Olympos

EOS of Litochoro
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Morphology

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.


Geology

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

Carstic features
At Olympus, no impressive gorges or caves rich in decoration have been found, with the exception of Moria cave. This is due either to the lack of such gorges or caves, or most possibly because no systematic or extended research has been effected to the abrupt parts, impenetrable even by vegetation; the nature of rocks favours the formation of carst (southern part of Mavrologgos and Enippeas, the Gavos region, the whole N-NE part of the mountain, as well as the Ziliana and Lazi Griva ravines).

The most important caves and gorges of Olympus are the following:

  • Megala Kazania Cave: 2550 m., SW end of Megala Kazania, at the root of the western slope of Mytikas.
  • Megali Gourna Cave: 2430 m., inside Megali Gourna, just beside the path leading to Skolio.
  • Apollo Cave .S.. 1314: 1930 m., south to position Anathema, very near the old path leading to Skourta.
  • Ithakisios Cave or Muses Asylum A.S..1313: 1680 m., NE of Olympus, very near the path leading from Barba to Petrostrouga or Anathema.
  • Moria Cave: 1320 m., at position Bichtes, 8 km. NE of Karya village, in the Kokkinochoma gorge, going down the Fragou Aloni and "opposite" the little deserted church Agia Triada.
  • Agia Analipsi Cave .S.. 6442: 830 m., at Spilaia position, 2 km E of the village Pythio.
  • Agios Dionyssios Cave: 760 m., 30' SW of Agios Dionyssios Monasteryand 80 m. up and south the Enippeas bed.
  • Zilnias Cave: 650 m. at the western slope of Zilnia, 150 m. over Enippeas bed.
  • Agios Antonios Cave-Gorge : 2640 m., to the SW crest of Agios Antonios peak.
  • Skala Gorge: 2680 m., to the E abrupt side of Skala, 80 m. over the Zonaria path, to the edge of vertical rocks and just before the large ravine.
  • Bara Gorge: 2450 m., to the SE of Bara, over the spur between the two large clearings of Metamorphosi and Kalogeros.
  • Kanaki crest Gorge: 2420 m., over the Kanaki crest, extending between Mikri Gourna and the spur of Stalamatia.
  • Skolio Gorge-Snow-hole: 2780 m., at the NW end of the Skolio peak. The opening of the gorge is approx. 30 m.
  • Stavroitia Gorge-Snow-hole: 2600 m., at the NW slope of the high Stavroitia, just beside the path leading from the "crossroad" to Agios Antonios.
  • Zonaria Gorge-Snow-hole: 2560 m., E of Zonaria, Louki and Stefani, at the edge of an abrupt rock. It can be easily seen from the peak that descends from the Zonaria turn at Gourna.
  • Kakavrakos Gorge-Snow-hole: 2440 m., at the N crest of the Kakavrakos peak.
  • Mikri Gourna Gorge-Snow-hole: 2320 m., at the NW end of Mikri Gourna, at the end of an abrupt slope and close to the path leading to the Flambouro peak and to Stalamatia.

    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.


  • Hydrobiology

    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.

    ne can find drinking water also at positions Vryssopoules, where the refuge B is located, 1800 m., and at the military camp.


    Climate

    General Information
    It is not easy to offer, in a limited and not specialized page as this one, a complete image of the climate in the whole of Olympus, since the fluctuations are very intense during various meteorological phenomena, due to altitude differences. For this reason, one can find here below only some information on the climate conditions at the high regions of Olympus, over 2000 m.

    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.

    Temperature
    he factors determining the temperature at the highest regions of Olympus are so numerous and diverse, that any effort to generalize could turn dangerous. The temperature at every point depends on whether this point is exposed to the sun or not, if it is windy or not; also, the time of day is a factor: whether it's morning, noon, after-noon etc. There have been observed temperature differences of 8-10o C the same time of day at points some meters apart. This is the reason we only quote some mean temperature values, in order to have just an approach to weather conditions in Olympus.

    The mean temperature in summer varies from 0 C to +20 C (mean + 10 C) and in winter from -20 C to +10 C (mean - 5 C). There have been observed, of course, temperatures as low as - 5 C in summer and - 26 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.

    Rainfalls
    Half the yearly rain altitude is due to summer rain and hail, the rest to winter snow. his is due to the fact that summer rains are almost tropical and are accompanied by hail and thunder, thus offering large amounts of rain. Those summer rains are quite frequent, in the form of thunderstorms, and last 2-3 hours, usually during the afternoon hours.

    Snowfalls
    Olympus is covered by snow for almost 7 months during the year, usually from November to May. The snow altitude varies from some centimetres to almost 2 meters, depending to the position and morphology of each point. In some parts the heavy winds accumulate snow, which can reach an altitude of 8-10 m.

    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
    Winds in Olympus are a daily phenomenon and there are only a few cases of absolute calmness; there is almost always a breeze, even in full summer.

    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.


    Archaeology

    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. t 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.


    History

    The first climbers

  • 2.8.1913 (Christos Kakkalos) First absolute climbing and conquering of Olympus. Effected from Zonaria, to the Skala-Mytikas gorge, to the Tarpiian Stone (Tarpiia Petra), to the top.
  • 21.7.1919 (Fred. Boissonnas) Effected from the Skala peak to the Skala-Mytikas gorge, to the top. Possible descent from Louki.
  • 20.7.1920 (Giorgos Konstantakos) Possibly the first solitary climbing to the top.
  • 12.8.1921 (Christos Kakkalos) First observed descent from Louki.
  • 15.8.1921 (Christos Kakkalos)
  • 23.8.1922 ( Wnona Bailey )
  • 1925 (St. Kotsios)
  • 1926 (R. Haliburton, L. Frazeur) First spending the night at the top.
  • 3.9.1926 (C. Sleeman, W. Elmslie, . Storr, L. Ellwood) First time climbing from Louki. An attempt to go through Strivada failed.
  • 12.9.1927 (Chr. Kakkalos, I. Demestichas, Grigoriadis, T. Apostolopoulou, Ir. Ioannidis) First group ascend from Skala (24 people). First organized ascend of Club members. First ascend by 10 women to the top: T. Apostolopoulou, I. Nomidi.
  • 7.1928 (Chr. Kakkalos, Vassilis Ithakisios)
  • 3.8.1928 (Athens Mountaineering Club, Larissa Club of Excursonists) First organized ascend by Clubs. 21 people. First group ascend from Louki (16 people).
  • 9.1928 (Dim. Hadjopoulos - called Attikos or Pezoporos, G. Nikas).
  • 14.7.1929 (C. Sleeman, W. Elmslie).
  • 4.8.1930 (Pan Club, Larissa Club of Excursonists).
  • 8.9.1930 (Greek Mountaineering Club, Athens section, Greek Mountaineering Club, Thessaloniki section, Pan Club). First ascend to the top from Strivada. Effected by Kostas Natsis, 2nd level of difficulty (Natsis Pass).
  • 20.3.1931 (G. Dorier, Ir. Ioannidis, Kostas Natsis). First winter ascend to the top from Vryssopoules, to Skala to Mytikas.
  • 11.3.1934 (Il. Iliopoulos, K. Natsis). First winter ascend from Litochoro - Refuge - Skala - Mytikas.
  • 26/27.12.1953 (G. Michailidis, G. Tsamakidis, I. Petrocheilos). First spending the night at the top in winter. First ascend by a woman (A. Petrocheilou) to Olympus in winter conditions (arrived to Skala).

  • Tracks

    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.
    Litochoro - Prionia - Refuge A (Spilios Agapitos)
    Litochoro - Petrostrouga - Refuge C (Chr. Kakkalos) and Refuge Giossos Apostolidis.

    Tracks from Refuge A (Spilios Agapitos)
    Refuge A - Prionia - Litochoro
    Refuge A - Refuge C - Litochoro
    Refuge A - Kalogeros - Litochoro
    Refuge A - Mytikas - Refuge A
    Refuge A - High peaks - Refuge A

    Tracks from Refuge Giossos Apostolidis.
    Refuge Giossos Apostolidis - Petrostrouga - Litochoro
    Refuge Giossos Apostolidis - High peaks - Refuge Giossos Apostolidis
    Refuge Giossos Apostolidis - Megala Kazania - Xerolaki
    Refuge Giossos Apostolidis - Mytikas - Skolio - Xerolaki
    Refuge Giossos Apostolidis - Petrostrouga - Dion
    Refuge Giossos Apostolidis - Rachi Pappa - Barbalias - Vrondou

    Tracks from Refuge B (Vryssopoules).
    Refuge B - Mytikas - Refuge B
    Refuge B - NW peaks - Refuge B
    Refuge B - Skolio - Refuge B

    Tracks from Kokkinoplos
    Kokkinoplos - Gournes - Skolio - Mytikas - Refuge A
    Kokkinoplos - Stalamatia - Diakoptis - Refuge B

    Tracks from Xerolaki
    Xerolaki - Megala Kazania - Refuge Giossos Apostolidis
    Xerolaki - Skolio - Mytikas - Refuge Giossos Apostolidis
    Xerolaki- Kitros - Kokkinoplos

    Traversing Olympus
    Litochoro - Kokkinoplos: E4 European Rambler Trail - Greek part
    Traversing the whole of the Olympus volume can be effected from east to west or vice-versa, namely from Litochoro to Kokkinoplos.



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