CONQUERING OLYMPUS

Conquering Olympus
Ascents & Climbing

The ascents on Olympus and the efforts to conquer its highest peak date back from the antiquity. However, it was only at the beginning of the 20th century that the ‘Seat of Gods’, the peak of Mytikas, was conquered at 2.917 meters high.

Frederic Boissonas, a Swiss publisher, and Daniel Bond – Bovy, a writer, were the first climbers who had the honour to make the ascension of the Mytikas mountain. Leaded by the hunter Christos Kakalos, native of Litohoro, and after having wandered for a month and having unsuccessfully tried to ascend the mountain, they managed to reach the steep and untrodden peak of Olympus, on the 2nd of August 1913, which they named “Eleftherios Venizelos Peak ”, in honour of the Balkan war victor Greek prime-minister. Due to the tumult of the first world-war, the conquest of the Olympus peak became known at the end of the war, six years later, in 1919, when it was published in a special French magazine. 

It was the end of a long adventure of climbers, geographers, travellers, botanists, geologists, engineers and military officers from all nationalities, who strongly desired to conquer the territory of the twelve ancient Greek gods on the most famous mountain of the antiquity, to picture one of the most legendary mountains in the fields of international philosophy, history and literature, and study its rich and unique flora and fauna. 

Proofs of human presence on Skolio, Profitis Elias and Agios Antonios peaks reveal that the lower peaks of Olympus had been conquered by climbers in the antiquity for worship purposes and on these very same peaks, pagan sanctuaries had been replaced by orthodox churches. But the organised efforts to conquer and study the legendary mountain increased in the 18th and especially in the 19th century. 

 The most important explorers of Olympus -who have not reached its highest peak though- are considered to be the French officer Ch. Sonnini (1780), the English officer W. Laeke (1806), the French traveller and naturalist Fr. Pouqueville (1810), the English diplomat Dav. Urquhart (1830), the German geographers C. Eckenbrecher (1840) and H. Barth (1862), the French archaeologist Leon Heuzy (1855), the Greek botanist Th. Orphanidis (1862), the English alpinist H. Tozer (1865), the German engineer Ed. Richter (1911), who was caught by robbers, the Swiss topographer Marcel Kurtz and others. 

Christos Kakalos, from Litohoro, is a legendary figure of alpinism who 

-apart from the historical conquest with the two Swiss- climbed Mytikas countless times until his old age. The last ascent by Kakalos, the first guide of Olympus, was in 1972 when he was 92 years old! The experienced guide Kostas Zolotas successfully continues the tradition. 

The reserve officer of the Corps of Engineers Spilios Agapitos (1916) and the first woman climber, the French Cecile Morand (1921) are among the pioneer climbers of Olympus. During the first decades of the 20th century, explorers from all over the world who ascended Olympus did not leave any area or peak of the mountain unexplored. Marcel Kurz and Christos Kakalos conquered the last peak of Olympus, the rocky Stefani or Seat of Zeus in 1921. 

Ascending and exploration routes are accomplished from almost any side of the mountain, from Kokkinoplos, North-western part, from Elassona-Sparmo, Southern part, from Vrondou and Petra, North-eastern parts. 

The first panhellenic climbing conference on Olympus took place in June 1936 in the Monastery of Agios Dionysos and went on the following years. Thanks to the building of five lodgings at spots of vital importance and to the tracing of paths on its steep slopes, the untrod mountain became accessible to all of those wanting to tread on the peak of gods and experience the beauties of Olympian nature. 

 

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