So its 2016 and the season seems to have a little case of stage fright, poking its head round the curtain only for a moment at a time before receding to the backstage while the sun comes in to melt all the fluffy stuff away…
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.
Just after yet another snowboard contest/gathering at Kalavrita resort this season, Spiro decided to set up a kicker session with an open invitiation to whoever hadn’t left the mountain yet. Early Sunday morning he walked up to a spot he’d scoped out a few days before and started digging. A couple hours later the first snowmads started cruising over, surprised to see Spiro had built not one, but three different hits. We started by sessioning the hip, with Spiro and Plytta basically owning the spot with some sexy spins and a couple of inverts.
When we decided to hit the most Northern ski field in Greece, we didn’t think we would have to walk the extra mile (literally) just to get there. Apart from the fact that I forgot my Splitboard skins in Thessaloniki and was super annoyed with myself, we then stumbled upon a pretty good size snow drift in the middle of the road up to the resort base. The lifts had seen their final working hour just the week before, but somewhere down the line we heard about the “epic” amount of snow left on the bald mountain, so after failing to get the car through the first of apparently many of these drifts, we parked up and started unpacking our gear.
There’s always that one place you’ve wanted to go check out in winter but never had the time… Well stop thinking about it and get on the next boat, Crete is insane! We met up with the boys and girls running the second Pierra Creta Ski Mountaineering event on Crete’s highest mountain, Psiloritis, and were blown away by this insane mountain in the middle of the Peloponnese. With faces that resemble the alps and what seems like endless runs this hill is a MUST if you ever make your way down.
After the race we headed East to check out another mountain range up in the Lasithi plateau, called Dikti. We were met by friendly locals who were only too eager to accommodate us by feeding us what seemed like a ton of traditionally cooked meat and lots and lots of Raki (local spirit). We had two riding days, which were mostly made up of hiking up and down the mountain as there is no lift access anywhere and the hiking paths are mostly covered during winter. Both days were epic, although our second day was the only day we could actually see what what we were doing, as the fog comes in pretty heavy from time to time.
What can I say, this mountain is probably the best playground I’ve ever ridden in, and for most Greeks is synonymous with shredding trees, steep faces, powder and hitting park, not to mention all the Jagerbombs and Souvlakia you can handle. We’ve spent two pretty long stints up there this season already and boy oh boy did we have a blast! Cooking with gas in Gerasimo’s trailer, hitting the spa at Casa La Mundi, and carving lines ALL DAY and ALL NIGHT!
So we decided to travel North to this tiny little resort with 1 and a half lifts above a town called Kastoria to visit this crew we’d only heard about in fables and dreams… Omihli Crew.
A couple weeks later we returned to this diamond in the rough to attend and ride their first ever slopestyle contest, which was nothing short of a snowboarder’s wet dream: Kickers, rails, punk rock, night sessions and a whole lotta rowdy boys!
Omihli Crew For LiFE!
Helmos is the tallest mountain in the Peloponnese, and home to a ski resort with about 8 lifts. It’s also home to some of the fluffiest powder in the Southern Mediterranean, not to mention some pretty decent raki stands for the apres…
February was a pretty good month here. We got to explore the backcountry with some of the locals, build jumps, hit some street spots and sip hot cacao by the fireplace… NOT.
Alexis De Tarade and a bunch of Frenchies decided to come to Greece for their newest filming project, so we joined forces and got some riding done with Badio catching some decent hangtime over the jumps and street spots.
For more info on the ski resort check out their website – kalavrita-ski.gr/
Parnasso has long been the go-to mountain for most Athenians, which makes it a pretty good hub for the ski and snowboard community. The first time I ever ventured out past the resort boundaries was with George Ouzounis. The whole TTAG project was still in its infancy and I was looking for the unknown and the less-heard-of. What I saw blew me away. A wealth of terrain that rivals any alpine landmass in steepness and contour. The mountain was huge. The ski resort barely covers 10% of the skiable terrain and there was more than plenty of fun ridges and slopes to play on.
Over the course of 2 seasons I made it up a number of times with different crews, took different routes and explored a pretty wide variety of terrain. What really caught my attention after all was said and done was the sense of community on the hill though. Apart from the occasional skier-snowboarder bout, the fact that the hill is almost never packed makes it function like a dysfunctional but loving village. The liftees and the Cat drivers belong to the old system, the public sector and are pretty long standing members of staff. The skiers and snowboarders are also made up mostly of people who have spent a few seasons systematically venting at the staff and administration for the lack of infrastructure, or development of a park and so on. They bicker, but in essence there is a co dependancy that becomes almost romantic through its drama.
Bottom line – Parnasso has huge potential for being more than just a few lift rides and a hot coacoa. There’s a ton of terrain left to explore, and it’s awesome to see people getting out there and doing just that.
Just like a lot of my peers, I grew up in Greece and took the fast train out as soon as I was done with high school. Not without warrant, I mean the education system is pretty confusing at times and the prospect of living on my own in a foreign country sounded damn appealing. After 6 years in the UK I moved to New Zealand, even further away from my home, in search of something more valuable than the urban environment I was used to. I ended up in a village in the mountains, where I went on to spend 5 years connecting with nature in ways I hadn’t been able to until then. I was conditioned to believe that my homeland was just a series of golden beaches and a selection of ouzo. My inclination for the colder climates and mountainous terrain kept me from considering Greece could fulfil these needs in the same way.
In 2014 I happened to meet two of the most influential people with respect to my view on my home. Gerasimos Avramidis and George Ouzounis, two of Greece’s best known snowboarders, showed me around their back yards (Vasilitsa and Parnasso respectively) revealing to me a wealth of landscape and potential I had never dreamed could be found on this tiny speck of land.
TTAG was born. The idea was to make a movie about Greece’s winter landscape and help promote adventure tourism in a country that didn’t even understand what that means. It became apparent pretty quickly that there was a pretty healthy community of mountain lovers and winter explorers already heavily invested in the winter terrain. The government however showed no indication they were about to accept Adventure Tourism as a standalone facet of the industry.
And who am I to tell anyone what to do? Yeah no one really. I just want to spend more time in nature. So here’s my excuse. I hope you enjoy it!