Griekenland: Olympus

 (2917 m)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Besides being the country’s
highpoint, Olymbos has always held an important role in the mythology and history
of the place. It is known worldwide as the “Mountain of the Gods”, as the 12
Gods of the ancient Greek religion, made it their home and fortress when
fighting against the Titans (based on Mount Orthri) for control of the
universe.

Throughout the Hellenic history, the area around Olymbos changed hands
repeatedly. Persians, Romans, Slavs, Gaules, Bulgarians, Turks and Germans took
turns in attacking it. The mountain itself, however, has always been free,
providing shelter to those fighting for freedom (and thieves avoiding arrest,
too).
Although ancient Greeks used to climb up to Profitis Ilias to sacrifice to the
Gods, they didn’t dare get close to the highest peaks. Some unsuccessful
attempts to the summit were recorded in the 17th and 19th centuries. Finally,
in August 2 1913 Swiss climbers Fred Boissonas and Daniel Baud Bovy and the
local guide Christos Kakkalos made it to the summit. They named it Venizelos,
after the prime minister who has led the country to victory in the Balkan wars,
and the one to the north “Zeus’ throne”. Those
peaks are today named Mytikas and Stefani.

 

 

 

 

 

Mount Olympos
as seen from Tempi

 

 

 

 

The highest peak of Mount Olympus
Mitikas on March 2002 from the peak Skolio.
The peak on the left side is the
Stefani (Zeus throne).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Route 1. Prionia –
Refuge A – Mytikas

 

 

This is the most popular route in
the summer. It is part of the E4 International trail, very well signed and
maintained. In the high season (mid July – late August) you will rarely be
alone one the trail, at least up to the refuge.

Above the refuge there is less traffic, but the route is still far from been
isolated. When there are a lot of climbers on the summit it’s better to do the
traverse, as in the couloir there is always the chance that the climbers above
you will cause a stonefall.

 

 

 

 

Prionia – Refuge A

 

 

The trail starts after the cabin,
passing over the wooden bridge by the waterfall. It starts ascending through
dense forest.

At 1390m (~1hr) there are two wooden benches in a spot with a great view. Next
to them there is a spring, which usually dries out in the end of the summer.

The best part of the route, known as “the trail of silence” is about
20 minutes away. It moves through a dense forest of beech trees. After that the
trail crosses a ravine bed and starts climbing again, passing near slopes where
the pine trees have been swept by avalanches from Zonaria (that’s why the route
is not popular in the winter). Soon the Refuge becomes visible, as well as the
southern peaks of the Kalogeros ridgeline.

The last section is a bit steeper, and it takes you to the refuge, built on a
location called Balkoni (= balcony) for a reason: it has a perfect view both of
the Litochoro coast and the peaks above. The refuge is very well maintained by
the family of Kostas Zolotas, an old climber and guide of Olymbos since 1955.

More than 10.000 people from abroad climb this part of the trail every year.
Some of them have never climbed a mountain before, and just want to feel the
magnitude of the “Mountain of the Gods”. Many of them return after
having lunch at the refuge.

 

 

Total time: 3hrs

 

 

 

 

Refuge A – Mytikas

 

 

About 100 m after the refuge, there
is a branch of the trail going to the right. It leads directly to the Muses
plateau, in front of Refuge C in about an hour. It is exposed and passes a
short patch of permanent snow.

The main trail continues straight up and comes out of the tree cover. There is
another junction at 2500m with signs and a map.

The right branch leads to Zonaria, the base of the couloirs leading to Mytikas
and Stefani, and the Muses plateau.

The left goes to Agios Antonis and Skolio.

The central (divided into two parallel tracks) ascends to Skala and the exposed
traverse to Mytikas

After summiting, you can reverse the same route or Route 2.

 

 

 

 

In the summer if you use the hut you
don’t need much. A pair of trekking poles, water, some snacks, a hat and
sunscreen are all you need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Route 1. Gortsia – Muses plateau – Mytikas

 

 

Probably the most popular route
among Greek climbers who want to avoid the hordes of tourists on the route from
Prionia, compared to which this one is bit longer but more gentle. On the
downside, it is more exposed to the sun.

 

 

Gortsia or Diastavrosi (=junction)
is just that. A dirt road leaving the road from Litochoro to Prionia (13km from
Litochoro) to the right. After about 30m it stops and the trail begins (there
is a small parking space).

 

 

 

 

Gortsia – Muses plateau

 

 

The trail ascends trough a dense
forest to the west. It soon turns north and in about 1hr reaches a location
called Barba (alt: 1450m) with a wooden table and benches where you can rest.
The trail turns west again and 30min later there is a sign pointing to a spring
called Kolokythia on the right (sometimes it dries out in late August).
Further along the trail, there is a
branch on the left leading to the cave where Spiros Ithakisios lived and
painted landscapes of Olymbos. The main trail continues to Stragos (2hr30′),
where after the (empty) water tank the trail forks again.

The left branch (called Anathema) follows a shorter but steeper (hence the
name) line. The right branch passes by the sheepfold in Petrostrouga (alt:1950m,
3hr15′) and eventually comes above the tree line. Both branches meet on Skourta
(2475m) and the trail continues SW through Lemos (alt:2430m),
a narrow ridge.
From there a zig-zaging section of
the trail leads you to Giosos’ pass. In the summer you can bypass this techical
section from the right. In the winter you have to climb it using the fixed
cable if you want. Having passed this point you are at the edge of the Mousses
plateau (5-6 hrs total).. The trail soon forks again. The left branch leads to
Refuge C at the south edge of the plateau, while the right leads to the “Giosos
Apostolidis” refuge on the saddle between Profitis Ilias and Toumba. Metal
poles are placed along both trails to guide climbers in the winter.

 

 

 

 

Muses plateau – Mytikas

 

 

From the Muses plateau the trail
goes south towards the base of Stefani. It traverses the peaks massif getting
into Zonaria. The traverse brings you under the two couloirs. The first leads
to Stefani, the second to Mytikas. They are both clearly marked. The route from
this point involves some easy scrambling and a lot of exposure. Be very careful
when there are lots of climbers in the couloir because they can cause stone
fall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waterfall in Ag.Dionysios

 

 

 

 

The trail from
Diastavrosi to the Muses plateau.

 

 

 

 

The last steep section of the trail
before it arrives on the Muses plateau.

 

 

 

 

The Muses plateau. This peak is
called Stefani or Thone of Zeus (Dias in Greek). Mytikas is barely vissible
behind it. You can see the Kakalos refuge on the left, and the trail on the
right leading to Apostolidis refuge.

 

 

 

 

The rock layers known as Zonaria.
The path from the Muses plateau to the peaks (on the left of the pic) moves
parallel to these layers.

 

 

 

 

Climbers on the
couloir leading to Mytikas.

 

 

 

 

Olymbos is a national park so
certain restrictions apply. Also foreigners who want to spend a night in Refuge
B need a permit because it is located in a military area. The permit is
necessary for passing through that area on your way to the peaks and can be
obtained through
Hellenic National Defence General Staff.

 

 

 

 

Climbing Olymbos is possible around
the year. However winter ascends are quite demanding as the weather can get
really bad in minutes. In the summer it’s one of few mountains in Greece cool
enough to climb (you can expect rain or hail even in August). Snowfalls usually
start in October and there is still enough snow in June.

 

 

 

 

There are six refuges on Olymbos. In
all of them you can buy supplies (snacks, bottled water etc.) and in most
(except B) you can order a meal. In the summer they are open on weekends and in
the high season (mid July to late August) every day. In the winter you have to
make arrangements with the maintainers to take the keys

Refuge A, “Spilios
Agapitos” (2060m)

Build in 1931 and named after the first president of EOS (now known as EOOA,
the Hellenic Federation of Mountaineering and
Climbing
) who
designed it. It has 100 beds, water from a spring, electricity and a telephone.
It is visited by thousants of climbers from all over the world every summer. In
the winter the route it is on is not popular.

 

 

Tel: ++30 2352 081800

 

 

Refuge B, “Vryssopoules” (1800m)

It is located in a military area, so foreigners need a permit. It has 40 beds
but no blankets. It belongs to EOOA and is maintained by the Hellenic Skiing and
Mountaineering Club.
Tel: ++30 2493 023467

 

 

 

 

SEO Refuge, “Giosos Apostolidis” (2720m)

Built on the saddle between Profitis Ilias and Toumba peaks, above the Muses
plateau. It bares the name of one of the pioneers of Greek climbing, Giosos
Apostolidis who was killed in a fall in Mytikas’ couloir. It has 80 beds and
water from a tank and it belongs to the Hellenic Mountaineering Club.
Tel: ++30 231 0224710/++2352
082300

 

 

 

 

A new refuge is being built at
Petrostrouga, on the start of the route to the plateau. Most climbers protested
against a new refuge being built in this environmentally sensitive area,
especially since it’s location doesn’t make it neccessary for climbing the
mountain.

Camping is tolerated above the tree line.
The Muses plateau is a perfect camping site. Just remember to pack all your
garbage out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mytikas (2917m) seen from Skala (2866m).

 

 

 

 

 

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