OPEN LETTER TO THE CLIMBING COMMUNITY | DEC. 2020
Why we feel we need to explain a few things at this moment:
Last summer the municipality of South Kynouria announced plans to create a set of rules for climbing in Leonidio in collaboration with Aris T, including the publication of a new guidebook. In light of these events we, the Panjika Cooperative, would like to take this opportunity to share some insight into this situation.
While we share the wish to make Leonidio more accessible to visitors, this approach fails to take into account any concerns about sustainability, our impact on nature, and climbing tradition.
Ever since we started developing Leonidio as a climbing destination, communication with the municipality has not been easy, mainly because the approach and the values they pursue are very different from those at the heart of the Panjika Cooperative. The main aim of the municipality and the developers they support is to drive tourism. When it comes to bolting this means favouring quantity over quality, which includes bolting an entire sector without testing or properly cleaning the routes, over-grading, grid bolting, chipping holds, etc. However, while we share the wish to make Leonidio more accessible to visitors, this approach fails to take into account any concerns about sustainability, our impact on nature, and climbing tradition. Leonidio is already such an attractive climbing destination, with so much incredible quality rock. There is space for all types of climbers to enjoy what it has to offer and no need to grid bolt and over-grade to make it more appealing.
Since we started being active in the area in 2013, it has been our purpose to create an infrastructure for climbing and other activities that allows locals and people from all over the world to enjoy the exceptional rock in Leonidio, while also respecting the local community, preserving nature, and promoting an open and honest conversation between climbers, bolters and the local people. We have made every effort to keep the area safe, to develop crags to a high standard, and to reduce the danger of accidents.
Our vision was to create a climbing destination that did not follow the model of commercial tourism.
Why we publish our guidebooks in the first place:
We never received financial support from the municipality, so publishing a guidebook would provide us with the financial independence to continue developing Leonidio in accordance with our values and ethics. Our vision was to create a climbing destination that did not follow the model of commercial tourism.
All the profits from our first Panjika guidebook were used to pay for the local infrastructure, bolting, and maintenance. Panjika and friends have contributed to the bolting of some 700 routes, financing around €53,000 worth of equipment. Much of this has been generated through the sales of our two guidebooks and some €10,000 came out of our own members’ pockets. Not to mention the endless volunteer hours we have committed to bolting, cleaning routes, collecting information, and supporting the local community via social projects.
At no point in the process of the publication of their new guidebook has the municipality approached us, sought cooperation or communication. Instead, they took the information that we have provided, meaning our time and our labour, in an unethical way and used this information in the production of their own book.
It is not our intention to claim ownership. We have always been open with the information we have because we believe it should be shared, and ultimately it will only benefit climbing in Leonidio. However, the municipality took advantage of this to benefit just one person, not the wider community. Aris’s guidebook promises to provide just €20,000 of funding, despite having all the financial support from the municipality and a large part of the information already collected by us. We, therefore, ask all climbers coming to Leonidio to be aware of this situation before making a choice to support the new guidebook.