At six AM the lights in the refuge were unceremoniously turned on, so it was time to go climb a mountain! After a quick breakfast, I left as fast as possible so as to have some time away from the students.
Mount Olympus is on the east coast of the Greek mainland, with the Adriatic to the east. There were low clouds, so I couldn’t see the sunrise directly, but I still had some great views of the reflections on the water.
There will likely be a LOT of pictures in this post. I’ll try to think of something interesting to say about all of them, but let’s be honest – they speak for themselves a lot better than I can.
As I got higher above the refuge, the clouds started to roll in. Below me. They were moving astonishingly quickly – it was almost like watching the surf come in.
Rounding a curve into the final valley, I was completely alone – I don’t know where the guy in the last picture went, but I didn’t see him for half an hour at least.
Well – not QUITE alone.
It’s hard to see, but that silhouette is a mountain goat. Four of them started well above me, and crossed the path behind me to reach the bottom of the valley as I continued to climb. This was the most demanding part of the ascent – I’d estimate the grade at thirty to forty percent.
When you reach the top, it actually comes as a bit of a shock – from below, it looks like the rest of the slope, but when you get there, you realize it’s a sheer drop off the other side, so you must have arrived!
A word about the geography. Olympus is what is technically known as a massif, meaning that there are a number of different peaks. The first one you reach, from which the view above was taken, is called Skala. It’s the third highest peak. On the left of the picture is Skolio, the second highest, and on the right is Mytikas, the highest. Mytikas is a far more difficult climb than the other two, and many climbers opt to skip it. Including me.
Instead, I turned left, and headed for Skolio. By this time, the high school students had caught up with me. It’s not JUST that they were in better shape – they also had a guide who managed to find a way around the 40 percent grade I mentioned earlier.
And here I am at the top of Skolio – 2912 meters, which is pretty darn high:
The bowl behind Olympus is apparently known as “Zeus’ Cauldron.”
At the top of Skolio, there’s a log book to sign. I wrote “What an amazing trip. I wish Leigh were here too.”
By this point, almost all of the high school students had made it to the top, and it was starting to feel a bit like rush hour.
Mindful that I had a five hour or so walk down to the car, it was all too soon time to head down. The walk down was just as uneventful as one might hope, and just as beautiful as the way up.
After two hours or so, I reached the refuge and had lunch. On resuming my descent, I passed the same mule train coming up that I had encountered on its way down yesterday. Every ounce of gas that had powered my wifi the previous evening had been schlepped up to the refuge by one of these sturdy little critters.
Upon reaching the parking lot, it was time to meet up with Leigh – but not back in Thessaloniki. In another hare-brained scheme, we had decided that she would take a bus and meet me in Kalimbaka. So I got in the car and headed out. Passing the ranger station on the way out, there was no sign of nice ranger lady. There was, however, a flock of ten or so goats milling around and standing on the fence to reach leaves. I hope they didn’t eat her.
At this point, I made a fatal error – I trusted the GPS a bit too much, and ended up taking a route that was at least an hour longer than optimal. Instead of spending most of the drive to Kalimbaka on a nice interstate-style highway, I first drove through crowded, twisty, narrow downtown streets in Katerini, and then spent three hours on twisty, switchbacky country roads. Fun to drive on, but not “I’d sure like to do this for a whole extra hour!” fun. Stupid GPS.
Also, I had to wait at one point for an enormous flock of goats to cross the road. That was actually sort of awesome. Wish I had a picture. I found our hotel in Kalimbaka, checked in, and settled down with the parrot in the town square to wait for Leigh’s arrival.
- Means of Transportation Employed: Rental Car
- Highest Point: Skolio, Mount Olympus – 2912 meters
- Total water consumed during Olympus visit – 4.5 liters.
- Awesome factor: 11