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.