When the lifts finally shut and the mountain traffic came to a not-so-glamorous halt, we dropped in to munch on the leftovers. The psychotropic mountain setting was exactly what I needed to escape my modern day troubles. I couldn’t leave my phone behind of course, but I did put it on airplane mode for a bit.
Half way up the hill we realised we weren’t alone. Christos and some friends had been shaping the kicker. park break…
It was that kind of temperature where you could be in shorts, but then the wind changes and maybe its not a good idea any more. Confusing.
Then off to the top. We decided to make it up before sunset this time, so we hustled up, well actually it was more like me chasing Bill, and reached the nearest peak – Gerontovrahos before sunset for a change.
After a couple warm beers and a long talk about minimalism and moustaches we headed back. We discussed important issues on the ride home. But the silence was good too. It’s part of the whole thing. Reflecting on a big day. I had falafel with extra hot sauce that night. Bill had the steak.
So Winter 2016-17 started with a quick stop up to Mt Dirfis with Bill. In classic fashion we left Athens late because I wasn’t ready, took forever to get there, and didn’t get onto the snow until well after midday. Bill was less than impressed but we decided to come down before it got too dark and just shrug it off…
A month or so later we came back, knowing that the boys from the YAMAS production by the Snowmads were there filming some sunset shots. We got there late again but hustled up and met the boys on the top for some cookies and milk.
A couple of bad jokes later we strapped in and headed down for sunset. I had forgotten my jacket so I was already getting cold, when my phone battery ran out mid drone flight. Marco Freudenreich lent me his phone while the drone was still buzzing around our heads, and I used the remaining 9% of his battery trying to get the signal connection to work, and filming blind. I doubt you’ll see any of those shots in the upcoming film.
Bill and I headed down in the dark and listened to Alan Watts audiobooks all the way home…
“To the season that never came – I bid you adieu”
featuring: Spyros Bellonias, Yaggos Pappas, Dimitris Mavrokefalos, Antonis David, Alexandros Aspromougos, George Pikoulas, Dimitris Lipantetzoglou
As we strapped in at the top of the Parnasso lifts, looking down on the barren resort, I couldn’t help but wonder why the season had only just poked its head round the corner this year. We hadn’t brought them a sacrificial virgin, or spent countless hours meditating to the vibration of the mountains. Did we miss a message? The signs were there, but we didn’t listen.
Fuck it. If the gods give you lemons… build a jump.
We buckled in for one last shred and sent it stupidly high, over the dragons that lurked below. Bellonia, George, Andoni, Yiago, Snowjim, Dimo, Sergio and the rest of the crew took turns hitting the beast until we were tired and hurt.
We knew only the healing waters of Thermopylae could reverse the symptoms of excessive stoke. We bravely tuned in to the stench of rotten eggs and let our bodies melt in the hot green waters.
See ya later winter…
Looking back on the two seasons of filming is nostalgic to say the least. Endless hours of riding, talking, building, digging, hiking, laughing, falling and driving around, summed up in a few photos and shots. Hard to do it justice really. Nonetheless my trusty analog camera (Canon AE-1 in this case) captured some of the moments along the way. I love them because they remind me of all the energy that kept us going through the storms and bails, cold nights and long drives.
Tons of love for every single person in these photos!!!
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.