Homer writes about Mt. Olympus in the Iliad. In the first book, the mother of Achilles (try not to think Brad Pit), contends that she will, “go myself to snow-clad Olympus to tell what you [Achilles] say to Zeus whose joy is in the thunder…and then I will travel to Zeus’ palace of the bronze threshold, and will kneel to him and think to win him.”
Well, we did not find the bronze palace, but as we were thousands of feet above the clouds atop one of Europe’s highest peaks, snow we had in plenty. As we scaled the peaks of this once forbidden range, I had to wonder how many humans have ever scaled these walls since the first person in 1913. I definitely had no idea of the danger involved.
“November 9th, 2004. With my black outfit, in my new Athens coat, we bussed to Litochoro and walked the long sunny road that seemed to run to the summit of Olympus. This would be a long preperatory day. The sun beat down on my black outfit and began to bake me. Ahead was the summit, shrouded with clouds. We got to the city and found our resources: maps, food for the next day, and a taxi.
The mountain was split up in thirds. 3,000 feet to the end of the road, 3000 to base camp, and 3,00o to the peak. The taxi took us to the first of these thirds, and we rested there for at time. The mountain trail lay before us ready to be tread. So, we walked it for three hours up steep inclines and uneven footing. Winding our way up, we chased the sunlight and lost by a hare as the dark mist surrounded our base camp.
Camp A was desolate, having been closed for two or three weeks already for the season. So in the early hours of the night, the six o’clock darkness came on to us. It was cold. We situated our place of rest, crawled in our sleeping bags, and curled together. We ate dinner and were asleep by 7.30. The stars came out and went as clouds passed through the marbled night.
It was a cold night, and my toes struggled through it. But morning came, or rather, I should say, 9.30 did. After 14 hours we we were out of our bags. The sun gave its best shot at gracing us, but the clouds powered over our clear morning. So we packed our essentials and left our big packs behind in garbage bags, laying them on the side of the closed lodged. We would not be back for six hours.
Climbing Olympus was by far the most dangerous thing I have ever done. For, in late November, pre-noon gave us not only icy paths and whipping wind, but we were not equipped for such conditions, with just our sneakers and modge podge coverings. Paul and I were wearing socks as gloves.
It was only a few minutes before we hit snow. And the next three hours would be full of it. As we climbed to higher places and along the switch backed trails, we eventually came to a height where the clouds were below us, and the expanses of Olympus came into the clear.
We were on our way up to the peaks on our right, and miles to the left stood other lesser peaks. But lesser, in this scale, only means that there is large grandeur in the area. Up we went as if it would never end. Climbing along ridges where if we slipped to the left, we would get plunged thousands of feet down an icy slope. And to the right, if we would fall through deceptive ridge snow, we would free fall down another thousand.
We found our way near the three hightest peaks, Skala, Skolia, and Mytikas. So we went for Skala and Skolio. The wind froze even the rocks. And we traveled on, until we conquered Skolio and Skala. Then on to the very top: Mytikas. But the was shut by the winter’s wrath. Seeing that we were ill prepared with no ice picks or crampons for our feet, we decided that the dangers were too great. We didn’t want those cliffs to be our fate.
We didn’t reach Mytikas. Maybe someday we’ll go back and try. But we did get some amazing perspectives and some great views.
Traveling down was a bit easier, because the sun had come out and melted the snow. But otherwise we continued on atop the emerged rocks. Three hours up. Three hours back to base camp. And then came the longest leg-paining walk to the mountain village.
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