Mt. Olympus

Trip Start Jun 10, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Greece  , Macedonia Region,
Tuesday, October 7, 2008

This was one stop that we have been looking forward to for some time - and it didn't disappoint. Mt. Olympus rises about 3,000 metres almost right from the water as it is on the coast. Greek mythology portrayed the throne of Zeus to be atop the mountain. In the old Hercules cartoons he used to run up the mountain to meet with Zeus and ever since I was a kid I wanted to do the same (although there wasn't much running).

We arrived at our hostel and met our host who is a bit of an expert on Mt. Olympus. We went over the possible routes that we could take with the time frames that the daylight gives us. We decided to head out the next morning and get dropped off at the base of the trail. One the way to the trail we were told that the day before a Bulgarian climber fell and broke his leg climbing Mytikas (the tallest and most dangerous of the peaks). They sent a rescue helicopter to pick him up and they crashed into the mountain in high winds.
Everyone involved in the accidents ended up being ok, but it was a shocking start to our journey. We were told that it would take about 7.5 hours to get to the summit and back down to Refuge A where we would spend the night. We made it to Refuge A on the way up after about 2 hours and stopped for lunch. This Refuge is at about 2,100 metres and is only accessible by mountain path. Therefore all of their supplies are
delivered by mule! And this place holds up to 120 people-that is a lot of mule trips. The person who runs the Refuge warned us about trying to climb Mytikas which is at 2,918 metres high. Apparently there was a big hailstorm and much of the peak is covered in ice. The last 50 metres or so is also a scramble up and across loose shale on a 45-degree angle. We decided to make the decision when we got there.

We headed out from our lunch break and after climbing past the tree line and up snow covered paths and an insane amount of loose rocks, we reached Skala. Skala is the third highest point on the mountain at about 2,866 metres. It is situated between the other two peaks Mytikas at 2,918 and Skolio at 2,912. One look at
Mytikas was all it took. We awed at the guys who had just finished their summit with all their ropes, harnesses, and countless other gear and headed to Skolio. For six metres we didn't think the risk was worth it. I was also feeling it pretty good by that point after chasing a robot (Meg) up the mountain all day. We made it to Skolio in a total of 4 hours, a full hour and a half shorter than we expected so not bad. We signed the guest book that is in a metal box at the summit, which was a pretty cool thing. The views were amazing. There was not a cloud in the sky and apparently you can see for 200km in all directions. Absolutely
breathtaking. After savouring the moment we headed back down to the Refuge where we planned on spending the night.

The Refuge is very well run and organized, but very bare bones. The only heat is the fire in the dining room, the lights go out in the whole place at 10 (even though we were in bed by 8), you must vacate the room (which was 10 single beds lined along two sides of the attic) by 8am, and for some reason you are not allowed
to play card games. We didn't understand but there was a big sign stating this. Anyway, after our night's rest and portion of bread in the morning we headed down the mountain. We were going to go right down to Litochoro, a town at the base of the mountain at the end of a gorge. It was a gorgeous walk that took about 6 hours. It was pretty intense as it was not just downhill the whole way but steep rolling hills up and down for about 5 hours. Our legs were quite happy to walk on the flat paved streets of town, and even happier to be resting in bed after a solid two days of climbing. We later found out that Mt. Olympus claims a life or two each year as it may not be the tallest mountain out there, but it is surely challenging and most intimidating. We loved the experience, and the excitement that we felt at the summit was indescribable. After a well-deserved sleep, we are heading to Thessaloniki to stick to the pavement for a couple of days to round out our visit to Greece.

Megan and Kevin
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