Profound darkness was prevalent on the half of earth’s surface where Greece is situated when, me and my friend Kasper, we were driving past the straits of Euripus from the island of Euboea to the Greek mainland. Our destination was the lofty mountains of the south Pindus range and the exalted emotions the utter wilderness of such mountains do always generate in a human soul.
More specifically, we were heading for Kaloskopi village, by the northeast foot of Mount Giona. The initial idea was that we park the car there and, in the course of a 4-5 day trip, we make a circle: covering Giona, Vardousia, and Oeta mountains: and finish in the same spot. However, the first complication of this venture was very fast to emerge: when the day broke and a dismal, black sky was revealed over our heads; which, in its turn, also broke open releasing bountiful loads of water. This was a seriously bad timing. I could literally not remember a single drop having fallen over the past two months; and now the whole country fell under a rain rampage on the exact day I decided to go to the mountains!
The second complication emerged when, by early morning, we’d made it to the village. That’s where we were intending to supply ourselves with food. But the only grocery shop we found there was still closed. A bypassing man suggested that it should open any time now. We walked into the cafe across the street and waited… Drank a coffee, played a backgammon round, talked, watched the hour hand of the clock hanging on the wall proceeding in its course… By early afternoon the shopkeeper showed up. A good thing that happened was that we needed to give no much effort in choosing what to get to eat: there wasn’t much variety; so we had to pretty much deplete the two little shelves which consisted the shop’s merchandise.
The rain in the village kept raging as strong as ever. But the forecast kept insisting that there was not, nor was going to be, any rain high on the mountain. I assumed that the rainclouds were intent to keep themselves low, and we’d soon get over them. So were we ready to start trekking.
We drove some few hundred meters the road by the upper verge of the village to the north, till the point (38.6929 – 22.3196) where a forest road leaves to the left. We took that one, penetrating ever deeper into the no-human territories of the thick fir forest, deer, wolves, and wilderness for as long as our vehicle allowed to do so. Αnd we finally parked by a trough we found right before the point where a streamlet was intersecting the road in two (38.6667 – 22.2846). We packed and off we set through the wet, chilly, foggy, murky forest.
We were walking along the road and the paths shortcutting its curves successively till we’d soon reached the trailhead at 1600 AMSL (38.6650 – 22.2698). By that time and altitude, the rain had significantly dwindled, only a frigid and ghastly drizzling being sprayed through the misty desolation. And so it remained until, having moved a good deal up along the muddy ravine, it changed to a thick hailfall, whipping us violently, driven by a hysterical windstorm. It wasn’t wise, if possible at all, to proceed any further. Αs it was -technically- summer, we were not sufficiently geared for a winter trip.
We spotted a hideout in between of some bulky rocks and pitched the tent. We proceeded with preparing coffee and dinner and warming ourselves up with as many clothes we had. As the night was becoming imminent, and the weather was turning steadily harsher, wind and water invading boldly into our stronghold, it was time to review the plan. If we didn’t want to freeze to death during the night, we had to flee immediately. We packed everything up roughly and forced our way back down to the car against the darkness and the severe weather.
After a cold, though tolerable and reanimating sleep in the car, next morning, we beheld the same inauspicious conditions prevailing over the mountain. The forecast was far from encouraging, also, for all the rest of that day. On the one following, however, everything was expected to come back to normal. The plan now was to wait there for this whole day and climb the mountain the day after. We only drove down to Gravia town to get some more food that we’d need, and were back in the same place by early afternoon. By late afternoon, the rain had already ceased; so we took advantage of the drier conditions to dry our clothes off on the car’s engine. Then night came in assistance of the mist to dip the mountain into utter darkness… It was sleep time.
The countless sparkling stars which I briefly noted adorning the black sky during the few instances I opened my eyes throughout the middle of the night, had me advised beforehand of the triumphantly bright sky we beheld as soon as we woke up that next morning. The dangling from the fir needles dew was glistening in joy all over the forest; the birds were singing excitedly; and the rugged precipices were posing haughtily off the verge of the forest in reception of this glorious day. Finally, the right time to climb this mountain was here.
We already had wasted two days waiting for the weather’s favor. So the original, circling plan had to be relinquished. The new plan was to climb Giona and come back the same way on the same day. We packed lightly and started striding upslopes.
By the spot we’d camped the other day, the fog now being absent, we could peek all in awe the pyramidal, rocky summit of the mountain growing steadily bulkier and more frightful as we were moving up through the ravine straight towards it. The ravine finally concluded on a narrow grassy plateau of heavenly beauty right below the northeast face of the summit. We then moved south, straight uphill towards the col formed between the summit and its adjoining to the west peak. Reaching there, we got to wonder at a splendid view to the south and the legendary Mount Parnassus with its dazzling white peaks resembling crowns in the surrounding landscape.
Especially so due to the last two days weather, our peak was not short of snow either. It goes without saying that we did not carry crampons with us, nor did we wear any proper winter shoes. So, risking to a certain degree our toes turning purple and being cut off thereafter, we proceeded up the steep, white summit. At least, the snow was still fresh; so we didn’t also have to run the danger of slipping and sliding down the entire slope at any point, till we crash and crack down into pieces against some rock or another.
It was quite some endeavor. We had to make a few stops along the way to take the shoes off; wipe the snow out of them; wring the shocks and let them dry off a bit in the sun; and warm our toes up by rubbing them against our palms before they go completely numb. But what we got to marvel at, when we finally made it to the top, was absolutely astounding and rewarding. Parnassus, Vardousia, and Oeta mountains which encompassed us; the imperious mountaintops of Pindus range extending far to the north and west in the background; Euboea faintly apparent before the Aegean sea to the east; the snow-capped mountains of Peloponnese after the shimmering gulf of Corinth to the south… all in strict stillness and permeated by a severe silence ripped only by the wind’s tuneful hissing… a scene which compels the one witnessing it to irrevocably revise his or hers notion of existence.
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