Goumarostali Vertical Mile

Running Competition on Olympus

At first view, the logo of the Goumarostali Vertical Mile competition resembles
a  knihgt's shield. A similar shape, the main inscription at the top and the figure of the patron in the center.

However, the warriors who will appear on Olympus under this emblem in a few days are of a special kind … Just like the shield is not entirely knight’s one. Because is it an honor for a knight to have a crossing of a horse and a donkey as a patron? Hmm … actually, why not? There were different knightly shields and different coats of arms. However, there is something else in the sign of Goumarostalos, which is not very chivalrous. The expression on our hero’s face is like a combination of mockery, disbelief and anger. As if our title mule wanted to say: I’m not going any further, when you’re such a hero, now show what you can do.
This is how the story of the Goumarostalos competition begins. The name comes from a place on a path halfway between the bottom of the Enipeas Gorge and the Plateau of Muses. There used to be the place mules were able to reach, it was too difficult for them higher up. Participants of the competition, which will be held there this Sunday, must complete the entire route. Trifle – 4.5 km and 1,550 m to the top. 4.5 km, only? Maybe that’s why the smirk on our patron’s face? But, 1550 m up! Here the smile turns into disbelief. How steep must this path be? Let’s shed some light. ITRA does not record any such competition. Vertical kilometer runs are popular in the world, there is not a single vertical mile! It is therefore not surprising that the starting list of the premiere edition is full of excellent runners. This is probably the only competition in which almost half of the participants have over 600 ITRA points. Where will they be racing?

photos: Κωστας Μαρος

The Goumarostalos path begins inconspicuously. It is hard to even spot from the parking lot in Prionia. It’s a narrow single track from the very beginning. Narrow and immediately so steep that it is easier to use four limbs than two. The road meanders in endless turns through a beautiful mixed forest. It is not very dense everywhere, every now and then a view opens to the other side of the valley and the mighty Kalogeros massif. The speed of ascending heights is absolutely amazing, unparalleled not only anywhere on Olympus but also in other high mountains. When it seems that it cannot be steeper anymore, the “kofto” (shortcut) begins; a sudden left turn (attention, easy to miss) and the word “steep” takes on a new dimension. You start to wonder how these trees know where the vertical is, or rather how far is this slope from the vertical? How can the soil with beautiful green grass survive here? – because we have such a sea of green in the undergrowth. But here the ascent ends, unbelievable, but we have a flat section, a little over 100 m, but still. We run to a small clearing – the title Goumarostalos – and up the hill again. Now it is less steep. The path is still meandering through the tall forest, but it is not so soft anymore, more and more stones typical of Olympus. Another clearing with fallen trees, space, views from all sides and exactly one kilometer of elevation from the start. A few more turns and the forest slowly ends. We run up a sharp, narrow ridge and the most beautiful and amazing thing on Gomarostalos begins: a wonderful climb up the narrow edge. The path no longer exists, there are signs painted on the stones here and there and a lot of air around. There are actually no navigational difficulties, there is only one optimal and obvious way – turning right or left may fall into the abyss. At the end we get the icing on the cake – a short stretch of regular rock climbing, along an almost vertical wall. It is not worth racing here anymore – rather calm your heart rate, concentrate, look for proper holds for your hands and small rock steps on which you can put your foot. Adrenaline level max 🙂

photos: Lazaros Rigos

A few more steps and you are on the Plateau of Muses. The change is so radical and so unexpected that you are stunned: one step separates an almost vertical wall from a great flat meadow. Stefani’s monumental wall on the left, a slightly jagged cone of Profitis Elias to the right, two shelters and often dozens of wild goats grazing all over the place. A real idyll. You can finally fall to the ground (fatigue), there is plenty of space 😃
You can also start to wonder about the sense of this madness. But since the most famous mule “knight” – Sancho Pansa, together with his master Don Quixote fought the windmills, what is one, even the steepest, path in the mountains?

Time is come!

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