Peak 14: Greece – Mount Olympus

The mountain of gods was one of the biggest surprises of my whole expedition. Mount Olympus is simply so beautiful that I quickly understood why Zeus and his colleagues chose this mountain to rule from. I was very happy to stay in a perfect cabin with the most impressive view of my expedition, just on the plateau under Mount Olympus. Follow my steps to the highest mountain of Greece.

Date of summit: 13th July 2018 9:20 
Traveling mode: Hiking
Height of the peak: 2918m 
Hiking distance: 9.06 km (Day 1) 2.2km (Day 2)
Time to ascend : 3h 55min (Day 1) 1h 8min (Day 2)
Map of my hiking journey to Moldoveanu Peak: Movescount (Day 1) and Movescount (Day 2)
Personal rating of the mountain: ***** (6 stars maximum) 
Beer on the peak: Olymposbeer Golden *** (6 stars maximum) 

I was lucky with the weather in the Balkans so I was looking forward to climbing the highest mountain of Greece. However, before I start talking about the actual summit I would like to introduce the amazing travel with Bulgarian railways which I used on the way to Greece. Over +30° C, no air condition, broken window opening system, no water to buy.

Our luxurious train to Greece

Luckily, the miracle happened at the border with Greece. For some unknown reason we had to leave the train and wait for another one operated by Greek railways. To make our waiting less boring we passed the border with a bus overtaking the longest queue I have ever seen. What luck we live in Shengen.

After a quick security check we reached probably the most remote village in the whole Greece with stray dogs and still no shop to buy water or food. This will be our stop for another hour. Both we and the dogs are hungry and thirsty. Unfortunately the dogs don’t know we have no water and no food so they are begging and begging. This is not the best occasion for people who are scared of dogs. I rather sit aside hoping that the train comes soon.

Waiting for a new train

After half an hour, two strangers come and offer to me and my friend a beer. Miracles do happen! We quickly became friends with these two Interrail travellers American Wyatt and French Joyce. We talk about our experiences on the road and about our misery in the Bulgarian trains.

Inconvenient and tiring travelling results in new good friends

The train arrives soon. Compared to Bulgarian trains another extreme is waiting. It is freezing cold in the train because of too strong air conditioning. I take on new clothes and with newly ordered beers we continue towards Thessaloniki. Wyatt becomes more and more interested in my expedition and soon decides to join us for the Greek adventure. Rikki and I have nothing against it.

Quick sightseeing in Thessaloniki

The weather forecast was good for the following days so we didn’t wait and decided to directly go to conquer Mount Olympus. We hired a car and left to the village Litochoro. I wasn’t driving so I was googling a bit and I found by accident the Olymposbeer which was on the way. What a coincidence!

When we reached the “brewery” we found out it is just an office with only one employee who couldn’t speak any English. We could at least practice our mime though and obviously, it is good! After 15 minutes of awkward conversation we each received a bottle of beer. Now we are ready for the climb!

The hike starts at a small parking lot above Litochoro village called Prionia. I was happy we are on the way but after a few steps Rikki and I got shocked. Wyatt is wearing sandals. “Seriously, Wyatt?” we asked. “You will actually need to climb during the last part of the summit.” “Calm down,” he replied. “I climbed in these amazing shoes a 10 000 feet mountain. No worry”. We didn’t have any idea what his mountain could look like but he looked persuasive so we trusted him and decided to continue.

The journey is long and steep. It’s late afternoon and we meet dozens of tourists on the way down. Nobody is hiking up. It doesn’t take long time before we reach the first hut on the way. We get some liquid energy and continue. The tree level is disappearing and we start to have a view over the sea. So rewarding. It also becomes colder. Wyatt’s feet are cold so he puts on socks and we start to hike faster to reach our destination. After four hours from the start we reach the plateau below the peak of Mount Olympus.

View over Mount Olympus from the plateau close to refuge Christos Kakkalos

Wow. What a beautiful mountain. I didn’t make much research in advance about what Mount Olympus looks like and it was right choice. It is probably the most beautiful mountain of all EU Peaks. For better atmosphere, the setting sun created amazing light. We nearly felt that Zeus will show up. It was a perfect time to reach our destination Refuge Christos Kakkalos.

Refuge Christos Kakkalos after sunset

Dmitrij, the responsible at this cabin, was very hospitable. We got amazing local food and talked with him and other guests until late evening.We didn’t omit the local tsipouro either. Yamas!

We woke up early in the morning but this time not to climb to the top of Mount Olympus. Instead we decided to reach another mountain Profitis Ilias nearby to have a view over the majestic mountain of gods. In addition to this view we could also watch the waking Sun above the sea. It was definitely a good decision. This was magnificent scenery.

Panorama view from the mountain Profitis Ilias

We enjoyed the amazing scenery for some time but we knew we were still expecting a tough climb so we got back to the Christos Kakkalos hut, we rented helmets and we finally started to hike up to Mount Olympus.

The view was so awesome that here you have also a cropped picture from the previous panorama and view just over Mount Olympus

First we traversed to the beginning of the climbing trail and after a few hundred meters the real adventure starts. For the last time we ask Wyatt if he thinks it is a good idea to climb up in his sandals. However, he confirmed again that we have nothing to worry about. Well, let’s go up.

We slowly scramble up with Rikki when we suddenly hear the singing: “Wyatt, why did you do this, this, this? Wyatt, you are such an idiot, idiot, idiot. Come on man, you will survive this, this, this.” It’s clear. Wyatt has a problem. “Are you okay? Do you have problems with your sandals?” we ask. “No. The sandals are okay but I forgot to say I’m afraid of the heights.” We didn’t know what to say. Seriously? “What now? Do you want to come back?” “No. It will be even worse. I have to climb up.” Wyatt stopped looking down and didn’t give up. He took a deep breath ten times and continued upward. The climb was not long and after a few minutes we all reached the top of Mount Olympus. Rikki and I enjoyed the view and Wyatt made a triumphant selfie with his sandal.

Celebrating the successful climb in Zeus’ home

We enjoy the Olymposbeer peak beer and sunbath in an already warm sun for about an hour. The view over the sea is though very tempting so we decide to return to Litochoro and later to the nearest beach. I would like to write that the chilled typical Greek ouzo which we ordered on the beach was the best reward for the two-day effort in the mountains. Unfortunately, I have to write that I have never drunk anything more disgusting. Anise is just not my cup of tea, so I bought instead the wheat Greek beer Alpha. With that, the view from the sea to the mountain where we sunbathed only a few hours ago was much more pleasant.

The closest beach from Mount Olympus, perfect for chill after a tough climb

I think I will have to come back sometimes, especially after the local people told us their experiences with freeride skiing in the winter.

 

Thanks for the great hospitality at Refuge Christos Kakkalos!
Next time I am back for backcountry skiing

My tips for the mountain Mount Olympus:

  • If you are on a holiday in Greece, do not omit the mountain Mount Olympus. This is one of the most beautiful mountains in Europe.
  • I recommend to start hiking later in the afternoon, spend night at the refuge Christos Kakkalos and climb the peak early in the morning. You will avoid the crowds.
  • Before the actual summit don’t miss the view from Profitis Ilias
  • Please, don’t bring sandals 🙂
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