Climb up the highest mountain in Greece, they said. It’ll be fun, they said. By “they” I mean me, obviously, and now we’re both walking like we’ve shat ourselves. We didn’t go to the highest of the 52 peaks either on account of not having a death wish. Mytikas is 2917 m.a.s.l. and is quite the scramble to get up there. Class III apparently. I don’t even know what that means but it triggers a whole load of Nope in me at a molecular level. Even if I thought for a second I could get up there without having a complete nervous breakdown I’d never get off the fucking mountain again.
Skolio and Stefani are the two highest sub-peaks at 2911 and 2902 m.a.s.l respectively. Then there’s Skala, which isn’t too shabby itself at 2882 m.a.s.l. and that, my lovelies, is where we decided to aim for. No pressure. If we couldn’t do it then so be it, just climbing up any part of the seat of the gods would be an experience. The mountain, in mythology, was home to the pantheon of the twelve Olympian Greek gods including Zeus himself and our favourite girl, Athena.
We’d fully intended to head to campsite by the beach in Litochoro before our hike, walk up the following day and stay at Spilios Agapitos Refuge A that night, then head down Thursday morning and drive back to Kalambaka to return the car. Except the weather went to shit and Greek campsites aren’t all grassy soft like UK campsites, they’re usually on hard dirt and that would have turned to mud and yeah nah, fuck that.
We booked ourselves a night in a lovely little room with a kitchenette, a roof, a comfortable bed and mountain views from the balcony assuming it wasn’t shrouded in fog. By the time we’d checked in I’d not heard back from the refuge about whether we could stay there or not so we arranged to spend two nights in the room. Up and down the mountain in one day? Doable… I think… oh dear gods what had we agreed to?
At 5am my alarm clock chirped us awake, we ate breakfast, got our shit together and shuffled to the car. It’s meant to be a half hour drive to Prionia but we were staying slap bang in the middle of Litochoro which is such a cute town but the roads are tiny, narrow, maze-like little things which are a ballache to navigate out of, even with Google barking ambiguous directions at you. Even our host at the guesthouse advised us against driving around town if we could avoid it.
Once you’re out of the town the road to Prionia is narrow and winding and littered with potholes, increasing in frequency the closer you get to the car park. No one came the other way thank fuck but I did have a car right up my arse for a bit until I pulled over to let them pass. Alright mate, you go ahead and drive like a maniac in the pitch black on a narrow mountain road with fuck off great big holes in it. So yeah, I think it took quite a bit longer than half an hour. By the time we started walking it was just before 7am.
There’s no sugar coating this, guys. You’re walking up a fucking mountain. Up. Just up. Like any trail there’s the odd flat bit and even a couple of slight downhills but these are few and far between and last seconds. Glorious seconds, but seconds nonetheless. You’re walking up. It’s mostly good trail, a few rocky bits, and it gets steeper and rockier the closer you get to the refuge. We sat down a couple of times, once for food and once because I really just needed to sit down for a minute and question all of my life choices.
By the time we’d covered the 6.6 kilometres up the E4 long distance trail and arrived at the refuge my poor legs were already up for not going any further. We sat down on the benches outside, bought a cuppa each and chatted to a couple of people staying there. The cloud had slowly been creeping in as we climbed, from below and above but we weren’t engulfed just yet. Best get going then hey, this fucker isn’t going to climb itself. 2.6 kilometres to go.
Honestly mate, it was utterly brutal from here on in. We were already knackered from the walk here and the trail, still the E4, just got steeper. There was literally no let up either, no reprieve at all. It was a steep uphill the whole way. I had to stop several times to lean on my poles, I could feel my poor muscles turning to jelly. We sat down and had some lunch as the cloud got thicker.
There were plenty of people on the mountain today despite the weather. People who’d stayed at the refuge last night and had gotten an early start were already on their way down, some having summited Mytikas, some being happy that made it to Skala. They all seemed in much better spirits than those of us on our slow and painful way up.
The drizzle started. We climbed higher. I stopped more frequently. It started drizzling more aggressively and we plodded on. I genuinely would have just fucked it all off right there and then but we’d come this far, right? Only one measly little kilometre to go. Okay so it was the steepest, rockiest kilometre I’ve ever done in my life with loose shingle threatening to send us arse over tit, but as one woman we chatted to on the way up said, you can do anything for a kilometre. Yeah, tell that to my butt muscles.
The thing with the fog though, you can’t see your destination. You just have to keep checking your map to see how much torture you had left. I was stopping every couple of hundred metres to let the lactic acid ease. Then, without warning, there it was. The summit of Skala. Mytikas and Skolio were buried in fog, there was literally nothing to see here apart from several relieved hikers and a pile of rocks. It was fucking cold! Righto then. Down we go.
I was dreading this bit on account of the shingle, the rain making the rocks and mud slippy, and my general inability to walk downhill but I only had to bumslide a couple of times. Getting down is still hard work but at least it’s different work and we only stopped for a rest once. It got slowly warmer and easier to breathe as we descended. The drizzle continued to drench us.
We got to the refuge, had a cuppa to warm us up then carried on down. To be fair, as lovely as it would have been to end our day there I’m genuinely glad we were heading back to Litochoro. I’d vastly underestimated how hard this would be and the thought of having to do this last bit tomorrow? Nah. Our legs would have seized up, it would have been awful. Plus the refuge doesn’t have hot water and a hot shower was all I wanted right now. It also meant we could lie in and still get the car back on time.
We plodded on, back to the car park, stopping to eat again, and to rest. Our knees were screaming at us. We met several people on the way up to the refuge, some of them seemed woefully unprepared to climb a mountain and they’d clearly underestimated it, perhaps more so than we had. A couple of them had already lost the will to live. I felt for them. They’d make it to the refuge on time I think, it closes at 8pm, but they’d be fucking miserable doing it.
The hike down was uneventful which is exactly how I like my mountain descents to be. Whenever we hit the slight inclines on the trail all of my uphill muscles were like, what the fucking fuck? I thought we were done! Oh man, we were going to ache for this! By the time we got back to Litochoro we were utterly bollocksed. It was literally a case of shower, eat, doom scroll Facebook then slip into a coma. Did I stretch my muscles before bed? Of course I fucking didn’t. But then Tarrant did and neither of us can move without everyone in earshot knowing about it.
Jump to “Useful shit to know…”
Mount Olympus, Northern Greece, Greece / Όλυμπος, Βόρεια Ελλάδα, Ελλάδα
Stayed at: Olympiades Rooms & Apartments, Litochoro
Useful shit to know…
- We parked at Prionia (1100 m.a.s.l.) and walked up to Skala (2882 m.a.s.l.) and back via Spilios Agapitos Refuge A (2100 m.a.s.l.) along the E4 long distance route. It took us about 11.5 hours.
- Most people stay at the Refuge A rather than do the whole thing in one day but you need to book in advance and I left it too late. They close on October 31st for the season.
- The road between Litochoro and Prionia is asphalt the whole way (bar several random metres that aren’t) but the potholes can be epic and can do some serious damage to your wheels if you’re not careful. It’s also very narrow and very winding.
- Prionia has toilets and a restaurant but I’m not sure of the opening hours. Obviously both were closed when we showed up in the dark at 7am.
- Apparently it’s perfectly safe to leave your car there for several days. It’s not a huge car park but there was plenty of space when we got there. I can imagine it getting packed in the high season.
- We left Prionia just before 0700 and arrived at the refuge just before 1000, so that took three hours.
- We had a cuppa and left about 1030.
- We got to Skala at 1310, so 2 hours and 40 minutes. We only hung around for a few minutes.
- We got back to the refuge at 1520, so just over two hours, had a cuppa and left at 1540.
- Then we took 2 hours 50 minutes to get back to Prionia, arriving back to the car at 1830.
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