Saturday, September 6, 2008

Mount Olympus, Home of the Gods 6/09/08 Day 51

I woke early I guess because I was either excited or nervous. I think both; I felt I was doing something very important in this adventure around the world. But on the other hand I kept asking myself, why did Constantinos ask me if I had a helmet. Well enough of that kind of thinking, I have climbed many mountains and sure I could have used a helmet now and again but I'll be alright.

Breakfast was at about 8am and was just as nice as the great dinner we had. I was able to get some nice pictures of this beautiful Hotel Dimatis we were staying at. Constantinos got a tip from his girlfriend Effie on the place and she was right.

We got on the road at about 9am for about an hour drive on a dirt road which was pretty rough on Nikolas' car. Of course we had a lot of weight in it too. As I mentioned yesterday we wanted to go up a little known route on the northwest side of the mountain. The popular way to get up the mountain is on the east side starting from the small town of Litochoro then you drive to Prionia and start the climb from there. That is a much easier route I'm told where the trail is well packed from the Mules that supply the Refuges. You can even get yourself a ride on one of these Mules if you want to pay for it. I'm sure there is a little humiliation that comes with that price. When we reached our spot for the climb we parked the car on the side of the dirt road and started to get our packs ready. Nikolas is worried about the goats going after his car. He said he has some scratches from their horns from another trip on the back door. I think I would worry about the Bull we saw a few hundred meters back. This seems to be a grazing area.

Now I don't know what I was expecting the trail to look like but I did expect a trail. Forget that, Nicolas looks at his GPS and starts to walk over to this dry streambed and says "We will go up here" and then I asked the dumb question. "Isn't there a sign showing the trail" Nikolas looked back and smiled. "No sign and we are on the trail." Now I'm excited, this is going to be an adventure.

There is a reason why we had 3 GPS units, 2 maps of the mountain and 2 compasses. This is not your typical mountain with ravines and washes that come straight off the peaks. Here you have lots of twist and turns in the drainage and the rock is very old and craggy. Lots of shale rock which is very loose. As we proceeded up the streambed the boulders became so large that it took several moves just to get over or around each one and then there was the problem of the logs and debris everywhere.

Constantinos and Nikolas were always checking each other on the direction to head. I didn't see any trail markings through this area at all and Constantinos keep saying we should see something soon. After about 1 hr up the stream Nikolas pointed to the right and said "We need to be over there." As I looked up at this 100M face I grabbed my water hose from my Camelback and swallowed. We worked our way around to where the wall became a 40M face and then up we went. Even though the wall wasn't that high the streambed was now a long way down a steep slope so as I cleared the wall I thought that I had just accomplished a pretty good section. Then I started to look around. Everywhere is steep and craggy. There was loose rock everywhere. Then I saw the Sentry. I have a picture of it. The shadow in the rocks gives the impression that there is this big monster Sentry guarding the place. I just smiled and thought I'm ready for this; this is going to be fun.

The next section was not as steep but still through lots of small shrubs and trees. Still no trail marking that I saw but my two Athenian bloodhounds told me we were going the right direction. Every time I looked up the mountain became more ominous and menacing. Soon we came to a small flat area at the base of a very large bowl. This is the backside of the mountain you could tell. No wonder no one comes this way I thought. Then just as the words were flowing through my little pea brain we came upon a small group of climbers. "Lunch time" Constantinos tells me. I was ready for a break too. The other climbers had come up a different route then we did but still a difficult one and we were all going to the high ridge we could just see above us. Nikolas had been talking to them and after a few words came over to me and pointed up the face of the bowl we were in and said "there is the trail, up and over that ridge." As I looked up I knew that everything I had done previous on that day was nothing compared to what I was to face. All I could say is "What trail, I don't see anything." Constantinos comes over and tells me that we will camp over on the other side of the ridge. I asked "up there?" As we started out the other group of climbers who were taking a long break started to get ready but we were way ahead of them before they started. This group had a couple of strong climbers though because they were catching Constantinos and me fast. Nikolas is a strong climber and held his own. Both of my new friends are good climbers and I'm sure glad I was invited to come along with them.

After about 4hr of some steep rock climbing with 15kg on my back and no protection we made it to the top of the ridge. I just sat and drank water, I was tired. "Hey would you guy's stop pulling the ropes up before I get there" I said. Nikolas said "No ropes, No protection just 1200m between you and the bottom." There is a small monument on this ridge of rocks that the climbers add to when they pass. It gives you a chance to admire the unbelievable view of the Plateau of the Muses, which is named after the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne. >From this view you look almost due east where you can see two refuges. Litohoro Alpine Club which is straight away and to the left you can see the larger shelter of Yiosos Apostolides, at 2,760 Meters. The shelter is named after the climber who founded it; he was killed accidentally by a falling rock as he was climbing up to the peak of Myticas. That's why you need a helmet.

We were not able to secure sleeping arrangements at the Litohoro Refuge but we knew it was a busy weekend and camping in our tents is preferred anyway. The plateau had several tents pitched close by so we picked a good spot and got to it. The wind was down and light but it was starting to get cold. My watch says 14c and going down. Constantinos has this MSR 4season furytent that he got at a discount and I think it looks pretty good for the price he paid but he hates it because it takes to long to set up. It seems he always struggles with it. I asked him how many times he has set it up and he said just a few times or something like that. "You need more practice, go to a park when the wind is up and set it up there." I told him. "You need to get to where you can set it up in the dark." He just growled, I think he was to cold to here anything about the tent. We all were wining about something at this point. After setting up camp, which was hard because my lags were burning we walked over to the Litohoro which looks like it sleeps about 25 or 30 if you pack everyone tight. There were a lot of climbers mulling about. They have almost everything you would want to buy there. They have wine and wine and food and wine. It was fun and I meet some great folks from all over. The person in charge was a Greek climber who had worked on Mt. Rainier in the state of Washington which I have climbed. He also had climbed on Everest so when he heard I was there he was kind enough to come over and exchange a few short stories. He was very busy though trying to get everyone's food and drinks. When we made it back to our camp, about 300m away, we started cooking our own dinner. To our delight we had a Constantinos special. It was some kind of spaghetti crap with hard dried bread and some soup. I loved it even though I almost broke my tooth on the bread. There is a quick note here. A few days ago I had looked all over Athens for a can of fuel for my stove. My friend Elpida finally found a store that had the right type of nozzle on the top, the screw on type. Well it looked right at the time so I bought two. There is a plastic cap on the top so I didn't want to rip it off and of course it didn't have any threads on it. So I carried a can up the mountain and left another at Mahe house. "Somethings Wrong." (Junior Watson) Now Nikolas tells me they are hard to find in Greece. Good thing he had an extra small one I could use. After dinner we went back to the refuge for some wine to wash down the bread. That's when Constantinos said it was a week old. I was glad to get in the bag that night. I didn't even feel the rocks I was sleeping on. What a great day