After spending a semester climbing indoors at my schools indoor bouldering wall, I was itching to experience real rock for the first time. Fortunately my Turkish bouldering friends also climb outdoors, and on a beautiful Saturday in May they took me for my first real rock experience.

We went to Ballikayalar Park, the meca of climbing in Istanbul the climbing book said. To get here we were fortunate enough to have a car. From Kadikoy the drive is about 1 hr depending on traffic. The park itself is close to my school Sabanci, in the Tusla area. As we were driving through Tusla it was hard to imagine there was a beautiful park around the corner, it is a very industrial place full of factories and warehouses. Finally we turned off the main road, passed a factory, and there several km in the distance we could finally see a beautiful piece of nature! Even from a distance you could see the large rock walls we would be climbing.

At the parking lot there is somewhat of a bazaar, a nice picnic area and a restaurant. It was quite busy with people enjoying the nice weather. To get to the climbing area we hiked approximately 1 km over some interesting terrain. There is a stream that runs through the middle of the canyon, with climbing walls on both sides. My Turkish friends led the way, and chose our first route. I found climbing on real rock more challenging than I expected, and 100% different than indoor bouldering. You often can’t see where your next hold is, and have to search for it. The Turks were able to do lead climbing, but being inexperienced myself I stuck to top rope.

I can’t remember the level of the routes, but will add them back to this post if I do find them. Whatever they were, some were very challenging and some easy enough. I think there will be a challenge for climbers of any level, our guidebook had approximately 30 routes I think. Overall we did 4 different routes, and I had an amazing time on rock. I hope to climb again in Turkey, and have no doubt I will be back out on the real rock again. It was an amazing feeling to be out there in nature, climbing a sheer wall with nothing but your strength and the security of a rope.