The Ha Gorge in East Crete, Climbing in Crete
(republished with the permission
of the ClimbinCrete
Article: Stelios Asmargianakis, Photos: Stelios Asmargianakis,
During my childhood, long before I started dealing with
mountaineering and climbing, I often traveled with my family to Southern
Crete and specifically to the small village of Vainia, 2 km away from
Ierapetra,which is my mothers birthplace.
The 110 km long journey is really beautiful,
except the first 40 km on the National Road. But what has always been
kept in my memory is the first time I saw the Ha Gorge. With its vertical,
higher than 300 m rocks and its 6-10 m width it is certainly one of the
most impressive sights in the area, or better the most impressive one!
Time passed-by and every summer I used to visit Vainia but the gorge
was always in my mind. Someday I must explore it, Ive always
thought. 15 years later here I am with my friend Antonis Papadakis in
the bushy woods of Thrypti, buried in the tent, talking about Ha! The
time had come! I felt so excited about what was expecting us in the gorge
that I couldnt sleep. The same thing must have happened with my
friend, so we kept chatting until one oclock in the morning. When
I checked my watch the hands showed 1.05 am. My eyes were closing but
my thoughts werent
they still twisted in my mind.
chirp of the birds was heard in the woods and at the first light we woke
up. It was six o clock and after a fast breakfast we stated packing.
A bit later we put on our neoprene outfit, which proved necessary, and
we started walking. We started idly looking for the entrance of the gorge
until we found a good tree trunk for the first abseil (climb down). At
8.50 the dream of my life had become true; I was in HA! The first outcry
-wow! - was spontaneous, then Antonis came down and we started climbing
down. Not further than 10 m away there came the second abseil. All in
all the abseils in the Ha Gorge number 26 of a length varying from 10
to 45 m.
having abseiled for about ten times there was a not so pleasant surprise
for us: a wonderful overhang ending into a big silt! We could smell it
stink even before abseiling from 35 m higher. After a brief discussion
I started descending. In the end there was a lot of fun though it stank
intensively, as the water was still and full of anything like dead pigeons,
If I remember well, we had to swim 6-8 times in the gorge
in total but the second climber can avoid one or two times with some
effort from the first one. Everything seemed to be normal and our pace
was quite fast when trouble came! A rope was stuck during pulling it
back. Our efforts to remove it were unsuccessful and, as a reasonable
result, we cursed our luck! There was one single and simple solution
to our problem: to cut the rope. Half-hearted Antonis climbed up some
meters in order to cut as little as possible. Then the sound I heard
broke my heart; scratch-scratch and 5 m of rope were gone, luckily not
With low moral but full attention we set off for the remaining
part of the gorge. Abseils followed one another without any problems
and then I heard something marvelous:
Thats all Stelios! They were Antoniss words, who
was the first to go down the last abseil. Some moments later I was at
the end, too. The questions about the Ha Gorge that I had been carrying
for 15 years climbed down with me and vanished in the air
My impressions in two words
Some technical matters about the Ha Gorge:
attention is required at the belays that are not secured with bolts. During
our descent we maintened some belays and placed some securities like slings,
Be extremely careful how you place and pull back the ropes
to avoid being in trouble.
If there are two of you, you must have 3 ropes, 2 jumars,
enough cords for prusik and securities and 5-6 pitons as well. If there
are more of you, multiply the number! The neoprene outfit is necessary
except if you havent taken a bath for two months!
In any case you should have a first aid kit with you and
be aware of your allergies, as the gorge is full of insects and God knows
of what else!
Dont forget your helmet! In case of a stone falling,
however, you should be very lucky, as the gorge is quite narrow
at some points it is no wider than 1.5 m.
As soon as you see or hear a stone falling, keep your
Id strongly advise you to inform the people who
have already been there of your attempt they are only 7-8, dont
worry! So, in case something goes wrong, your rescue is possible only
by them, there is no other way. Its impossible to be rescued by
the Fire Brigade, as, in such case, there will fall so many stones that
you wont look the same when you get out! Just take care not to destroy
the pigeon eggs that are plenty in the gorge.
care when you finish some abseils in the water not to get enwrapped by
the ropes. Therefore a proper gathering of the ropes is the first and
the last thing you must have in mind.
Do not attempt to climb down the gorge if 15 days of sunshine
havent preceded. At about 3/5 of the gorge there is a bolt from
which you can abseil ending into a silt. Ignore it and traverse to the
right as you come down, where you find another belay and avoid the water.
Personally we didnt avoid it, as we didnt ignore the bolt!
Put on socks and shoes, not sandals! You must have already realized that
after the first two abseils there is no return.
Dont go to the gorge if you dont grab it! Take
special care when you take your rucksacks down! In general you must take
into consideration that all abseils are partly or fully hangovers. Thats
all! If you are careful enough, everything will be all right and you will
be left with a big, sweet smile at the end of the gorge, just like me.
Have a good climb down!
How to get to Ha gorge:
Follow the national road from Iraklio to Agios Nikolaos
and then to Ierapetra. In the Episkopi village you must follow the off
road (ask anyone on the village about where is Thripti) for 10 km and
we camp near a small church. The church is located on the left of the
road and from there you can see the beginning of the Ha gorge. Then you
must hike for 10 minutes until you'll do the first abseil. For details
see the map section.