EOS of Litochoro
Olympos, the highest mountain in Greece and the second in altitude of the Balcan peninsula, consists a relatively small, massive, unseparable volume, almost circular, pretty rocky, with sharp peaks, extensive slopes and crests as well as large, abrupt slopes, carved by deep ravines.
Two large gorges, the one of Mavrologgos-Agios Dionyssios (Enippeas river ), 13 km long, and the one of Mavratza-Skarmos, 10 km long, almost meet at the Bara plateau, 2.350 m and divide the whole high Olympus region in 2 ellipsoid parts, the N-NW, with the highest peak, Myticas, 2.917m, and the S-SE, with Kalogeros as the highest peak, 2.701 m.
Among all Olympus currents, only one has a constant flow, Enippeas River. The rest form temporary torrents, following rains and snow melting, during the end of the winter and the spring.
There are no lakes in Olympus, except three small temporary lakes, an anonymous between Kalogeros and Fragou Aloni, 2.530 m., Dristela, between Pyrgos and Diakoptis, 2.350 m. and Bara, south of Petra, 680 m.
Among the peaks of Olympus, the ones with interest to mountaineers and geologists are the central and highest, this is Mytikas, 2917 m, Skolio, 2911 m. and Stefani, 2909 m. These peaks rise almost vertically to an arc 200o approx., thus forming Megala Kazania, the largest precipitous, funnel-like, cavity of Olympus, 1000 m wide (Skolio-Stefani) and 600 - 700 m. deep.
Olympus, one of the geologically youngest mountains, belongs to the Geotectonic - Pelagonic zone, which extends from Skopje to Northern Evia. Generally speaking, the rocks are metamorphic schists, formed by transformation of sedimentary rocks and consisting mainly in semicrystallic limestone, some phylitic schists and gneiss.
Because the various fossils in the crystallic rocks of the mountain have lost their particular characteristics due to syncrystallization, it is diffucult to define in an exact way the age of Olympus
The most important caves and gorges of Olympus are the following:
At the high region of Olympus there are also some small ravines with rocky walls, 3-5 m deep. and 5-10 m. wide; the bottom of these ravines is closed by large pieces of rock. It is possible that these ravines were large gorges in older times. Such ravines can be found at the NW end of Mikri Gourna, at the hollow between Agios Antonios and Stavroitia, at the northern end of the Kakavrakos crest, over the water tank, at the Bara spur, at the crest of Metamorphosi and near the sheep-folds, at the large spur of Metamorphosi, one at the top and one high towards the pass, at the N-NW side of Kalogeros, etc.
Due to the nature and arrangement of the rocks at the highest part of Olympos (dolomite layers), there are no springs at the altitude of 2000 m. and above, because the rain- and snow- waters penetrate the porous walls and thus are not kept. In this area, during the summer months, water can be found only in refuges, in some rain tanks and in two small temporary lakes.
At the Spilios Agapitos refuge, 2060 m., there is always clean water, coming from melting snow, which is collected in a closed tank and is naturally flowing.
At the Giossos Apostolidis refuge, 2720 m., there is, but not always, tank water, coming from rain and snow. This is also the case at the Christos Kakalos refuge C, 2650 m.
At Stefani Gourna, 2540 m., there is a small open tank, where water from melting snow is collected.
Far from the group of the high peaks, one finds two large rain tanks, at the N end of Kakavrakos, 2280 m., and S of Flambouro, 2150 m., their water, though, is not drinkable any more at the end of the summer.
At the end of spring, usually at the end of June, there is water, supposedly drinkable, in two small temporary lakes, formed from snow melting, the one between the peaks Kalogeros and Fragou Aloni, 2530 m., and the second at Dristela, 2350 m., between the peaks of Diakopti and Pyrgos.
At position Prionia, 1100 m., there are the rich springs of Enippeas River, which, soon after their appearance on the surface, form a small fall and a small lake.
Ïne can find drinking water also at positions Vryssopoules, where the refuge B is located, 1800 m., and at the military camp.
In general, the climate at the low regions is typically mediterranean, this is hot and dry in the summer, cold and wet in the winter. The northern and eastern regions of the mountain, near the sea, get more rain than the southern and western regions, so the vegetation there is much richer.
The mean temperature in summer varies from 0ï C to +20ï C (mean + 10ï C) and in winter from -20ï C to +10ï C (mean - 5ï C). There have been observed, of course, temperatures as low as - 5ï C in summer and - 26ï C or even lower in winter, but these are extreme cases. The winter temperatures are not considered extremely low, if the altitude is taken into account, since similar temperatures are noted also in other Northern Greek cities. In Olympus, though, one can really sense them, because they last very long.
Generally speaking, the hottest month is August and February is the coldest. The temperature drops approx. half a grade or more every 100 m. of difference in altitude.
Snowfalls are noted during the whole winter, specially in November and December. Snowfalls in the summer are noted usually twice, in the evening, they don't last long and the snow layer is powder-like, 3-5 cm., and only lasts for one day. During the summer months there is, almost always, enough snow, in form of frost, in two gorges, near the Spilios Agapitos refuge and deep in the Megala Kazania gorge, also an the Stefani Gourna, in the snow-holes and in the carstic shaded ravines.
Winds have been noted during summer months, that were more fierce than storms. Wind velocities of 110 km per hour have been measured and once the airspeed reached 170 km per hour. During the winter winds are even more severe, last longer and are usually accompanied by snowfalls. This causes the outbreak of severe snow tempests, together with mist and very low temperatures, which render climbing to the high peaks impossible.
Although there are references by ancient writers of the existence of apartments of Gods and worshipping centers at Olympus, although there is evidence by modern travellers and explorers of Olympus on remnants of ancient temples and altars, although many ceramic plates have been found on many peaks (most important, in 1961 stone plates with writings and coins were found at the Agios Antonios peak), still no archaeological research has been driven till today on the main volume of Olympus.
In Dion, as the name suggests in Greek, Zeus (Dias) was warshipped, whose sanctuary has not been found yet. In this important ancient city took place the "Olympia of Zeus", festivities and a theater competition. The Olympia lasted 9 days, each of which bore the name of one of the Muses, daughters of Zeus, born and worshipped, according to Mythology, in ancient Pieria, before they moved to Elikon and all of southern Greece. Ét is not known during what part of the year the Olympia took place, though.
In summer 1985 an ancient cemetery was discovered 4 km SW of Dion, near Agios Vassilios, at the feet of Olympus, with many graves and important pieces of art.
At the western part of Olympus, Thessaliki, where existed another ancient city, Pythion, there was a named Apollo temple, but neither here has any arcaeological research been effected. There exist only remnants of the ancient walls and it is speculated that the city existed at the same position as the homonymous modern village and hill, where the deserted small church of Agioi Apostoloi is situated.
On the main Olympus volume many symmetrical ceramic plates have been found or mentioned by older explorers and climbers, 30 x 40 x 3 cm., spread on some peaks under the form of circular floors; almost similar plates have been found at the archaeological site of Dion. Remnants of these ceramic plates, some big pieces and many small ones, can be found even today on the peaks Pagos, Kalogeros, Fragou Aloni, Metamorphosi, Kakavrakos, Pyrgos and Diakoptis.
The most important archaeological findings of Olympus were found unexpectedly in 1961, during the works on the Agios Antonios peak, 2817 m., for the installation of an Observatory of the University of Thessaloniki.
The first climbers
The whole of the Olympus volume presents a large diversity in form, which can satisfy inasmuch the simple walker as the experienced climber. Many wanderful courses can be organized, through dense forests, or on rocky crests, starting from wonderful paths or from numerous "entrances" towards the mountain or from the mountain itself to different other sites.
The main paths of Olympus are well preserved and most of them are signed. The last 300-400 m. of all tracks towards the difficult peaks, Mytikas and Stefani, are signed with red colour all the way, for the best safety of climbers.
Below are mentioned some usual tracks and courses, which cover almost all the mountain volume.
Tracks from Litochoro.
Tracks from Refuge A (Spilios Agapitos)
Tracks from Refuge Giossos Apostolidis.
Tracks from Refuge B (Vryssopoules).
Tracks from Kokkinoplos
Tracks from Xerolaki