E #11 | Among the Gods | 82nd day

It did’nt took me long to get into this new place. And they threw me right into it. After 1.5 days training, the boss Periklis went off for a week holiday, together with his girlfriend. But I wasn’t all by myself. Vangelitsa, a friend who occasionally helps out in the hostel and knew almost everything was my team. The past ten days have finally made me beeing productive again. And that’s a great feeling. For that reason I could not do many exciting tours, but I am very happy here. Beeing productive, beeing part of any system and to see the finished results, me thinks, is a basic human need. At least one of mine. Of course, I have met many different people in the hostel and exchanged experiences. Sakis (GR), the local taxi driver who showed up almost evening to sip a good glass of Scotch at the bar, became a good friend and he told me a lot about himself and his path to happiness. He’s insane by the way: He regularly participated at Olympus Marathon (Up and down in about 7-8 hours !!!). Or a big trail of 100km through the entire National Park in 25 hours. I was lucky that I’ve had more time to climb the mountain.

Summit Zero Hostel

The hostel is beautifully situated between the mountains and the sea, right on the beach. It has a very nice, large backyard and a comfortable terrace with a bar. It is not just a hostel, but also a restaurant with selected homemade dishes, which is also frequented by local Greeks. The 26 beds which are distributed in 4 rooms and related sanitation are on the 1st floor. Unfortunately there is not much in the area, from a small supermarket, from where you can provide basic necessities and 1-2 taverns and a few hotels. The name Summit Zero, so the "summit to sea level" is very well chosen, because most of the guests, of course, come here to climp Mt. Olympus.


Peri told me to do some projects like gardening, building and maintainance before his departure. In addition, my job was to help Vangelitsa in the daily Hostel routine (hospitality services, cleaning, washing, etc.).

 

During the day she cooks and together we serve and we cater for guests with delicacies from the bar. She came in the morning at 9:00 am and left the hostel around 20:00. Before and after that I was in charge to keep the Hostel running and keep the guests happy.

On average, in voluntary work of this kind, it’s about 5 hours working a day, 5 days a week. I did way more, but it did not bother me. Projects needed to be completed and guest to be hosted. So I was the first in the morning and

the last in the evenings. Of course I have some relaxing time during the day here and there indulged the time to do private things.

 

You have to be a dog-person if you like to spend time here. I’m glad I am. Three of them are living here. A small active puppy, an adult female "Tulla" and a large stray who comes over from time to time for food and rest.

Entertaining and feeding them was part of my daily routine as well as inform newly arrived guests about the Olympus, its trails, pitfalls and shelters and make recommendations or provide logistical support. Even before I went to the mountain, I knew more about it, than I expected. I even got a staff-shirt, which I keep of course. It has a cool logo, I think.

Mount Olympus

That’s the highlight of my stay here in Litochoro. I was pleased that a friend of mine Diana (RUS | MAR), who has worked in the hostel in Trikala, visited me to do this hike to the gods together. Late in the evening she came over and the next morning at 6:30 am we threw ourselves out of beds. My good friend Sakis, the taxi driver, gave us a lift at seven at was already waiting for us five. Together with Diana, Daniel (GER), a US citizen and an Israeli we squeezed ourselves into the taxi to drive the few kilometers to the mountain. Reluctantly we wanted to waste our forces for meaningless walking on streets. The taxi driver took us to the west side of the mountain and Diana, Daniel and I got out at a small parking lot. The other two took the opportunity to go even further with the cab to the most visited starting point of a Olympus trail.

We decided to climb the west and north side of the mountain. This route is less popular and offers us a comprehensive insight because we are walking a circular route and not have to go the same way twice. We also wanted to not necessarily be on the road with many people, but rather march in our small group. And so it was. On this day, we have hardly met other hikers. And although the path is less touted, it was marked excellent. Mostly not well prepared, but it was supposed to be an adventure.

Through the forest we wound our way slowly but surely upwards. We passed the first shelter, in which we bought fresh water supplies. € 2 per 1.5 liters of plain still water are insane, but those are the mountain prices up here. Unfortunately, there is no water around the mountain, or sources that we could use. The few tanks that we passed were already dried, emptied or defective. The only way to get water and other goods up the mountain is carring it up with mules. Every product, even the firewood for the stoves in the huts is transported with the help of a mule column uphill. Incidentally, this was one of the best trail markers that could be found. Mule droppings on the trail showed us that we were on the right track, at least to some shelter.


But as it turned out, we had no troubles finding our way. Slowly but surely, the forest opened and enabled us despite some clouds a beautiful view of the mountain and the countryside to the sea. Finally we reached the tree line and were able to enjoy a spectacular view of the giant slopes and rocks, as well as various peaks and steep walls of the massif. Approximately 8-9 hours strenuous uphill were quite exhausting. We have traveled at a leisurely pace and of course we had some snack and smoking breaks (yes, I know ...).

At the end of the day we reached a gigantic plateau at about 2,700 m. Here are two refuges and we choosed the bigger one, which is closer to the highest point of Greece. The plateau has something of a volcanic crater, but it‘s not. The edges of the platteau are deep and very steep, partially hundreds of meters. Phenomenal. We have passed via a side peak. Left and right nothing but cliffs, clouds and views. I contend that we were lucky with the weather. Someone else may see it differently because it was very cloudy, but it has not rained a single drop on both days.

The night in the refuge was cold and amusing. Although a fire burned in the oven and we got served some hot mountain tea, 3 fluffy fleece blankets were needed to get some sleep. I lend my sleeping bag to Diana. Up on the plateau the temperatures are around the freezing point. I haven’t felt that cold for a long time. Barely two weeks ago, I slept in my sleeping bag under the stars. In the evening I have had a long talk with Nikos (GR) about his mountain and we were talking about climbing and other mountain sports. Although I am not the most experienced climbers of course, I could maintain a dialogue.

The sunrise was gorgeous. Far behind the sea, the orange sun fought with the horizon and threw the limestone formations of the peaks in great colors. The whole plateau was shining. A magical place. No wonder, that the ancient Greeks claimed that this ist he plateau of the muses. You know, the nice ladies, that are the origin of all artistic, creativity and inspiration. According to Greek mythology, Olympus is the home of the twelve gods, those descendants and servants. The summit was a place full of light and from there one should have direct access to the realm of the gods. Out of respect for the gods, all settlements that have been built at bottom of the mountain, were build looking away from the mountain. There are no ancient ruins on top. Either they wanted to keep that place in it’s natural origin, or no ancient Greek dared the ascent, or managed it. Although some mythological stories claim that a few key human personalities who visited the summit of Olympus.

Anyway, in the morning of the second day we tried to reach the Gods village itself and invite Zeus to have a smoke. It just took us about 15 minutes, along an impressive escarpments, to reach the entry of the last 150m climb. No violent Titans to fight against. Reaching the highest point of the country "Mytikas (2.918,80m) was demanding, dangerous and a mental borderline experience. We had some talks about the climbing passage before and at least helmets are highly recommended. Without wearing a helmet it‘s just stupid, irresponsible, naive and suicidal. Unfortunately, of logistical reasons we had only two options: Going up without a helmet or to staying down.

In the refug we have made friends with three nice girls (CZ), who joined us. On the entry of the climbing passage, the rise in mind, two of them passed back to the hut. Understandable. No one should go the way, if he isn‘t 100% sure to do it. Only Kata had the mental strength to climb with us. We were early in the entry. At about 8:15 in the morning. There was nobody to see, so we decided to do it without any safety equipment. As a layman, I estimate that 80% of the ways was in difficulty II/II+, 15% maybe III and a few places were even more demanding with approx III+. It was really exciting and very challenging. I was the only one who almost had something like rock climbing experience and I have driven, motivated, calmed, advised the others and distracted them while they had some panic attacks. My conclusion: Amazing, but too ambitious and irresponsible. Without helmets and with people who had never before climbed a rock, I would not do it again. Thanks to Zeus, that we all stayed safe.

When we reached the summit, not everyone could enjoy the success because they were worried about the descend, wich led the same way down. Unfortunately the God of clouds was not nice to us. Only now and then we could get a glimpse of the landscape among us. That was a pity of course. It would have been much more beautiful and impressive with a 360° panoramic view. But for me, reaching the summit is more than a niche view. It is the achievement of a goal, the mutual motivation and hiking in society. It is a shared experience and self-affirmation ... there is so much more. That's why I wasn’t that sorry about the clouds. I totally celebrated it and of course enjoyed my summit „Schnaps“; homemade raki from Crete, keeping the style: from the flask.

The descent easier and faster than expected, thanks to our superior butt-technique. We said goodbye to Kata and we took the main trail, which is part of the European path E4 (Portugal-Cyprus), to enter the valley. It’s been excellent prepared and with beautiful and impressive views we marched briskly. We went to a shelter at mid-height in order to take a break. The last reserves were finished with pleasure and we watched the walkers who have just climbed the steep trails and steps out of the valley. I would not say that it was gloating because we were in the same position a day before, just on the other side of the mountain. Before we ventured to leave, the three Czech women stumbled down the mountain. They could not find the other way and joined us again. After a few hours of descent we reached the restaurant in Prionia, witch is based next to a beautiful, crystal clear waterfall.

From there, Diana and I drove with the three Czech women back to Litohoro, the small town between the sea and Mount Olympus. Diana was very lucky, because the three were on their way to her hostel in Trikala and she automatically got a lift. I jumped out and no 5 seconds later, my friend, the taxi driver, was on the spot. I do not even have had to call him. He brought me back to the hostel, so I was able to start my shift at 18:00 until late at night. These were two extremely exhausting but incredibly beautiful days. I can highly recommend to visit this amazing mountain. Although the ancient gods are no longer there, the Olympus has a lot to offer and is definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

After a few more days of work in the hostel, I have now made my way to Thessaloniki. The second largest city in the country will witness a special event: Moritz, my former roommate, will visit me and for the next 10 days we will travel together. The goal: Istanbul. The route is still flexible. What and how we experience our trip to the East, I'll tell you in the next report. I’m waiting for him here in the hostel.

 

Let's see if he recognizes me, having a beard.

 

I wish you an amazing time, Schilli


FunFacts

- There’s a gang about 5-8 stray dogs around the hostel. Bad guys. Constantly chasing people, cars, motorcycles, etc. Dogs that bark do not bite?! I hope so…
- Stuffed vine leaves are tasting great. Usually. But out of a can and cold, it is the most disgusting thing I ate for a long time.

- The crisis is all around. I talked a lot about it with Vangelista. The country urgently needs a change.

- To comply with a bet. Daniel had a special shooting at the summit. He was only wearing a special Japanese underpants. I guess he was the first one doing it.



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