikbayiri and this will be the main focus of this article. Part 1 will concentrate purely on the climbing and crags, while part 2 will focus on culture, history and rest day activities.

Orange limestone wall of Sarkit sector dripping with tufas. Climber is half way up JaJa City.
Climbing the Awesome JaJa City, 7a+, sector Sarkit.

Geyikbayiri is a small village in the mountains, around half an hours drive from Antalya. The various sectors surround the village, some above and some below the main road. There is a sector suitable for climbing in almost any weather, with sunny, shaded and perma-dry crags all easily accessible. We found the style of climbing could vary massively between sectors, which adds a lot to the experience of climbing here. Below we have summarised some of our favourite sectors and what we liked about them.

Climber on Greek Gift at Trebenna sector
Greek Gift 7b at Trebenna

Trebenna:

Trebenna is a gorgeous and unique crag comprised of steep caves, pillars and archways. If Antoni Gaudi had designed a crag it might look something like Trebenna. Having climbed extensively in Europe I can say I’ve never been to a crag that looks like this before. The routes are of a high standard and climb striking lines and features. The crag is located near a river with a nice pool you can jump in post climb. Trebenna is always in the shade so it is a great option for warmer days. It’s perfectly possible to climb in mid winter, just bring a big jacket for belaying. Your first time climbing at Trebenna might feel like a trial. Some routes can feel a bit devious and unusual at first but once you’ve got your eye in there is a lot here to savour and enjoy. 

Photos don’t do this crag justice, the best way to appreciate it is to climb there yourself and soak in the atmosphere. Some of our favourites routes at Trebenna were: Greek Gift, Rattlesnake Saloon, Lycian Highway, Freedom is a Battle, Sucker Punched, Flower Tower and Diplomarbeit.

Pillars of Trebenna sector with the mountain Geyik Sivrisi in the background
Trebenna and Geyik Sivrisi

Sarkit

Sarkit is another of Geyikbayırı‘s star sectors and arguably has the best climbing here. This crag faces south and gets the sun for most of the day, making it a great winter venue. A key feature of the routes here is tufas, there are loads of them dripping down the crag. Sarkit is also blessed with lots of aesthetic lines, the climbing style feels different to Trebenna providing some good variety. Sarkit has nice long routes on excellent rock and with a great view of Geyik Sivrisi, the mountain overlooking Geyikbayırı.

There is also a great spread of grades at Sarkit with some great lines and superb quality at different difficulties. Some of the best routes we did were JaJa City, Lu, Bizon, Melting Souls, Zalia, Yagmur Duasi, Skyline,  Saxafon and Psycho Sheppard. 

Sarkit sector with the two caves
The stunning sector Sarkit

Magara

The Magara sector is just along from Sarkit on the same section of crag and also has some high quality routes. The climbing here is just like Sarkit but with the added bonus of some routes staying shaded longer than Sarkit. It is a smaller sector but the routes here are brilliant and just as accessible. It is equally close to the Anatolia sector which also has many great routes. These sectors could easily be the ‘main event’ in a lot of climbing areas but here they are almost a bonus, sitting alongside the best crags giving you a lot of stunning routes to choose from. Some of our Favourite routes here included: Uçan Teneke, Agustos Böcegi, Karinca, Ten Year Anniversary, Nirvana and Amele.

Climber on Karinca at Magara
Karinca, 7a
Magara sector

Alabalik

The Alabalik sectors are down by the river in a nice quiet location. I found the climbing style here felt like a halfway house between Trebenna and Sarkit. The ‘Balkon 4’ sector was my favourite and has some really classic routes. I did what was possibly my favourite route of the trip at this sector, River Dance. The route is just under thirty meters long and has a huge variety of moves on it, climbing through steep dramatic ground. This quality can be found on the other routes here as well, and it is a sector well worth visiting.

Climber on River Dance at Alabalik sector
River Dance 7b+, at sunset

Mevlana and Barbarossa

These two sectors are on the upper tier, in the same band of crags as Sarkit and Magara but a kilometre or so further downhill. The climbing is similar, however some of the routes here have more of a conglomerate element to them. The routes are nice and long and have some unique features, such as large stalactites or small caves climbed like a giant thread. Our favourite routes here were Rock Republic, L’Homme a L’Envers, Bartabas and Barbarossa.

Climber is appearing out of a giant thread of Barbarossa at the top of the route. The best 6a in Geyikbayiri at the Barbarossa sector.
Appearing from the thread on Barbarossa, 6a
Enjoying a mid route rest on Bartabas 7a+

Çitdibi

Çitdibi is a phenomenal crag, often dubbed the Turkish Ceuse. The Kanyon sector is the main event and has all the best routes, most of which are quite difficult. The scale of the crag is impressive, being well over one hundred meters. It has multi pitch routes as well as rope busting forty meter single pitches. Tufas run down the crag like racing stripes, with lots of beautiful colours and shapes. Seepage can be an issue here in the winter months as snow melts on the mountain above.

The length of the routes lends the style to sustained and pumpy climbing. The long hard routes are intimidating at first but they are well bolted and along with the endurance style it is a great venue to try hard and jump on a route that might be above your pay grade. The Kanyon sector is spectacular and has the benefit of being in the shade for the first twenty meters or so, giving a nice cool belay spot. The downside is the starts of the routes are slower to dry. It is easily done in a day trip from Geyikbayiri with a car, a bike or even hitchhiking. However, there is also a campsite near the crag so it is possible to stay longer term.

Climber on Caro James Wedding Present at Çitdibi
Taking a break on Caro James Wedding Present, 8a+
Woman stood in the deep Kanyon of Çitdibi.
Entering the Kanyon sector

Olympos

Olympos is a village near to Çirali, famous for its beautiful beach with mountain views and crystal clear water. Around Olympos there are a number of excellent climbing sectors which combine great rock with stunning settings and make for an amazing climbing experience. I will describe the two best sectors we visited here, both of which are truly standout venues, well worth the journey to go and visit.

Orange sunrise with the waves lapping  at Olympos beach.
Sunrise at Olympos

Cennet:

Cennet is a striking limestone crag, in a gorgeous setting by the sea. You pass by ancient ruins on the approach to the climbs after crossing the stunning Olympos beach. The rock here is a beautiful type of flowstone. The crag almost feels like one giant calcite sheet. Each hold is either an intrusion or pocket into the rock, or a blob of calcite on top. This, combined with the plumb vertical walls, gives a really enjoyable style of climbing with great movement. This is perhaps best exemplified by The Trooper, one of my favourite routes here. The beginning of the climb has a traverse from right to left, on good but spaced pockets. Other than these pockets there are absolutely no holds, the rock is totally smooth and almost shiny. The sequence of moves here are fantastic and feel quite improbable.

There are lots of other quality routes of a similar style, as well as some striking thin crack lines. The majority of routes, are in the mid 7s although there are enough easier and harder routes to make it worth a visit for anyone.

Smooth wall of Cennetwith orange and blue streaks
Beautiful stone at Cennet

Ceneviz:

Ceneviz is one of the most exciting sectors we visited in Turkey. To get there most people get dropped off by a power boat which takes around fifteen minutes from Olympos. Instead we paddled there in an inflatable kayak we borrowed from some friends. This was great fun and added a lot to the experience of climbing there, also a good warmup! We had previously tried to walk there, which is possible but an enormous pain in the backside. Comparatively going by boat is a pleasure and worth the effort of borrowing or hiring. When you arrive, there are two sectors Ceneviz Liman and Ceneviz Magara. We visited both sectors, which are equally impressive, but did not climb at Magara because of seepage. We will return one day in better conditions.

Ceneviz Liman is right by the sea and has some stunning wall climbs on the right (facing in) and some amazing 3D climbs through a massive cave dripping with tufas and stalactites on the left. I was gobsmacked when we arrived in the boat as the crag and the location are absolutely awesome. I enjoyed Lost in Dream, a 25 meter 7b+ as much as any route of its style I’ve ever done. The 8a+ extension is 40 meters and looked even better but was beyond me! The sector doesn’t get visited frequently, so there was not much chalk and no polish on the routes. This added a lot to the experience and enjoyment of the venue.

Woman paddling in sea kayak to Ceneviz. The rock is towering above.
Arriving at the crag
The tufas dripping from the cave
A view of the cave
Man climbing in Ceneviz hanging in the roof by one giant tufa!
Lost in Dream
The view of Lost in Dream from a ledge, as the climbing starts to get steep!

Summary

I hope this post has been useful and has provided some good recommendations and inspiration for climbing in Turkey. There is a great deal on offer here and I’m sure new crags are waiting to be discovered as climbing grows in popularity. The three months we spent here were incredibly enjoyable and we never ran out of things to do both climbing and on rest days. Keep an eye out for part 2 which will focus on culture, history and rest day activities. Thanks for reading.

Relavent links

Camping in Çitdibi

https://www.masalrefuge.com

Campsite where we bought a kneepad from – really friendly and useful owners!

https://www.flyinggoat.camp

3 thoughts on “Climbing and Culture in Turkey: Part 1

  1. Lizzy 4th Aug 2021 / 11:38 AM

    Great article, absolutely wonderful photography.

    Like

Leave a Reply to TheCragJournal Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s