MT OLYMPUS – TO THE TOP
October 17th, 2020. Summer is slowly coming to an end. Winter is creeping in. It’s the last few weekends before the cold really hits us. No better time to climb the tallest peak in Greece.
We began from the Gortsia Parking area on the East side of the mountain, and made our way up to the Muses Plateau. On average it took about 6.5 hours, including a half hour stop at Petrostrouga Refuge to catch out breath and have a cup of tea.
The weather was incredible. Temperatures were in the mid 10s most of the day, so the hike was easy. We were informed that beds at the refuges had been restricted before even arriving, so we came prepared to sleep under the stars. Or in tents anyway.
After setting up basecamp right in the middle of the two refuges, we headed up to Apostolidis Refuge to grab a bight to eat and talk about the next day’s ascent to the peak with our lead guide Sakis Pitenis (Trekking Hellas Mt Olympus). The place was rammed with fellow hikers, climbers, adventurers and first time visitors. But once a plate of hot food got placed in front of my mouth the whole world disappeared and it was by far the best meal I’ve ever had.
We finished up and headed back to our tents for a chilly night’s sleep. 6am start the next day. Better get some rest. I tried. My sleeping bag was a little less than ideal. My toes felt like they were about to fall off. Couldn’t get much sleep but as soon as the alarm went off I happily got up to move around and warm up somehow.
Off to the beginning of the Louki of Mytikas. The long, narrow and steep corridor leading up to the peak of the mountain, at 2918m. I had only heard of this section of the ascent. And I’m no experienced climber. But somehow I didn’t get too scared. Maybe it was the lack of sleep. The sun began to shine on the rocky surface leading up to the top, and I couldn’t wait to touch them with my bare hands to warm up my fingers and toes.
Sakis and Tasos from Trekking Hellas led the way for our group. Some friends went up with Nikos, Babis and Stergios from WildTrek Greece. And just like doing a tour of a busy museum, we crossed paths on the way up and down, briefly, but long enough to exchange smiles and take a couple photos.
The peak was lit perfectly by the morning sun, so it was a welcome break from the chilly ascent. It felt good to be up there, a really nice reward after a tough hike up carrying tents and sleeping bags the previous day, and a bad night’s sleep. None of that mattered though. I tried to take in the view along the crystal clear horizon, the sea on one side and the open plains to the West. And that morning light. I know I mentioned that already. But damn it just made everything look so damn good. A great moment. A few more minutes to take photos and hug your buddies, before heading back down the rocky chute.
The descent seemed like an impossible task. It was super steep and we already knew how careful you had to be going up. And there were more groups making their way up at the same time. Like trying to run down a two way escalator in the Tokyo Metro. But once we got going it wasn’t actually that bad. You pick up a rhythm and before you know it each new step was easier than the one before. Piece of cake. Even for Andreas who was scared of heights. He got to the top and back down without even breaking a sweat.
We got back to Apostolidis Refuge for some breakfast and coffee with the rest of the group who decided not to come to the top with us. We could see they were still tired, some hadn’t slept well at all. Others still tired from the previous day’s hike. But we busted in with radiating smiles and tons of energy. It was contagious.
Time to leave. We made our way back to camp. Took our last few photos in the warm sun. Packed our tents and strapped up our bags, and headed down for another 6 hour hike. It was hard on the knees. And the last few kilometers felt like torture. But that moment you see your car parked at the bottom of the road is golden. We got this second wave of energy as we dropped our bags into our cars and said our goodbyes before heading back home. 2 days went by pretty fast. It felt like more, but I was also happy to head back to Athens, with a quick pit stop at the Thermopylae hot springs of course.
Thanks to everyone who came! And congratulations to each and every one of you for outdoing yourselves! Hopefully it’s not the last time we see each other on the mountain of the gods.
Mount Olympus Splitboarding Camp 2019 was a great introduction to both splitboarding and mountain safety. Over two days we experienced a little bit of everything. From a sprinkle of fresh snow to blue skies and from spring slush to icy climbs. Ideal conditions for getting used to the equipment and gaining an appreciation of the unpredictability of the mountains.
Day 1 was all about getting to know the boards, going through ascent techniques like proper strides and kick turns, using batons and changing our bindings to fit the slope. We also went through a brief avalanche equipment training course just to get a feel for the reality of avalanche danger. *This is not a certified avalanche safety course – If anyone out there wants to get involved in ski mountaineering or splitboarding we strongly recommend attending an official mountain safety course.
We got to Migotzidis Refuge at the top of the KEOAX ski lift area, currently used by the military for training purposes, but is also open to the public for a small fee on select days throughout the year. After a quick snack we headed back down through the Xero-un-lucky Gully down to the base near the cars. On the way we stopped to do a couple of avalanche scenarios with the team, and dig a profile to explain more about snow layers.
Day 2 – The target was to reach the second tallest peak in Greece – Skolio 2,911m. Due to icy conditions and an increase in wind at higher altitudes however, we stopped short of Agios Antonios Refuge and returned down the same route as the day before. Playing it safe on the mountain should always be number one priority, and turning back was an important lesson in mountaineering, not to be underestimated.
The team arrived back at Olympus Lodge Hostel safe and sound and with big smiles on everyones faces. Greece has an incredible potential for ski mountaineering and splitboarding, with an almost endless mountainous terrain, even on the islands, it’s a blank canvas with plenty left to discover.
Thanks to Pitenis Siokas and Gerasimos Avramidis for the valuable lessons on safety and risk management, MicroXtreme for the rental boards and Splitboard.gr for the extra rental boards, Olympus Lodge for keeping us warm and fed, and Odyssey Campers for the extra wheels.
If you’re interested in joining next year’s Splitboard camps let us know by sending us a message. If you’re interested in venturing up into the mountains on your own make sure you have the right gear, and know how to use it. We recommend attending an official avalanche safety course before going out there without a guide. Play safe. Have fun.
Finally, special thanks to everyone who made our first Splitboard Camp one of the best things we’ve done all winter! You guys (and girl) rock!
Most people know Greece for its amazing beaches, delicious food and smashing plates. What you might not know is that there is an epic winter playground hidden away in its many mountains. This film follows the journey of Themistocles Lambridis through the Greek mountains over two seasons, making new friends, exploring the unknown side of this culture and uncovering some of Greece’s best kept secrets.
Music by Imam Baildi, 1000MODS, Planet of Zeus, the Velvoids, Mary’s Flower Superhead, Afrodyssey Orchestra, Black Hat Bones, The Killer Seas, Wisdom, Themistojesus, Souleance, Wild Kitten, Whereswilder, Chinese Basement, 63 High, Los Tre, Dirty Fuse, Last Drive, Hat Trick
Featuring: Spiros Badios, Vasilis Koutoumatsiotis, George Chalkias, George Ouzounis, Gerasimos Avramidis, Themistocles Lambridis, Dimitris Maniatis, Vasilis Karageorgiou, Mike Styllas, Nikolas Plytas, Vasilis Koutlemanis, Miltos Tzimas, Vasilis Tsipos, Christian Manousaridis, Raymond Prentice, Tasos Takolas, Spiros Bellonias, Mikka Nikkanen, Dimitris Liossis, Antonis David, Daniel Petrov, Dimitris Dimitriadis, George Felekis, Alex Panagakos, Giannis Panagakos, Alexandros Aspromougos, Giorgos Priftis, Kostas Sirios, Jason Siadimas, Rodrigo Valsamis, Stelios Danourdis, Vaggelis Martinos, Babis Tsiros, Dimitris Tsiros, Kapetan Garidas, Eva Patapatiou, Dimitris Pappas, Konstantinos Tzirvelakis, Yiaggos Pappas, Konstantinos Karmas, Marios Karpouzas, Christos Karpouzas, Nick Dimitriaids, Christos Boukoros, Trantafylos Triantafylou, Konstantinos Lyketsos, Giannis Kotileas, Ivan Furkov, Leonidas Spiropoulos, Aristides Vergos, Alex Nikoletopoulos, Apostolos Dianelos, Alexis De Tarade, Antoine Baduel, Anto Brotto, Remy Barreyat, Mike Handford, Jess Oundjian, Giannis Papachristou, Christos Makridis, Giannis Sampson, Teo Galinidis and more…
Directed by: Themistocles Lambridis Colorist: Dimitris Lambridis Sound Design: Joe Hudson Edited by: Themistocles Lambridis, Spiros Badios
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I knew this day was coming, but when we finally unpacked the car at the bottom car park it hit me. I was about to climb Mt Olympus man! I was petrified, but Billy and Chalkias were with me so I played it cool. The plan was to hike to the first refuge, camp out there for the night, and then head to Kakalos refuge the next morning, where hot meals and warm beds would be awaiting our arrival.
3 hours later we arrive at Petrostrouga refuge. We were toasty warm from walking and the sun was out, this was looking pretty cozy after all. The beds were pretty sad looking but you can’t complain when you’re not paying a cent to stay I guess. Only the emergency shelter was open, so luxury wasn’t really a priority anyway. The days were now getting longer and longer as summer approached. We filled the wood stove with some branches and got comfy before night fall.
When we finally started burning the wood, we noticed there was a whole lotta smoke, and not really any heat coming out. We were so tired it took us a couple of minutes to discern that the log burner had been jammed with soggy and sappy wood from the previous lodgers, and was now huffing out pure smoke! We quickly opened all the doors and windows, but it had gotten really intense, so we all left the room for a minute or two while it mellowed off.
That night was cold as f.
With the first morning light we got up and out into the sun. By 10am the heat waves were blasting and it was almost toasty again. Greek sun they say. After a little pow wow with Nick Dourlios, another documentary maker that was hiking to the top the same day, the three of us set off and up in to the trees.
We would hike for 3 straight hours before reaching the tree line. That’s where the wind picked up and we started to feel how tired we were. I’d guesstimate we had about 35 kg on our backs, plus a tripod, crampons, ice axes etc. And we still had almost 2 hours to go.
Just before the ascent on the final wall before the plateau is a 30-40m walk along a super narrow ridge called “the neck” (ο λαιμός). This is really the only part of the ascent that’s pretty exposed, and at the sight of it I could feel my heart start to beat faster. Either side was sheer drop. Billy had already gotten to the end by the time it was my turn, which was usually the case as I had to pack and unpack camera gear so I could get some shots while climbing. I stepped into the footprints made by anyone who’d been up the previous days, and kept my focus on each next step, trying not to look down.
After a couple more stops to catch our breath and regain our manhood, we finally made it to the refuge, where we were greeted with hot tea and food. I couldn’t believe how close I came to turning back, I would of been pretty pissed off if I hadn’t gone the whole way up.
The next few days saw the arrival of several groups of hikers, climbers and some more of the snowboard crew we were expecting. Gerasimo, Sporos, Papachristou, Christo, Mario and Dimitri. We had already spent a couple days digging a little pump track around the refuge, nothing super fancy, but just enough to keep us warm and productive. So after the boys settled in, we strapped in and hit the park.
Yep, we were on Mt f-ing Olympus and we were hitting the park! haha. mission accomplished. but there was more. Mike Stylas took us on a couple good hikes to check out the surrounding basin, and DAMN is there a lot of terrain here! In every direction, its crazy. The days were numbered though and we knew we had to keep our energy for the hike out.
The last night we were there Mike put the three of us in his tent because the refuge was overcrowded. It was out on the precipice overlooking the entire valley to the South, the middle of the horseshoe sort of thing. Before heading to bed though someone (me) decided it would be a good idea to go up for a night ride. At first Billy was the only one who seemed keen so we packed the hip flask and started getting our stuff together, when all of a sudden the whole crew seemed to wanna join in.
It was the last night of the season. Everyone knew it. No one wanted to leave, or let go of winter. So we grabbed it by the balls, and hiked into the darkness.
The next morning came quickly. We woke up and shifted our tired asses out of the tent. I had almost forgotten we were camping so close to a very big drop, and all of a sudden I was awake! We gathered our gear, said our goodbyes to the mountain, the refuge, and stocked up on selfies before hitting the road.
It took us the better part of 4 hours to make it down to Prionia at the base of the valley. My legs felt like concrete. Fuck. It’s all over. It was a sad moment, but everyone was smiling and having a laugh. Oh yeah that’s right… it’ll be there again next year.