climbing mount olympus, greece
After a late lunch at Litochoro, the nearest town of substance, we drove up to the trailhead for Mt Olypmus at Pironia, about 11km inland from Litochoro. Our departure time was 4pm.
We tackled Mount Olympus, as many people do, in two days. The first day was a walk up from Pironia to the hut which goes by the inauspicious name of “Refuge A”. The trail to Refuge A rises around 900m from Pironia over 6km, taking around 2.5 hours.
Along the trail to Refuge A there are occasional (reassuring) signs pointing you in the right direction. The trail is, however, well-trodden with day trippers just going as far as the Refuge, and there is no chance of getting lost. The Refuge that we were heading for was clearly visible above us and to the left about 45 minutes before we arrived there. (Look for a pointed roof and some picket fencing.)
The Refuge itself, at an altitude of around 2000m, is a marvel. If we hadn’t encountered similarly well-organised huts for hikers in Norway then it would have come as a complete surprise. It was professionally run and with a kitchen turning out simple but nutritious food to sustain us on the journey.
No hiking boots are allowed inside - you change your boots for slippers provided at the door. Kate was also instructed by a staff member that there was to be “No sacks on the beds.” The reference was to Kate’s backpack, however it did cause a doubletake.
Dinner was served until 9pm and lights out at 10pm - not a moment too soon after a tough walk uphill.
The following morning it was an early rise at 6am. We cleared the sleep from our eyes and walked outside to see the sun rising over the Agean Sea to the east, beyond Litochoro. A quick breakfast, and we were back on the trail by 7am.
The main trail up the mountain is known as E4 and is marked accordingly. Once again, the path is reasonably clear. You can ask to see the scale model at Refuge A which was very helpful in getting it straight in our minds.
Just following a turnoff to another of the Refuges, it takes a turn to the right and follows just beneath a ridgeline all the way to the top. This difficult section is known as Kaki Scala, a narrow path, through scree and shale, straight up.
After about an hour on Kaki Scala, you reach a peak, where you can take a very well-deserved break, and make a decision whether you want to strike out to the right for the highest point on Mount Olympus, Mytikas (2918m). To get there, it’s about 45 minutes, including going by hands and feet over loose scree in the final ascent.
We took one look at Mytikas and then chose the popular alternative, to take a left turn and walk 20 minutes to the second highest point, Skolio (2911 metres). After the rigours of Kaki Scala, this was a relaxing stroll.
We were back at Refuge A by 12.30pm, making it a 5.5 hour return journey to the summit of Mount Olympus, including half an hour or so up top.
After a quick bite for lunch, it was back on the trail to return to Pironia - another 2.5 hours of increasingly pleasant walking until we made it back to the car park at the trailhead by 4pm.
All in all, Mount Olympus is quite an achievement - climbing and then descending 2000 metres within 24 hours. We’re proud to say that we did it!
Photos here come from Kate’s weightless Canon Ixus digital camera which we packed for the hike in a moment of weakness - leaving my digital SLR behind.
Accommodation summary (Refuge A)
Dorm room, shared bathroom: US$28
In a few words: Location, location, location