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travelling the seven parts of the world
Oct 1st, 2007
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Our alarm clock rang at 6:30. For some unknown reason I knew it was going to be a long day. If we wanted to climb Olympus we had to be up and leaving fast, and we failed quite nicely.

Most people think Mt Olympus is next to Olympia, which is where the Olympic games happened. It makes sense, right? It turns out Mount Olympus is on the other side of Greece entirely. Just a few kilometers from the seaside it stands tall at 2917 meters above sea level, making its relative height one of the highest in Europe. Mount Olympus is actually the Olympus Mountain Range. It seems to make perfect "greek sense" - as in, it makes no sense at all - until you realize that there just isn't one definitive peak: Olympus consists of 3 peaks that are just 8 meters apart in height, with several similarly sized peaks all around the place.

The highest point is Mytikas, the place were Zeus dwells, and fires his lightning bolts from - the place we were going to conquer.

We were completely unprepared. This was not a part of the plan, and had we not been driving around narrow 2 lane roads at 160 km/h (100 mph) we would've never made it. We had no camping gear, no climbing gear, no appropriate footwear, we didn't even have warm clothes (Its Greece, its gotta be hot, riiiight?). One of the kids (a 9 year old) was coming with us, climbing a mountain with one of the highest relative altitudes on this continent.

The only thing I had to go by was a small entry in my guidebook:

It is imperative to camp out overnight or stay in one of the two mountain refuges, rather than attempt to get up and down in a day.

We were gonna go up and down in one day.

After leaving our nice and cozy town we had stayed for the night we headed for the town of Litochoro, which means "City of the Gods", because, of course, its the closest town to Zeus, being at the base of Mount Olympus. We managed to waste an hour trying to find the right road leading up, but did get a map of the region.



The plan of attack was to drive up to a small shelter / cafe at around 1200m above sea level. From there on we'd take a route following one of the valleys until the first refuge, which is located about half way - 2000 m.a.s.l. We had no idea what could be found at a refuge like this, but I wasn't getting my hopes up for sure. From there on its a steep climb to the top.

All this meant conquering a total of around 1700 meters or 5600 feet vertically. I packed my camera, a 0,5l bottle of water and two snickers bars - that's gotta get me through, right?

It was a pretty cloudy day, and there were no views of the mountain - it showed itself only during brief intervals. This was our starting point:





The most difficult part was the initial climb, until your muscles get moving. Once you get in the rhythm, it starts getting easier. The weather was still somewhat warm, and the climb was not too steep, so were pretty happy about it all. We reached the refuge itself at about 11:20, two hours after leaving. I have no idea why anyone would want to stay here for the night - you have just climbed two hours, and you're already stopping? Didn't make any sense.





The refuge itself was great - they use mules to carry up stuff they can sell you at completely unreasonable prices, and we sucked it all up. After some much needed hot tea and stocking up on more food as I had this slight feeling I may not make it with 2 snickers bars after all, we were off again.





This is where it started getting awfully difficult - for starters, we had reached the clouds, and as we walked into them temperatures plummeted. The effect is kind of like climbing into a fridge, which, might I add is great fun anyone should take a shot at. We were now also out in the open, and winds started blowing harder and harder.

The climb also started getting steeper and steeper. By the time we were at the last stretches, every step became a gigantic pain in the arse.

At one point I realized altitude was starting to kick in. Just this morning we were sipping tea at a seaside town, and now we were up at nearly 3000 meters above sea level in a matter of hours. This sort of an altitude change generally manifests itself as you getting tired, it isn't dangerous by any meaning of the word, but you'll be gasping for breath.

We also started meeting people coming downhill who had set out at 6AM or sometime around then. They were all packed full of trekking gear - boots, windproof jackets, walking poles. One of the guy's upon seeing us sighed:

"Whoa, where are you going?"
"All the way!"
"Ahhhh.... really.... OK. You've got about 1.5 hours to go. But that's not the peak, Mytikas. To get to the peak, you'll have to climb all the way to the top, then take a half an hour climb down and then back up. Are you sure you're going the whole way? You don't look like it."





And right he was, at the end of the trail we had "only" reached Skolio, the second highest peak in Greece, at 2911 meters, just 6 meters lower than Mytikas. Climbing those 6 meters meant a half an hour trip downwards and then back up to the next peak in line. Everyone was exhausted, so me and my friend Kriss (being the two, akhem, strong, brave and powerful males) decided to march on.

It was pretty scary. We were cold, exhausted, it was cloudy, and we were obviously having to walk on a ridge, both sides having what looked like an infinite drop off. It was a one-slip-and-you're-minced-meat situation. We were so exhausted, we took a rest after 10 minutes, and then another one after 10 more minutes - and we probably wouldn't have made through the next 10 if we hadn't just reached the top. Along the way on these ridges we notice hooks - places for climbers to hook themselves up to. We looked kind of out of place.









Reach it we did, at exactly 14:19, two Latvians conquered Mytikas, the highest peak of Greece.

NB: Zeus was not there. I was told he was out for a pizza.





We felt revitalized, and getting back didn't even take half an hour. This is a picture of all of us back on Skolio:



It was approximately 3PM, and we had promised to be in Athens by 7PM - that wasn't happening for sure. The climb down was long, winding, and very fast. We were basically sprinting back down.



Here's a view back to Mytikas at the evening, when clouds started retreating:



This is further down the trail, view back to the Olympus range:



We got back down at 6:05, making for a total climb time of 8 hours and 45 minutes. On the way down we met a whole group of people all packed out - walking poles, jackets, sleeping mats, sleeping bags. We told them we came from the top. We smirked as we let them pass - didn't quite get the point of climbing two days, spending most of your climbing time in a mountain refuge when a 9 year old could get to the top and back down in less than 9 hours.

When we got back, Lelde, who had stayed in Litochoro with her 2 year old kid who obviously couldn't come, said we appeared to be high on something. And we really did feel a slight case of dizziness. Going down from 2917 meters back to a seaside town apparently does take its toll. It was 7PM, we were hundreds of kilometers away from Athens. I called the guy I had booked the apartment with. He wasn't very thrilled to hear we would be in Athens around midnight.

We were horribly tired, Kriss picked up 4 Red Bulls and drank them all one by one while driving. All of us were falling asleep, so the two of us kept talking as a way to check up on each other, to make sure he doesn't fall asleep at the wheel. Our conversations ranged from Ancient Greeks to Apple computers to how much the Greek bureaucrats had stolen while building the highway we were driving on. At 1AM we rolled into Athens.

While I recovered the apartment keys to make sure we have somewhere to stay for the night (I almost missed the guy, he walked right past me, and I had to call him to get him to come back - we were pretty close to sleeping on the sidewalk), Kriss found out the hard way that there are no free parking spaces in Athens. He ended up parking under a no parking sign.

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Comments



Daniel says:
Hi! I'm planning to go to Greece next month and I'd like to climb the Olympus. If it don't disturb you, could you send me some tips? Is it needed to go with a guide or it's possible to climb alone? Do you seggest any agency?
my e-mail: danielgcabral@gmail.com
Thanks a lot!



RootocheQuice says:
hi, new to the site, thanks.


Razz says:
wonderful posts and pics about Greece, I'm going next wk and your blogging was super helpful. congrads on you climb!


Paul W- Queens, NY says:
I originally found your site via this page, as my wife & I want to climb Mt. Olympus when we visit Greece (no trip planned yet, this is just in my mind). ;) Loved the pictures of your climb! After that, I was addicted to the rest of your site!

My wife & I love traveling and have visited most of the places in the US & Canada that you & your girlfriend have visited. We also tend to camp a lot when on the road, and love the national parks. We love traveling, but making the money to do so is always the challenge. I'm still trying to figure out how you come up with the money for these great adventures!

One hint for you if you & your lady return to America- you can get much better rental car rates than the rates I noticed. No wonder you were astounded by the bill-- some of them were exorbitant! (I realize sometimes the young-driver charge adds $, but still...) There is a trick to finding the lowest rates online.

Anyway, great site, great pics, and keep up the travels! And your English is remarkable for a non-native speaker!


marina says:
how much is it to climb mt olypus????


Attila & Danielle says:
Great web site, very helpful. I am planing with my wife to be to go to Greece on our honeymoon this coming May. Where as we do plan to climb this beautiful mountain, we sure do. I think this web site has helped me a lot, so I do want to thank you a great deal, but when we do get back, we will let you know, how the climb went. Bless you


Hannah says:
I didn't even know you were Latvian before you said it! Great English:)


Eldora says:
Okay I'm convinced. Let's put it to aoctin.


EzThePez says:
AWESOME!!!!!!!!


EzThePez says:
How Much to climb?



drew delong says:
i plan on going to greece when i grow up and i might climb mt.olympus


Alberto says:
AMAZING!!! I'll be in Greece on the 8th of March 2013 (Athens) and really want to do this hike. How do I get here? anyone interested in joining me?


Alberto says:
anyone who reads this before I go, or has suggestions contact me at alberto@calderonv.com


JoJo says:
Planning on doing climb 2014 after the Paris Marathon. Loved those pics!


Constantine says:
I see you deleted my previous comment. Like I said before well done, but: Given that others are reading this are asking questions about climbing Olympus, I thought it was appropriate that they are aware that what you did was highly risky. The Mountain Rescue teams are full of stories of hikers in shorts being dragged of the mountain after dark because the wind and clouds turned to a thunderstorm and they were stuck at 2,900m with a t-shirt and a mars Bar. Olympus can be an easy climb but is a high and unpredictable mountain. Be prepared and take care.

P.S and Litochoro does not mean "city of the Gods", It means "Stony Village" :-)




seb says:
wel written


Nikki says:
im doing a report on greece and those pics were amazing!!!


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maria says:
went there summer 2013. it wasn`t as easy as the author says it was... it took us about 3,5 hours to get to refugee A (and we`re young, quite fit...). ok i take a lot of photos so maybe that was why it took us so long... anyways... it`s not really suggested to continue climbing to Mytikas after refugee A in the same day ... and with good reason. unless you`re superfit and start mega early, it gets dangerous. if you`re a regular hiker/fitness enthusiast and know your abilities then go ahead... but 85% of the people going there are not. it`s much safer to rest at refugee A and THEN after being fully rested to continue... because otherwise you`re tired and not paying enough attention to the surroundings...while you don`t have to do any serious climbing before the very top, the trail is scary small with 2km drops on the side... one step gone wrong and poof! oh and please pack sensibly - it`s probably hot until the very top.. where it gets so cold and windy and you wish you had your hat. CLOVES are a must because otherwise you`ll cut your hands when climbing on the top ... this mountain may seem easy but it`s still a mountain and weather is unpredictable - it can be sunny one minute and the next you`ll have the thunderstorm of your life, with waterfloods coming down the mountain, your feet up to the ankles in water...
oh and then there are falling rocks - we were nearly hit by a football sized rock that came rolling down towards us with big leaps... at times there can be a lot of ppl on the mountain so PLEASE do not kick at any of the rocks on your path because they might end up kicking someone down (or worse).

otherwise - amazing please, stunning scenery, just beautiful... wish i could go back.


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