Monte Olimpo è il più alto massiccio di tutta la Grecia con la vetta massima, il Mitikas, che raggiunge i 2.917 metri di altezza; interamente ricoperto da una fitta vegetazione di montagna si trova all'interno dell'omonimo parco nazionale che conta una estensione di circa 3.998 ettari. Secondo la mitologia Greca era la dimora degli dei, detti per l'appunto olimpi per essere distinti dagli dei marini, del regno di Poseidone e dagli dei terrestri, del regno di Ade. Per la scalata del Monte Olimpo sono richiesti circa due giorni di camminata, con la possibilità di pernottare presso il rifugio situato a circa 2.000 metri di altezza; consigliamo durante la scalata di attraversare la suggestiva gola naturale di Enippeas.
Tra tutte le montagne l'Olimpo è quella che ognuno vorrebbe salire, immagino.
La prima volta che l'ho visto ergersi dalla piana della Pieria mi sono detta "vado, nessuno mi può fermare".
Quel giorno, però, scoprii che non avrei potuto prendere e salire. Da Lithoro la salita dev'essere necessariamente divisa in due tappe.
Ma l'anno successivo, eccomi, Olimpo, sei mio.
Invece no, al rifugio mi sono sentita male, di notte, causa cistite (so tutto sulla cistite, chiedete pure) e affollamento di turisti dall'alito aglioso, così, a malincuore sono scesa, riservandomi di tornare.
L'anno dopo arieccomi, Olimpo, sei mio.
Stavolta mi sono premunita, grazie ad una cura portensosa, sana come non mai, finalmente ho raggiunto la cima agognata.
Dei? manco l'ombra e nemmeno le famose nuvole.
Però al rifugio, io ed il Nozzolone siamo stati talmente bene, grazie all'accoglienza calorosa di Dionisios e della moglie, piacevolmente rallegrati dalla compagnia di escursionisti di diverse nazioni, circondati dai pini loricati, qua chiamati pini bosniaci, che abbiamo deciso di tornarci.
L'anno successivo arieccoci, stavolta andiamo al plateau delle muse, un pò per il nome suggestivo, un pò per vedere un promettente piano carsico.
Il plateau non è all'altezza di tanto nome, effettivamente un pozzo c'è, pure visto da speleologi, ma non sul piano, poco distante dal sentiero, sulla costa del monte (pozzo a neve, dicono).
Siamo quindi saliti sul "profeta ilias" altra cima suggestiva, e fatto amicizia con i gestori di altri due rifugi, tutti cordialissimi davvero.
L'OLIMPO, QUESTO SCONOSCIUTO
With its summit lost in myth and clouds, Olympus is the tallest and most well known Greek mountain. The range consists of Kato (lower) and main Olympus and rises abruptly above the Pieria coast.
Mitikas, the tallest peak on Olympus (2918.8 m.), and the neighbouring peaks of Stefani, Skala and Skolio (all around 2900 metres) tower above the U-shaped glacial valley of Megala Kazania (i.e. large cauldron).
South of this horse-shoe of peaks rises Aghios Antonis (2815 m.), followed by the ridgeline of Kalogheros (a series of peaks around 2500 m.), that embraces the Enipeas valley. To the west, the ridgeline of Flabouro -Kitros marches north before being cut-off by the Xerolaki valley.
The Enipeas valley begins at Mavrologgos, crosses the east side of Olympus and ends on the coast of Litochoro. At the upper reaches of the valley the waters flows underground and bubble up out of the rocks at Prionia, forming a small waterfall and pool at an altitude of 1100 metres. From here on the gorge continues with lush vegetation and sheer rocky slopes until the cliff faces of Zilnia and Golna, which stand like sentinels at its exit.
SETTLEMENTS AND MONUMENTS
Among the surrounding towns and villages, Litochoro is the most obvious choice as a base for ascents. It has the most facilities, including a Hellenic Tourist Office (EOT), mountaineering clubs (EOS & SEO), camping (at Litochoro beach), a Youth Hostel and a B number of hotels and banks, as well as a coach station, taxis and train station (on the C coast). Also of particular interest is Dion, which is more closely associated with the C cultural dimension of the mountain. The town was sacred to the Macedonians and a place of worship of the Olympian gods. There is an archaeological site here and a museum. One can also find facilities for accommodation at Karia, as well as most of the coastal villages and towns. On the slopes of Olympus are the following monasteries: Aghios Dhionisios Monastery, atthe far end of Enipeas ravine, a little before Prionia. Founded atthe beginning of the 16th c. it was destroyed numerous times up to the end of W.W.II. and has recently been restored. The New Monastery of Aghios Dhionisios was built in 1954 near litochoro. Aghia Triadha Sparmou Monastery, probably built at the start of the 17th c. and finally abondonned in 1932. It operates today as a hostel for children. Kanalon Monastery, on the northern side of Ziliana stream. The date of its foundation is unknown. On the summit of "Profitisllias" (2803 m.), is the small chapel of Protitis Ilias, recently reconstructed on the site of the church of the same name, which according to tradition was built by St Dionisios in the middle of the 16th
For the most part Olympus is composed of limestone, dolomites and marble of various ages. Flysch is found on the N-NW sides of the mountain between 600 and 1200 , metres and E-SE foothills. On the southern and NW slopes gneiss are visible at mid The vegetation on Olympus is extremely varied, due to the great range of altitude and variety of terrain, the subsoil, exposure and history of landuse. The lower zones on the eastern side of the mountain are covered in mediterranean shrubs. The northern and southern side of the mountain have forests of deciduous oak, while on the western side of the mountain low vegetation with kermes oak predominates. At an altitude of about 700 m. the shrubland gives way to forests of black pine and beech, in the valleys that have richer soil and more humidity. On the southern and western sides of the mountain, the forest IS restricted to the ravines. The slopes here are mostly bare and kermes oak shrubs, gradually giving way to box. From 1600 m. to 2200 m. one meets extensive stands of bosnian pine. Above 2400 m. the slopes are dry and barren, covered by rocks shattered by exfoliation, among which grow tufts of wild grasses. Olympus is particularly rich in flora. The number of recorded plants to date is 1700 species (Strid 1985), among which are many that are rare or unique In the world. The most interesting areas for botanic exploration are the ravines and the alpine zone, particularly the screes and cliffs. Over 32 species of mammals, 104 species of birds and 18 species of reptiles and amphibians have been recorded on Olympus. The largest Greek population of chamois survives on mt Olympus, found on the steep slopes of the upper zone of the mountain. Small populations of roe deer and wild boar inhabit the forests, while a few wolves appear in regions where flock are still kept. A number of the rare birds of prey are notable, such as the golden eagle, the booted eagle, Bonelli's eagle and peregrine falcon -there are probably a singe pair of each-on Olympus. The lammergeir and black vulture have only recently ceased to nest here. The cultural and symbolic importance of Olympus, the beauty of its peaks and its environmental value were judged of great value to Greece, and in 1938 Olympus became Greece's first National Park. More recently, mt Olympus has been included in the "Biosphere Reserves" by UNESCO.
There are 5 mountain refuges on 0lympus:
Refuge "A" ("Spilios Aghapitos", alt. 2060 m.). 100 beds, food, water, telephone. Belongs to the Hellenic Federation of Mountaineering Clubs (EOOS) and is run by the 0lympus guide Kostas Zolotas and his family. It is open from May to October. Information: 0352/81800 (refuge), 0352/81329 (Zolotas residence).
Refuge SEO ("Ghiosos Apostolidhis", alt. 2695 m., on the saddle between the peaks Touba and Profitis lIias). 80 beds, food and water (from cistern). Belongs to the Mountaineering Club (SEO) of Thessaloniki. Usually open during the summer months, but has a sheltered porch behind windows should one need to stay the night in seasons when the refuge is shut. In the summer of 2000 you will find G. Bairaktaris there. Information: SEO Thessaloniki 031/224710 and SEO Litochoro 0352/84200. VHFfrequency: 146, 5 Mhz.
Refuge "C" ("Christos Kakkalos", alt. 2650 m.). 18 beds and water from a cistern. Belongs to EOOS and is run by Theodoros Kariofilis.lnformation 0352/81800.
Refuge "D" ("Dimitris Boudolas") (alt. 920 m. at Stavros). Has 30 beds and spring water, but is more commonly used for refreshments. Belongs to Mountaineering Club (EOS) of Thessaloniki.Information: EOS Thessaloniki 031/278288 and 0352/81687.
Refuge "B" (Vrisopoules, alt.181 0 m.). In the same area is a training centre for army rangers and a ski centre, also run by the army (KEOAX). The refuge is maintained by the Mountaineering Club of Elassona, while access to the area is controlled by the army. Information: KEOAX041/222383, Mountaineering Club of Elassona 049.3/23467.
There is also the small refuge at Livadhaki (always closed, water supply from melting snow 100 m. higher up (information and keys from EOS of Litochoro), and the refuge at Kato Pighadhaki belonging to the Mountaineering Club (SEO) of Leptokaria.
Lastly, there are two emergency huts: the single room shelter at the end of the KEOAX lift (2380 m. a little below the 02 route, 6 bunks, a few blankets) and the old meteorological station at the summit of Aghios Antonios (2810 m., the top floor has been cleared and equiped by the Hellenic Rescue Team, 9 bunks, elementary kitchen with some supplies and usually a little water, information at HRT, tel. 031/330195).
ASCENTS AND FOOTPATHS
Herders, woodcutters and monks have carved numerous paths over the mountain through the ages. The road to the highest peak, however, was opened by the thirst for adventure, exploration and conquest of the first three mortals to set foot on Mitikas: the two Swiss, Boissonas and Baud-Bovy and the hunter and Olympus guide from Litochoro Christos Kakkalos. Below are some brief details of the main ascents, most of which follow well-defined paths and start or converge on the refuges. For some of the longer routes, such as E4, 02 or Livadhaki, it would be wise to be equipped for an overnight stay, with food and certainly plenty of water.
1. Litochoro -Prionia. AR: 650 m. 5-6 hrs, E4 waymarks. The path begins at the upper part of the village (at Mili restaurant, 400 m.). The route follows the Enipeas ravine, crossing the river 7 times until Prionia (1040 m.). Many ups and downs make the path much more taxing than the altitude range suggests.
2 Prionia -Refuge A (Zolotas). AR: 1000 m. 3 hours, signs E4. The best maintained path on Olympus starts at the end of the road at Prionia (parking area and log taverna) and leads to the refuge which is perched on a natural balcony at 2060 m., surrounded by huge Bosnian pine trees.
3. Refuge A -Chondhromesorachi -Skala (Skolio) -Kakoskala -Mitikas peak. AR:850 m. 3 hours, waymarked. From the refuge (2060 m.) pass a ravine, ascend to the ridge Chondhromesorachi and reach the intersection of paths at 2490 m. The middle path leads to Skala (two branches, left to "ascend" and right to "descend"). From Skala follow red markings on the rough footpath which descends to Schisma (2805 m.) and finally climbs to Mitikas (2918 m.).
4. Chondhromesorachi -Zonaria -/ Mitikas peak/- Muses plateau. AR: 200 m., 1h15 min From the intersection at 2490 m. the right path zigzags up to 2600 m. and then traverses slightly uphill along the length of Zonaria (distinctive exposed rock layers visible). At 2715 m. (waymarking) the path that leads to Mitika veers (steep ascent via the couloir, AR: 200m. 45 min.). A little further along at Zonaria one comes to two consecutive couloirs that lead to Strivadha (unmarked) and Stefan i (marked). The footpath runs along the E. side of Stefani and passing Portes (2710 m.) forks, the upper branch leads to the refuge SEO (2695 m.) and the lower to Refuge C (2660 m.).
5. Gortsia -Plateau of the Muses -Refuges SEO & C. AR: 1575 m., 5- 6 hrs, well marked. Leave the main road to Prionia at the 13th km. (sign) and follow the uphill branch (1120 m. at car park). From here a clear path heads up towards Barba (1450 m., 1 hr) After 30 min. you come to a branch of the path leading down to a spring (10 min.) On reaching Stragos (1 hr, cement tank, no water), beware of forks in the path: the first on the left leads to Ithakisios shelter (once home to the painter Vassilis Ithakisios, 5 min.). Further up another path on the left leads to Stragos spring (10 min.), and the two branches on the right lead to Petrostrouga (from the higher branch begins the steep ascent towards Skourta). From Petrostrouga (1950 m., 30 min.) the path winds its way towards Skourta, crosses the spectacular horizontal knife edge of Lemos (2430 m.) and reaches a difficult pass with iron supports in the rock (a path goes around the Pass to the right) that comes out onto the Muses plateau (2600 m.). From here, along with the distinct path, there are two rows of metal piping leading to the refuges at 2695 m. and 2660 m. respectively.
6. RefugeA- Plateau of the Muses. AR: 600m., 1 hr45 min., well marked-signat the start and red markings on the rocks. This is a shorter route to the Muses plateau. After crossing the gully (snow drift) there is a marked downhill branch of the path toward the helipad.
7. Vrisopoules -Agh. Antonios -Skolio. AR: 1100 m., 3 hrs, partly marked 02. A quick route towards the peaks, especially in winter, when the road is usually open until Vrisopoules (alt.1810 m.). From here one can take a day-trip to the high peaks (with mountain skis or on foot).
8. E4 (Kokkinoplos -Litochoro). The European footpath E4 arrives at Olympus via Dheskati -Livadhi -Kokkinoplos and, passing Skala peak and the refuge "A" reaches Litochoro. From here it continues to Dhio, Vrondou and Pieria mountains. The Olympus section begins from Kokkinoplos (1130 m.), and enters and follows the Stalaghmatia ravine until Meghali Ghourna (2430 m.), from where it passes the base of Skolio (2790 m.) to get to Skala (2880 m.). Kokkinoplos -Skala. AR: 1750 m., 6- 7 hours, marked E4. From Skala to Litochoro it follows routes 2 and 1 in reverse.
9. 02 (Karia -Skolio). The 02 branches off from the E4 trail at the height of Skolio and descends to Karia, from where it heads towards Rapsani and ends at Pilio. The route will be described here as an ascent from Karia to Skolio. AR:1900 m., 8 hrs, well marked. From Karia, climb on small roads until Panaghia (1145 m., spring). A difficult patch through tall bushes brings one onto a wide brow (1265 m.), where a small road leads to Charvalovrisi spring (1400 m.). A little higher (1440 m.) begins a clear and well marked footpath with iron pegs. Reaching the saddle of Kakavraka -Metamorfosi (2505 m.) a distinct path leads to Bara (2365 m.). Traverse the base of Agh. Antonis (2705 m.), and follow it until you come to the E4 trail at Skolio (2800 m.), and follow its traces until Skala (2880 m.).
10. Ascent from Xerolaki to Christaki and Skolio. AR: 1350 m. 4-5 hrs, unmarked. From the bend in the forest road of Xerolaki (1360 m.), climb the ruined road along the stream and then continue on the relatively gentle riverbed of the ravine. Reaching Meghali Ghourna (2430 m.), one can climb to Christaki (2706 m.), Skolio or Agh. Antonis. A nice route for ski mountaineering.
11. Ascent to the Muses plateau from Kazania. AR: 1300 m., 4 hours. From the point where the forest road of Xerolaki meets the Naoum stream (1390 m.), follow the streambed until it forks (1580 m.). Climb on steep rocky ground until the bottom of Kazania (2250 m.). From here there are two difficult rough paths, the easiest (marked with yellow) to the left, leads directly to Portes, the one to the right is the classic ascent towards the cliff faces and traverses beneath Mitikas and Stefani until Portes (2710 m.).
12. Chondhromesorachi -Kalogheros -Livadhaki -Litochoro. 8 -9 hours. A long and demanding route, recently marked. The route begins from the intersection at 2490 m. and veers from the path towards Agh. Antonis at 2580 m. Passing the SE slopes of Agh. Antonis (shoulder at 2605 m.), one crosses Bara (sheepfold at 2335 m.) and enters the large basin between Kalogheros and Metamorfosi (water from melting snow until late in summer, at 2390 m.). Coming out onto the brow (2550 m.) and passing nearthe summit of Kalogheros (2676 m.), head down to Livadhaki (refuge at 2080 m.). From here the footpath descends along the axis, or the side of a large ridge to the left, and meets the forest road of Skandaliara at 770 m., from where one can walk down to Litochoro.
13. Ascent from Mavrologos to Livadhaki. AR: 700 m., 4 hours, well marked. Old herding path that has been recently marked. It branches off from route 2 (Prionia- Refuge A) at 1380 m. (on the ridge, shortly after the spring) and crosses Mavrologos, bearing uphill, to end on the ridge of Livadhaki. From here a level path leads shortly afterwards to a small refuge (closed). Condition of path (Summer of 2000): the path is mostly clear but some stretches are densely overgrown with pine saplings.