It has been quite a while since I have written on here so let me fill you in on my exciting adventures. The weekend of October 8th&9th was an unforgettable weekend. This was the weekend I hiked 9,000 feet up and down Mount Olympus. Just 12 months ago I could have never pictured myself climbing a mountain in Greece on one of my free weekends in college. I saw myself spending weekends shopping, eating, and studying at my favorite local places. Things turned out a bit different though, I guess life turns out how you least expect it. The weekend left me speechless nonetheless, it was something I will never forget and always cherish.
The weekend began on Saturday morning around 11am when our group of 50 piled into a charter bus to drive about two hours to the base of Mount Olympus. When we arrived all I had was my back pack, running shoes, camera, water bottle, clothes, and a good attitude with great friends. We arrived at the base, hopped off the bus and began our assent. This would consist of about 3 1/2 hours of climbing plus breaks.The beginning consisted of avoiding the mules and trying not to slip on the mossy rocks. After about 30 minutes into the climb I finally fully appreciated my surroundings. It was so silent you could hear the wind through the trees and the crunch of the sticks below our feet. After being in bustling Thessaloniki, I welcomed the silence of the mountain. The fog was like a heavy blanket around the large trees. It encompassed us in our own little world on Olympus. As I climbed the distractions and stress of the world slowly melted away and I appreciated the beauty of the mountain. We talked, laughed, tripped over rocks, and ate a lot of chocolate in those first two hours.
The last hour and a half to the lodge became more difficult. It was steeper and much colder, along with this our bodies were getting used to the change in altitude. This was the point when we realized that the coming hours on Sunday to the summit would be incredibly difficult. The terrain began to change, we broke through the dense forest and fog to an area with less trees and even more rocks. The rocks were not kind to our ankles but the view was breath taking above the trees. Around 6 we finally arrived at the lodge, tired and hungry. We dropped off our bags on our bunks, put on warmer clothes, and admired the view over a dinner that consisted of spaghetti, chicken noodle soup, and hot chocolate. After dinner we explored the area around the lodge and talked to our classmates. As the sun began to set I grabbed my camera and we made our way to a rocky area to admire the beautiful sunset over the clouds. We stayed on those rocks until our fingers were numb from the cold. We made our way back to the lodge sat around the fire for hours and then bundled up with the little extra clothes we had to go look at the stars. The ocean of stars above our heads was magnificent, so magnificent we stayed in the 36 degree weather until midnight.
The next morning began with breakfast at sunrise and frantically preparing for the 9 hours of climbing ahead of us. We left around 8:30 and quickly realized that this would be a very difficult day. It was steep and cold- we finally broke completely through the trees and the sun was harsh. The view and silence was still equally beautiful but was occasionally interrupted by our tired complaints. The last three hours up the mountain were arguably some of the most exhausting hours of my life. My legs ached and lungs burned and it seemed as if we would never get there. The paths were narrow and treacherous truly testing our already tired legs. Some parts were so steep I could easily extend my arms about 5 inches and I would be touching the rocks in front of me. Each time when we thought we were finally at the top, we kept climbing. We climbed and climbed and climbed until we reached the throne of Zeus. I have never experienced something so magnificent as the moment we reached the top. I immediately took off my jacket, felt the icy wind on my bare arms, walked to the edge, and stood in silence admiring the home of the Gods. Our aching bodies were energized once again when were arrived at 9,000 feet. We took pictures together- I even took a picture in my spurs shirt. After, I sat in the grassy area eating my lunch watching the clouds seamlessly glide through the mountains. The sun was warm on our faces. Quite simply were were in a state of pure bliss up there…until we realized we had to walk all the way down.
The hike down was 6 hours after an incredibly taxing morning. The beginning part of our decent was spent in a single file line at the edge of a mountain trying not to slide off. Our knees began to ache and our legs were shaking but we just kept going down and eating our chocolate. The terrain changed once again to dense forrest once we reached the last lodge on the way down. When we got there all of us quite frankly just wanted to be done but we still had over two hours of walking down the mountain. It took a lot of forced positivity and rallying to keep each other going. Blisters were bad and my knee caps felt like they were about to pop off. Our fingers were a little swollen as well due to altitude sickness and dehydration. In light of feeling quite miserable we found humor in the little things and focused on getting to the bus before the sun set. After what seemed like an eternity, many blisters, and scrapes we finally saw the blue bus. This was a moment almost as blissful as when we reached the top. We sped up our pace and sat down on the bus at 7:06 pm. What a day, a day with 17 miles to be exact. We slept the entire ride back and celebrated with Gyros and an early bed time.
I can easily say that weekend was one of the most mentally and physically challenging weekends of my life. We were pushed to the limit, and exhausted in every way possible. Even though the weekend was exceptionally arduous, it was worth every rolled ankle and sore muscle. Most 18 year olds cannot say they spent a weekend hiking Mount Olympus, but I did and am so lucky. I fell asleep Sunday night admiring my experience, trying to ignore my sore muscles. Needless to say my muscles were sore until Thursday, a small price to pay for an incredible weekend.