Olimp, Greece. Though we may make jokes of meeting Zeus and Gods here, Olimp is a mountain where the special holiness can be felt. It was my first bigger mountaineering trip (lasting few days) after Velebit many years ago. After surviving a long bus drive from Croatia, we finally came to Greece or Republic Helada where the first stop was the warm greek sea close to the Olimp. Being in mediterranean climate this rocky mountain is simple and easy untill reaching the mountain hut (http://www.mountolympus.gr/en/trails.php#.WqAQuedrzIW). Then comes the difficult part. At least for me. Olimp itself is an area that represents a National Park under protection of UNESCO. Richness of flora with 23 endemic species is something admiring. The highest peak Mytikas counts 2918m, and our mountaineering club visited the surrounding peaks at the similar level- Skala and Skolio (2863m and 2911m).
How to come and what to see
The starting point is Litochoro, a town only 5 km from the sea and 18 km to Prioni, the last stop of any vehicle. I’m sorry that I didn’t see anything of Litochoro except the beautiful landscapes from the bus. At Prioni the national park of Olympus starts and our next adventure but I’m sorry again that I didn’t leave in the bus the bigger backpack instead of the smaller one. I just had too much stuff to carry at the heat but the luck was I didn’t carry it by myself all the way. The wise rule of travelling is to have less possible stuff in the backpack.
At this point we could refresh ourselves with water, at nicely decorated spring (the shape of spoon).
I don’t know what time we started but I guess it was around 15h and we needed more-less 4 hours to the mountain hut. The list of unallowed things touched the feeling of sacredness right away before starting. Picking the flowers, leaving the garbage or setting the fire up are amongst them. Our journey welcomed us with wooden bridges and lovely forrest. As I saw the mules going up and down carrying the stuff for mountain hut, I was lightened up with another perception of sacredness the Olympus vibrates. They do all that by themselves without any human help.
There’s no way to get lost as the path is only straight all the way up. That’s one charm and another sacredness of Olympus. But going down this straightness turned into the real adventure. One lady from our group thought she lost her husband as he went down further taking one quick shortcut. She got really worried as we waited and waited in the sun asking for the man with the long bear. She even said that she wants a divorce if we don’t find him anywhere. We were convincing her that he must be already down somewhere, that he has nowhere to get lost. But being very upset she was making plans to go up again if we don’t find him. The fact is there’s nowhere to get lost, there’s no other way to take. Finally when we were long way down, we heard his voice and were relieved.
The mountain hut is very well equipped and such a good offer of the restaurant I didn’t expect. Oh man, that was a great chance to try a greek salade. But we should think also at the mules. There’s even a large collection of blankets. Still I had my sleeping bag. Electricity, showers, everything was included. I just took one sympa picture postcard.
The signs of Olympus Marathon sounded funny but it’s what actually happens. Eversince from 2004. every July the Olympus marathon brings refreshing energy to this historic place.
Maybe one hour from the start at Prioni, still sheltered by the trees there’s a spring of water with a nice arbor. Going up the way is not so sheltered but the views of the mountain substitute this lack. It’s rather exhausting, tiny path.
When we arrived at the mountain hut, something extraordinary waited for us. The view of the sea. It was even more extraordinary in the morning, at sunrise when we started our journey to the three summits.
The quiet morning awaked us in the room full of people. It was 6 o’clock when we were ready for action. Just a little up further and comes the feeling I awaited whole my life. I was in the clouds. Who wants to be in the clouds? Now only the pure rock is perceived, the enormous feeling of power.
The moment comes when the path is so slippery that you cannot pass it but with your breech. Pushing yourself down thousand of questions arrive. The memory of some old life where everything is green. I imagine how it all looks like in snow. Something white appears on adjacent rock. Is it the snow? Or just a white rock? The Olympus is not assured like the Alpes, everything is relied to self control. Our guide from Macedonia (not greek Macedonia) hiked the Olympus many, many times so his stories bring confidence. Did I mention our guide?
Not everyone can survive all the three peaks, I couldn’t. I just came to the first one alias Skala where the view of Mythikas spread out in front of my eyes. The wind was strong so who would believe that only the few steps down (maybe not that few but not much) we would enjoy the short sleeves? Who would say that we were in the clouds?
Sitting here at Skala I can hear the voice of Zeus. Soon will my friends sit at His throne right at Mythikas. Or is it down there at mountain hut? Why and how the Gods went all the way up? I sit and understand. My thrills of life are pulled away by making the views of fairy-tale, by efforts that explain the why.
The help of rope was the key to survive the long way to Mythikas though it’s only short distance of the eye. It’s quite an amazing summit where by going there only one wrong step can ruin the whole story. Thirty people in a row where looking like the diligent ants from the distance. One hour was needed to pass the harsh Skolio and Mythikas. The flag of our mountaineering club and the greece flag spread the glory of survival, the glory of victory. Not everyone can win Mythikas but to conqueer Olympus is the task to be put on everybody’s list.
In conqueering Mythikas there was one Greek who joined my friends and even to us in the bus but just to Litochoro. When I heard that he had an exciting stories of his own job, I was jealous for not going to Mythikas. If one Greek can expose himself to Mythikas all by himself, how couldn’t I? But nevermind, i’m not sorry at all. Olympus cuts all your expectations and puts you in comfort with only yourself.
Appreciation and love for life can crown way to Olympus. You cannot even leave any garbage there. Except the wind and the clouds on the summits, it’s quite warm wheather on 2000m where the mountain hut is situated. There are tithe mountain huts at Olympus (which in winter are closed) and 52 peaks. On the path where we went (the most significant one) there was only one mountain hut. When I was mountaineering through Velebit in Croatia during summer, it was pretty cold in the mornings.
At the end of our journey we were happy to be farewelled with one delicacy. The waterfall close to Prioni showed us another face of Olympus so we sat at the stone and enjoyed the view and comeback.
All in all
Unlike anything else, Olympus showed me the hidden values of sacredness and simple, true life. It’s an experience that collects all the oppositions of life in one word: appreciation. One simple path can preserve so much wisdom out of the fact to follow that one. Two days that we spent there convey that simplicity that is enough.