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Mount Olympus - 1 member in 2 triplogs has rated this an average 5 ( 1 to 5 best )
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Jun 23 2018
DarthStiller
avatar

 Guides 15
 Routes 236
 Photos 6,075
 Triplogs 440

50 male
 Joined Jul 05 2006
 Mesa, AZ
Mount OlympusEurope, WW
Europe, WW
Hiking avatar Jun 23 2018
DarthStiller
Hiking11.70 Miles 6,430 AEG
Hiking11.70 Miles   11 Hrs      1.06 mph
6,430 ft AEG
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
To Hellas and Back.

This was an epic experience, certainly one of the best hikes I've ever done or can ever hope to do. I'm very grateful to be able to do this kind of thing, and also to have the technology available these days to be able to share it so quickly and in so much detail with so many people.

In planning our 4th trip to Serbia to visit my wife's family, we're at the point where our kids are old enough to not have to be constantly watched, and also where I've have enough tours of living rooms that I need to get out and see more of Europe. As we considered various options, I eventually looked at Olympus and found it to only be about a 6 hour drive from Nis. That's totally doable.

The original plan started out to meet up with a hiking group from Belgrade. They ended up having a change in plans that resulted in having to cancel their trip only a week before my departure. This was actually a good thing because going with them meant I had to hike a day after arrival with major jetlag.

I had planned this for nearly 2 months by then that I was determined to still make it happen. I ended up getting one night at Refuge A, and booked 3 nights in Leptokarya, a cheap beach resort town by the see not far from Litochoro. I asked my wife if she wouldn't object to her and I taking a side trip to Greece for 4 days from Serbia so I could do this. It didn't take much persuasion to get her on board.

The original plan was to follow the same route @arizona_water took, up from Gortsia TH and down to Prionia. That route is over 14 miles, a vertical mile the first day, and the route to the peak is very steep and somewhat dangerous. Since I was now totally on my own during the hike, I opted to go up and back from Prionia, which is only about 12 miles, 6500' AEG, and some serious climbing.

I started from the Prionia TH at 7am local time. It was a steep hike up, but the trail is very well maintained, no loose rock. The cooler than AZ temps also make things much easier. I made it 3.5 miles and 3300' AEG in 3.5 hours. On the way up, I met a guy from Poland. He said his name is George Novak (his actual first name is the Polish version of George, which I can't remember how he pronounced). He was very surprised and happy to learn I was from the US and AZ via Pittsburgh at that. He's 66, retired, and living the dream as a full time hiker. His next hike was the Canary Islands. His plans for that day was to go to Skolio, the 2nd highest peak, and get back to watch Poland play in the World Cup. I saw him again at the refuge and talked a bit more. By that time, his plans for Skolio seem to have been changed. I was glad to see him again because after I left him before I forgot to use the only phrase I know in Polish, which means "how are you". As soon as he arrived at the refuge, I used that phrase, to his delight. Fun times in Europe.

The refuge is very nice, but not a hotel. The dorms are not heated, and lights are out (i.e. power off) at 10pm. The dorms are cold, and the cafeteria rooms are too hot with fireplaces raging. Yes, they had fires going in June at 3pm. I was by myself and most everyone else was in groups, so most of my time there was pretty solitary. I arrived very early, so after a super cold shower and lunch, there was alot of time to kill. There is WiFi, but very spotty. No one complained.

After a light night's sleep, I was awake at 4am, my normal hiking wakeup time. Time to make this happen. I had all my stuff packed and headed out into the lobby area of the dorm. I ate breakfast at a table in the dark, cold (45 degrees) with my headlamp. The highlight of breakfast was a tin of beef goulash from a Macedonian gas station. Does life get much better? I think not.

Heading out the door at 5:15am, I was very happy to see not only some daylight, but clear skies. The entire day before was totally cloud covered, with some clearing late in the day. The hike up the trail gave some great views to start, which got better once the direct daylight started to hit.

The trail from Refuge A takes you to Skala, which is the 3rd or 4th highest peak, I think. The trail up to the tree line is kind of loose, with braiding, seems like alot of people cut the switchbacks here more than usual. As the trail cuts from northbound to eastbound towards Skala, it's a total alpine environment, with sleep and loose slopes on the trail. Along this section, I spotted 4 ibexes and a herd of wild horses.

As I got to Skala, I could see Skolio, the 2nd highest peak. I had some intention of trying to get there after reaching Mytikas, but just looking at it, I knew it wouldn't happen this day. At this point the clouds were already starting to roll in and threaten my views from the peak, so it seemed best to try to get there first. Of course, as you get up to 9000', it gets harder to hike as there's less oxygen.

After you reach Skala, to get to Mytikas, the highest peak, you have to follow a route marked by red dots. As I looked over at Mytikas for the first time, it was so close, yet so far away by the rugged terrain which dropped a few hundred feet before ascend a few hundred more. My first impression was there was no way I could make it. I just seemed to dangerous, not only very steep, but following a ridgeline with major exposure on the other side. I had come too far and talked about this way too much to chicken out this quickly. I followed my mantra of taking what's in front of you only and going from there. Once I started, it was a process that didn't stop until i was up at the top.

As I started to ascend, my hiking poles were a hindrance. I also noticed that I was getting extremely hungry and thirsty, probably from being nervous. I paused, stashed the poles, ate a snack, refilled my Camelbak, and was on my way.

As I was just about 100' below the peak, I spotted the first hiker of the day to arrive, beating me by minutes. Followed by a yell of "WOOOOOOOOOOOO!" then a 2nd hiker, then another "WOOOOOOO!". Then a 3rd, 4th, etc followed by louder and louder "WOOOOOO"s. As I got close to the peak, it was strange to feel the excitement of knowing I was finally going to be up there in a legendary spot, the meeting spot of the mythical Greek gods where the fate of mortals was decided.

When I got there, the group that arrived were all speaking Serbian. After an entire night at the refuge of hearing several languages that I couldn't even recognize, let alone understand, it was oddly nice to hear a language I knew (a little) that isn't English. I started talking to them, both in English and Serbian and made friends quickly. Many of them commented that I was very brave to make the ascent completely by myself. I think that was a compliment?

Right after they started to make their descent, two young girls arrived at the peak from the east (blue dot) route, which is very steep and route that @arizona_water took to the top. The one asked if I'm a Steeler fan and then if I'm from the US. The third question was, "is there another way down, because the way we came up was terrifying, and I don't want to go down that way". They came from the other 2 smaller refuges on the Plateau of the Muses and had to head back that way. I told her the way I came up and another alternate route down to the trail below. I had offline mapping on my RouteScout app, which I showed her show they could find the way. Soon after 2 British guys showed up, followed by the clouds that remained for the rest of the day (insert your Brit joke here). We all descended the same route back to Skala together and soon came upon the Serbs, who happened to have ropes. They were nice enough to let us all use their ropes, which was extremely cool. It was at this point that I knew that my purchase of climbing gloves for this hike completely paid for themselves, getting zero rope burns on my hands.

The vibe on the way down was much less stressful for many reasons. The rope, having a large group around you, and the clouds masking the actual exposure all were factors. It was fun to interact with people from so many different countries at the same time.

As they ascended up to Skala from the low point on that route, me and the 4 other native English speakers descended the not well known yellow dot route to the lower trail and back to our respective refuges. On the way down, I encountered at least 2 other British couples who I recognized from Refuge A the night before who needed various bits of direction and advice on where to go. Not to mention that they left all their gear at the refuge travel light up to the peak and back.

I arrived at the refuge about 12:30pm, very hungry and slightly wet from the light rain that started. I got a hot lunch of soup and veal and potato stew and headed back to the trailhead. I expected the hike down from the refuge to take longer, but it's a wonder what a hot meal, some caffeine and ibuprofen can do. I was able to text my wife from the refuge with the wifi connection and told her I would be there by 5. got there by 4 and had time for a beer.

I'm so happy and grateful that I was able to complete this hike and have this experience. thanks to everyone who contributed to helping me along way with advice, info, and along the trail. This was definitely one of the best hikes I've done, and an amazing experience.
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2 archives
Jun 03 2017
arizona_water
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 Guides 8
 Routes 114
 Photos 1,079
 Triplogs 117

29 male
 Joined Mar 06 2016
 Salt River Valle
Mount OlympusEurope, WW
Europe, WW
Backpack avatar Jun 03 2017
arizona_water
Backpack14.91 Miles 7,533 AEG
Backpack14.91 Miles2 Days         
7,533 ft AEG
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
When Melody and I decided to go to Greece this summer, I started looking for some hiking opportunities. I was immediately intrigued by the idea of summiting one of the most recognizable peaks in the world: Olympus. The highest point on the massif is called "Mytikas," and is a technical climb most months of the year. I was really hoping for some serious snow melt by early June.

After spending seven days hopping around some Greek islands, we met up with our friend, Megan, and made our way to the more mountainous parts of Greece. We spent the night in the mountain village of Litochoro and then woke up early the next morning to drive to the Gortsia trailhead. The plan was to complete a one-way horse-shoe shaped track, ascending the north side to the Plateau of Muses where we would spend the night at Refuge Apostolidos (a staffed hikers hut), then summit early the next morning and descend by the more popular southern trail.

As we began our ascent through the forest, I could not help but think of how much this reminded me of the classic hikes in the Swiss & French Alps and the Pyrenees: well marked trails, friendly hikers, and beautiful forests leading to alpine experiences. We passed the first refuge in a couple hours, took a short break, and powered on up the trail to the tree line. The trail up to this point had been easy to follow, but now we were running into some snow and route finding became a little more difficult. In what felt like no time at all, we arrived at our refuge for the night. The hut is staffed year round - winter for mountaineers and backcountry skiers; summer for hikers and climbers. We had a delicious meal of beef stew and "mountain rice" with beer.

At first light, we were on the trail, or what was once a trail. At this elevation, there was still a lot of snow left over from the spring. We followed a visible foot track that had been used a few days prior. This led us below the main summer route and off-trail to a crux in the climb where you gain the top of a ridgeline. We were now back on a dry and visible trail. However, this was badly eroded and we took our time making our way towards a marked route for the summit.

There are two non-technical summit routes. The first approaches from the south and is the most popular. It is well marked with red dots and easy to follow, even in the densest fog. The second approaches from the east and is much steeper and is marked by blue dots. The plan was to not do any backtracking, so we would ascend the blue route and descend the red. We quickly realized that the blue route would be much more challenging than anticipated due to lingering ice and snow. Megan led the way and shouted down foot holds to us as we took our time on the ascent. There's really not much info on the internet about this climb, in English. But one thing I have read is that there are a couple class IV moves prior to the true summit. Going over those rocks was a bit scary, but manageable.

The clouds broke as we summited, and we had excellent views of the Aegean Sea and the entire Olympus Massif.
The descent was easy, by comparison to the ascent. We made good time to the refuge on the southeast side of the mountain, then slowed down a bit as we made our way through the forest. It was refreshing to have new views and terrain to cover on the hike down, since we opted for the shuttled hike over an out-and-back. Oh, and we saw an endangered Greek Ibex!

Once at the Prionia trailhead, we took off our shoes and went swimming in the ice cold creek that flows out of a glacier. I hitchhiked with a nice Russian hiker back to the Gortsia TH to pickup our car.

This was an exhausting and rewarding hike, with enough challenge to leave a lasting impression. It felt amazing to summit THE Mount Olympus. Souvlaki and beer followed.
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- there's nothing like finding Water in the Desert -
3 archives
average hiking speed 1.06 mph

WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

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