Many are familiar with Olympus, “The mountain of Gods”, hiking or just visiting the area. But there is a very exciting and faster way to get from the beach to the highest peaks in Greece in a day, the Olympus Mythical Trail (OMT), an endurance race held the first weekend of July. It is a challenging event for experienced trail runners almost 100km with 6450m of climb.
It starts and finishes at the site of Lakkos, a few meters from the central square of Litochoro. The trail passes through unique scenery in pristine wilderness, offering a tremendous experience circumnavigating Olympus from North to South. For some visual candy of the views have a look at the project of Olympus Summits the work of photographer Babis Giritziotis and a virtual 360o tour of the 55 highest summits of Mount Olympus – above the altitude of 2.000m.
Long distance trail running is rapidly becoming mainstream and in a sentence is the evolution of hiking. An events is organized to provide food and drink at regular intervals and a safety net of people supporting allowing the participants to push themselves to the extremes of endurance. In OMT you have 28 hours to complete what a typical well-conditioned hiker will do in three to four days. Starting at midnight makes for some stunning scenery at dawn.
The trail climbs the mountain from the east towards the main peaks group. Starting at the foothills of Olympus at Litochoro you start by swerving for a couple of kilometers the riverbed of Enipeas, the main waterway of the mountain heading to Zilnia, a popular climbing rockface, close to Stavros refuge, now mostly working as a cafe-restaurant. After the steep climb to 1000m through scenic forest land we are heading north traversing from Seloma first to Koromilia refuge and after another climb to 2000m we get to Petrostrouga refuge. This marks the beginning of the Alpine part of the mountain, trees disappear and vegetation is now sparse. An eerie landscape of rocks and exposed ridgeline lies ahead. The wind now blows cold and the temperature drops below 10C even on a warm July night. After crossing the Lemos (neck) Col we arrive at the Plateau of the Muses, the main destination for all hiking and climbing activities of Olympus and home two refuges.
This landscape is dominated by the iconic view of Stefani at the first light of the new day, the throne of Zeus that we traverse underneath it leading to Zonaria and overlooking the 2919m of Greece’s highest peak, Mytikas on our way to Skolio (2912m), the second highest peak. From Skolio a stunning ridge at 2500 takes us to the top of St. Anthony, to continue south to the alpine meadows on the southern slopes of the mountain, turning east to reach the pristine and rarely visited Malta Forest, on to Aigiannis, at 580m, just 3 km from Litochoro, 68km from down the road but still 34km from the finish line! The trail climbs once again a long ascent to reach Livadaki, an alpine meadow at 2100m. Ahead, a steep descent to takes us to the river of Enipeas once more, this time at its origin, following the trail back as it crisscrosses up and down the riverbed. The final ascent to Golna at 1060m, just above Litochoro, offers a tremendous view of the town and of the entire Aegean shoreline. The night falls and our long walk on the mountain is coming to its completion at Litochore, everybody tired but excited from the adventure thinking of what they have just experienced in just the flickering of a day.