My 55 Peaks

100 km on Olympus

I climbed (partially ran) 55 of the highest peaks on Olympus. It took exactly 40 hours, including about 5 hours for sleep.

The exact parameters of the route are difficult to give unequivocally. My watch recorded 107.5 km but I don’t trust it. The route previously drawn in the application was exactly 100 km. I estimate that the real distance could be about 102 km. The data on the elevation differences are much more reliable: according to the application, it should be 7400 m, the watch recorded 7612 m and I am inclined to believe it.

Route

55 Peaks Project was developed and first performed by Michiel Panhuysen on August 17-18, 2018. Later, Michiel repeated the tour twice in a two-person team: With Jakub Hajek and Neequaye Dsane – both attampts in July 2019. Each time it was the same route from Kokkinopilos to Litochoro. I decided to slightly modify this route, or rather propose a different version. It is still 55 of the highest Olympic peaks, but in my version the start and finish are located in Litochoro. This changes a lot, of course. First of all, the start is at an altitude of 300 m, not 1100 m. At the beginning there is also a long ascent to the first peak, when you have to climb 1800 m to the top. One-third of these 55 peaks are climbed in reverse order, so there are ascents and descents from the different sides.

However, this is not the most important thing. I must admit that the main motive for creating this new version was to… bring it closer to more number of potential hikers. Of course, this is an extremely difficult route (for tourists and runners, not for climbers). However, even in these regions of difficulties a certain gradation is possible. In the new configuration, there are shelters along the route, and they are quite evenly distributed: on 25 km (Christakis), on 50 km (Migkotzidis) a on 85 km (Livadaki). It is therefore possible to divide the route into four days (three nights) and then the extreme performance results in a very pleasant (though demanding) mountain trip. Just remember that all these shelters are self-service facilities, they provide shelter, you can sleep indoors, but you cannot count on any food, drink or other service there. That’s not all, there are also three real refugies (Petrostrugka, Kakkkalos and Apostolidis) where you can eat and stock up on drinks, although all three facilities are close together and can only be used on the first morning.

There is also a second compelling reason why I proposed this new version of 55 Peaks. The two highest and most difficult peaks: Mytikas and Stefani are completely different in nature to the rest of the route. In order to climb them, resistance to chasms and certain climbing skills are required, especially since there are no artificial facilities there. In the original version of the route from Kokkinopilos to Litochoro, they both are position at the end of the first day, maybe even in the dark, when you are rather tired. Honestly, in such a configuration I would not dare to go there, the certainty of movements is then crucial. Additionally, Mytikas would need to be climbed from the top of Skala, and descended with a much steeper road through Lukki, which should generally not be used for descent, for safety reasons for both descending person and other tourists below. In my configuration, Stefani and Mytikas are placed on the first day around noon, when you are still fresh, and the ascent to Mytikas is in the “right” direction, via Lukki. I climbed both peaks with great pleasure and freedom, feeling that they are the most exciting part of the crossing and act like the proverbial icing on the cake.

Impressions and Feelings

I started a dozen or so minutes after four, well before sunrise, in complete darkness. Through Zilnia, Hadolia, Gortzia, which I knew exactly, I headed towards the Plateau of Muses. I chose the extremely steep variant along the Anathema path because I like this road, and in its upper part, the thousand-year-old robolo trees – the flagship of Olympus – make an amazing impression. You can of course go the easier route next to the Petrostruga hut, although in the early morning everyone is still sleeping there. Only a little higher is the first of the 55 peaks – Mandres. The first and somehow emblematic at once. With some difficulty it is possible to recognize it as a peak, because it rises above the surrounding slopes up to … 2 meters! The same is true for 1/3 of the summits in this set, which causes some navigation problems along the route. For most of the peaks, however, there are no difficulties with locating them, especially when they rise above the nearest mountain pass to a height of … 600 m! I must also explain immediately that, apart from two exceptions, all the other peaks are located on the Alpine zone above the upper edge of the forest, so you do not need to look for them in the thickets or in the bushes. They are all easily visible (as there is no fog), although they are not arranged in any logical line, so without a very good knowledge of the terrain or a previously prepared gpx file it is impossible to find the right path.

Immediately after the Muses Plateau, the ascent to Stefani begins – one of the greatest attractions on the route. Extremely steep rock climbing, in the upper part there is a narrow edge over the precipice, and at the very end, a few peaks over a very narrow ridge (only slightly wider than Kopsi Naum). Exposure on both sides, the feeling of floating among the clouds guaranteed. For this complete emptiness – no one goes there, because the opinion is that it is difficult, and it is not as tall as Mytikas, so why to go there?  There is also plenty of excitement on the neighboring, slightly twin road to Mytikas. There, however, you can often meet groups led by a guide, as it was also this time. For those unfamiliar with the tourist conditions on Olympus, it may be valuable to know that, apart from this one group on Mytikas, I met only one (!) hiker during the entire 100 km route – for 40 hours! It was really a solo challenge.

After the peak of Skala, the greater technical difficulties end, there is no more rock or climbing. However, paths also end. I walk almost completely on loose, sharp stones (especially on traverses) and on clumps of grass. It is all the more strange that some of these routes are marked with different signs. Several fragments are the Faethon Marathon, a small section is the Olympus Mythical Trail, there are also some fragments painted with some other, unknown to me signs. However, they are all so rarely used that they do not turn into paths. Easier to navigate, but not easy to get around. Shoes that provide good protection – highly recommended.

The weather on Olympus in early June is not very stable. I managed to hit the two-day weather window, but it was not ideal conditions. The temperature on the peaks was about 5-6 degrees Celsius, the wind was blowing all the time, not too strong but noticeable. As long as the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, there was no problem, because the real feel temperature was much higher. It was rather cool when it was cloudy. I felt it especially at the end of the first day after sunset. I was hoping to reach the Migkotzidis Hut around 10 p.m. but finally I was there after midnight. I planned a longer rest in this place, and even a short (2h) sleep. All the time, however, I had a dilemma in my mind: if I walked longer at night, I wouldn’t see anything, and yet one of the motives of my trip was to admire the wonderful views around. So maybe not to fight for the record and stay longer in the shelter? The night chill resolved this dilemma. When I finally got to Migkotzidis, I buried myself under six blankets, decided that I definitely rest until sunrise, in the dark I do not go further.

The Migkotzidis Hut is located in the middle of the route (about 50 km), but it can give you a very deceptive impression. Firstly, the gains on the first half of the course are more than twice as high as on the second half (5160 to 2350m), and secondly, the last 17 km of the entire route is almost continuous downhill. The endurance loads are distributed definitely unevenly.
It can therefore be said that the journey on the second day is just a pleasure. The more so because it is then that an amazing accumulation of what is most characteristic for this whole adventure takes place. Feeling of freedom. The terrain is not very steep in many places, the whole area between the Ag. Antonios, Metamorfosi and Frgou Aloni is an almost flat green meadow. There are no paths, so you go wherever you want, it doesn’t really matter whether a little more to the right or to the left. Rather, you look around where there is another herd of wild horses and you come closer to see them gallop or stare curiously. You can also try to chase countless mountain chamois, although they seem even faster than horses. Also the order of reaching the peaks in this area is to some extent arbitrary, I made corrections live several times compared to what was drawn on the map.
I am still very impressed by the approach to one of the last peaks – Kalogeros. From the side of Fragou Aloni and Rachi Achrani, you approach almost the very top through gentle grassy grasslands (interwoven with moving stones, of course) to see that from the other, northern side Kalogeros breaks down to the Enipeas Gorge with an almost vertical 1500-meter wall . It is 17 km from the summit to Litochoro, from Livadaki there is even a comfortable path (thanks Lazaros). It turned out that I had enough strength at the end to be able to run the entire distance. A wonderful feeling.

A few words about numbers

If anyone would like to count these 55 peaks exactly, I warn you that it is not possible. First of all, in the book by Nikos Nesis, from which this number is taken, there are many errors, the heights and partly also the names of the peaks do not match. On the other hand, something that can certainly be considered a pinnacle in the field is omitted in this monograph. And to confuse the matter even more, in the latest edition of his work Nesis lists 68, not 55 peaks.
Secondly, when trying to cross the route along the line connecting these peaks, you have to cover at least some of them twice (back and forth), and in the case of the Kitros summit even three times! So if there were 55 peaks on my route, I must have climbed more than 60 times!
Nevertheless, some extreme peaks seem to be crucial, as they mark the basic course of the main ridges that need to be overcome and in this sense the route seems quite well defined, although we will probably want to make some small adjustments during further trials and discussions.

55 PEAKS route is waiting for you

I sincerely hope that for all those who dream of a great adventure, but are not entirely determined, this text will be a certain encouragement. Route 55 Peaks is waiting for you! You can cross it in the original version (Kokkinolilos – Litochoro), you can do it in the version proposed above. Certainly, it can be done much faster than me (I think even less than 24 hours), it can also be divided into four days. You can go solo and maybe even better with friends. People unfamiliar with rock scrambling should also not be afraid of it. The route can be cross without Stefani and Mytikas, it is very easy to avoid them and it does not cause any logistical problems, the whole route is even more homogeneous. The version with two more difficult peaks can be saved for later, after you become more familiar in the high mountains.
Let Zeus be with you and Athena lead the Olympic paths.

More information about  55 Peaks Project idea you can find here
Detaile informationin and  gpx file with oryginal course  (from Kokkinopilos to Litochoro) are here

My course and gpx file are here and here

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Goumarostali Vertical Mile

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 …

+ READ MORE

Olympus Mythical Trail

Olympus Mythical Trail Celebrating the Heat Out of many Greek inventions, sport probably made the biggest career. Almost nobody practices philosophy anymore, almost nobody values science, but sport is on …

+ READ MORE
Peloponnese by bike

Peloponnese by bike

Peloponnese by bike in the shadow of Covid-19 Five weeks of cycling. 1,435 km and over 17,000 meters of elevation. In a sports or tourist sense, it’s not a feat; …

+ READ MORE