In order to increase the safety of those that enjoy ski mountaineering, in cooperation with Mike Styllas, we designed a specialized map with recommended routes and we are giving it out for free.
The map focuses on the white element, so that the image corresponds to the conditions that take place during the winter.
Six descending routes are displayed, which are categorized according to their difficulty level, and are depicted in different colors. You can also see areas that are avalanche hazards.
We have made every effort to ensure that the content and information appearing in our maps is lucid, precise and comprehensive. However, weather or natural phenomena and human interventions may cause changes to the morphology of the ground. Therefore, under no circumstances do we guarantee, and thus are not responsible (not even due to negligence) for any damages that may be caused by the use of our maps. No part of the content of our maps constitutes, and may not under any circumstances be considered, directly or indirectly, as an incitement, instruction, advice or instigation for any action or omission. On the contrary, it is at the discretion of the user, following a personal assessment, to act based on his/her own volition, any liability on the part of ROUTE maps being excluded.
THE OLYMPIAN TERRAIN
Mount Olympus is a steep coastal massif. The distance between the main summits of Mytikas, Stefani and Skolio from the Aegean Sea is less than 20km. The massif is divided in three morphological parts. The south and western parts of the mountain and the domain above the refuge of Petrostrouga have gentle slopes in a technically easy terrain and are ideal for ski touring and ski mountaineering routes.
The east sides are steep with deep valleys in their lower parts, which are prone to avalanche activity. Ski mountaineering in these parts of Mount Olympus requires an advanced level of technical ability and mountaineering experience.
The north part of Mount Olympus and the couloirs of the main summits are very steep requiring expert level of skiing and extra caution of the conditions. The most dramatic landscape appears in the cirque of Megala Kazania, which is bounded by the rock faces of Mount Olympus highest summits. The west face of Stefani (250m), the northwest face of Mytikas (350m) and the north face of Skolio (450m). In these faces, some of the greatest alpine routes of Greece exist.
The north valleys of Mount Olympus guarded by steep ridges and high headwalls, are the domain of very serious ski and alpinism routes (photo by Mike Styllas)
WEATHER: Mount Olympus’s proximity to the Aegean Sea creates very local and intense weather patterns. The winter season normally starts in November and lasts until early May. The transition periods from fall to winter (October – November) and form winter to spring (May-June) are the most dangerous and many accidents have happened. Verglass and icy parts even in the forest are present as a result of large day and night temperatures and intense free-thaw cycles. Extra caution is required during these transitional periods.
In winter, storms from the Aegean Sea hit Mount Olympus and produce big amounts of snow, which sometimes reaches the beach. This weather is usually followed by north winds and very low temperatures. Very violent south winds (Sirocco) also hit the mountain in winter with speeds exceeding 100km/h, also occur and transform the snowpack very fast. In general, winter storms last from 24-48 hours before stable weather settles in, but this should not be taken as de facto.
Always consult with a valid METEO forecast before you plan a trip on Mount Olympus and also evaluate the previous meteorological conditions to assess the snowpack and the potential of avalanches as there are not official avalanche predictions.
The most updated weather forecast which included a variety of parameters that will let you to better evaluate the climatic and snow pack conditions is the SKIRON Forecast (http://forecast.uoa.gr/forecastnew.php) supported by the University of Athens. More direct visual observations for the current conditions is provided by the webcam located in Refuge Christos Kakkalos at 2650m and is supported by Snowreport (http://www.snowreport.gr/snowcam/olympos/).
AVALANCHES: The Mediterranean climate of Mount Olympus results in fast transition of the winter weather and especially of temperatures. Rapid changes in temperatures after severe storms create ideal conditions for avalanches. Just by looking to the scenery and one can realize that avalanches are sweeping down the major couloirs and valleys of the mountain. But avalanches are also observed outside the couloirs where the wind accumulates the snow, resulting in wind slab activity. Usually wind slab activity in the higher couloirs, releases large avalanches that sweep the couloirs carrying large amounts of ice, snow and debris.
If you plan a climbing or a skiing route during the winter, evaluate carefully the snowpack conditions in the slopes you plan to climb or to ski. Proper avalanche training and the essential gear during the winter, are highly recommended as they can save lives in the case of an avalanche accident.
(photo by Mike Styllas)
Cause and effect. Wind slab avalanches happen when wind accumulation and loading of the slopes are followed by a fast rise in temperature a situation common on Mount Olympus. These avalanches result in large amounts of debris down in the valleys.
CLASSIC SUMMIT CLIMBS
The winter climb to the summit of Mount Olympus is a special moment for the aspiring mountaineers and if on a clear day is combined with a successful ski descend, with views to the Aegean Sea, can make for a lifetime experience. There two classic routes climb to Mytikas: one starts from Gortsia and the other from the Military Camp (KEOAX).
The winter view from Mytikas (Pantheon), the summit of Greece with the Aegean Sea in the background (photo by Mike Styllas)
MYTIKAS & STEFANI COULOIRS (D +2300m, 45-50o, III): The couloir of Mytikas is climbed from the east side of the mountain, starting in the entry point of Gortsia. Follow the road from the town of Litochoro towards Olympus – Prionia. After 14km you will see signs GORTSIA – PLATEAU OF MUSES. Park your car on the paved road, to ensure that you can get your car in case it snows. The route commences in the parking of Gortsia and reaches the Plateau of Muses (D 1900m, 12.4km) and from there to the summits of Stefani and Mytikas. The conditions of the weather, the snow and the team, have to be evaluated in every section. The first section starts from Gortsia parking, follows the summer trail via Barba to the refuge of Petrostrouga. In case the refuge is closed there is a winter (bivouac) room in Petrostrouga refuge.
If on skis, in a normal winter there is enough snow to start skinning from the trailhead, but during most of the winters in the last 15 years, adequate snow for skinning up the trail starts from Barba, 4 km up the trail. From Petrostrouga refuge to the Plateau of Skourta, there are two separate options for mountaineers and skiers. Mountaineers ascend to the Plateau of Skourta through the forested ridge starting from the helicopter landing zone just above Petrostrouga refuge.
For skiers, it is more convenient to carefully follow the summer trail, past the first couloir (!), continue in the forest for another 300m and cut their kick turns upwards, gaining altitude but staying away from the rock cliffs (skiers should be to the north of the rock cliffs and have them to their left all the time) of Mantres. Above the tree line, this section requires correct navigation on the Plateau of Skourta in case of fog and bad visibility. Exiting the tree line a general W-SW direction has to be followed in order to arrive to the summit of Skourta and cross the ridge of Laimos. Section 3 is not as long but includes a safe passage of the ridge of Laimos, which despite the accumulated fatigue requires vigilance as it is usually corniced and along its north side precipitates more than 1000m. In case of bad visibility probing and the use of the rope may be necessary. Exiting the ridge of Laimos leads to the Plateau of Muses through the infamous Giosos Pass, where there is a small (15m) cable cord. On the Plateau of Muses the refuges of Christos Kakkalos and Giosos Apostolidis are located close to each other. The navigation can be very difficult here in case of bad visibility, as there are high cliffs bounding the Plateau.
To prevent such unpleasant situations metal poles that lead to both refuges spaced 25 or 50m from each other have been installed. The safest way to navigate in the Plateau of Muses, is to follow the yellow poles that lead to refuge Christos Kakkalos and from there to continue to refuge Giosos Apostolidis, as in many occasions avalanches and collapse of cornices threat the way below Profitis Ilias. Giosos Apostolidis refuge has also a winter room, with an emergency radio, placed by the Hellenic Rescue Team. The coordinates of the 43 yellow poles that lead to Refuge Christos Kakkalos can be found here:
Point No1 refers to Giosos Pass, points No2 – 44 are the GPS points of the 43 metallic poles leading from Giosos Pass to refuge Christos Kakkalos, point No 45 is the coordinates of Christos Kakkalos and point No 45 is the coordinates of Giosos Apostolidis refuge. Section 4 of Route 1 involves the ascent to the summits of Mytikas or Stefani, via their east couloirs. If you start from one of the two refuges you have to cross the Throne of Zeus (Stefani) cirque from as low as possible, because the slope below the rock face is prone to avalanching. This hold true even if you plan to climb one of the routes in Stefani northeast face. In some occasions when mountaineers did not want to bother to cross from the lower part of the cirque, triggered the avalanches themselves resulting to fatalities.
Once on the northeast ridge below Stefani, climb to a position above the main rock band to gain the traverse towards the east couloirs of the Stefani and Mytikas. The conditions of the traverse have to be evaluated as the slope is prone to wind slab accumulation. Also, after a heavy snowfall, with rising temperatures and early morning sunlight, the couloirs discharge their load of very fast, so extra caution should be taken on the timing of the climb.
The first couloir is Stefani couloir, wide and steep in its lower part. Stefani couloir widens considerably along its upper part before one gains the subsidiary summit of Stefani. The crossing to the main summit follows a very exposed ridge that in the last part involves mixed climbing and a class III chimney. Past the couloir of Stefani, is the narrow east Strivada couloir leading to a saddle before it drops to the west Strivada couloir and into the Megala Kazania cirque. Mytikas couloir is the last one as one traverses and along its lower part it is split by a characteristic cleaver (rocky ridge).
Depending on the conditions one can choose to enter Mytikas couloir before or after this characteristic cleaver (rocky ridge). The snow conditions within the summits’ east couloirs vary a lot with the season. In general, icy conditions prevail early in the season and more stable snow is found in the spring. The couloir of Mytikas has fixed belays (bolts) on the lateral rocky walls. If conditions are too icy the use of rope and rock gear is appropriate, as a fall from any of the couloirs can be very long and result in very unpleasant situations.
SKOLIO & SKALA RIDGE TO MYTIKAS (D+ 1100m, 35-40o, mixed): The Route starting from the Military Ski Camp (elevation 1820m) to the summit of Skolio (2912m), is the shorter, technically easier and popular winter ascend route of Mount Olympus. There is plenty of wide space and a selection of ski descends on gentle slopes or in some easy couloirs. The most serious difficulty can be the navigation, when the visibility is low. Also, due to its south orientation this route is hammered by south winds and snow cover lasts less in comparison to other routes. There are two winter rooms on the way from the Military Ski Camp to Skolio. These are the Kostas Migotzidis bivouac (2450m, 12 beds) and Agios Antonios (20 beds 2815m).
(photo by Mike Styllas)
Follow the road from Elassona towards KEOAX – Mount Olympus. Make sure not to forget your ID or Passport as you will be asked to show them in the Military Ski Camp gate. Once in the Military Ski Camp follow the road on skis or on foot in case of no snow, to reach the base of the ski lifts. Continue up the ski piste to the end of the second ski lift where Kostas Migotzidis bivouac is located (2450m). From there traverse diagonally to the left (north direction) to gain the saddle of Agios Antonios. Continue on the ridge past the dome of s subsidiary peak and in front of you is the second highest summit of Mount Olympus, the summit of Skolio (2912m). When on Skolio be aware of the cornices as the drop to Megala Kazania is more than 500m.
From Kostas Migotzidis bivouac there is the possibility to traverse towards an east/southeast direction and gain the summits of Metamorphosi or Kakavrakas in a wide space with pleasant ski descends. Again mark your route in your GPS as in case of deteriorating weather and visibility, the return to the Military Ski Camp can be a very challenging affair.
By reaching the summit of Skolio either on foot or on skis, there is the possibility to continue and climb to Mytikas through the ridge of Skala (2866m). The difficulties of Skala ridge vary a lot with the conditions and can be from an easy snow climb to a more demanding mixed route with sections of thin ice. There are bolts along the entire route but sometimes it is hard to see them when covered with snow. The route is descending from the subsidiary summit of Skala parallel but below the rock crest to a low point and after ascends a wide couloir. To the top of the couloir there is a cable to ensure a safe passage past the rock tower and from there the route descends for 20m on slabby rock to a narrow gap. This section is exposed and requires extra caution. After crossing the narrow gap climb up for about 50m and you will see the Greek flag marking the highest point of Mount Olympus.
PETROSTROUGA TREE SKIING (D+ 500m) : Following Route 1 to the refuge of Petrostrouga on skis can be a pleasant experience. The domain between Petrostrouga refuge and the summit of Skourta offers the best tree-skiing that can be found in Greece. Even if you aim to reach the Plateau of Muses and the highest peaks it is worthy to spend some time or even an extra day and enjoy some runs in the forest. The elevation range between 1900 and 2400m and the north orientation of this forested domain usually keep the powder in very good condition. Some old trunks half buried by the snow, can offer exciting moments, but keep in mind that rescue is not an easy thing so excitement and jumps have to be moderated by reality. The big couloir that starts from the summit of Skourta down to an elevation of 1900m, offers a very pleasant 500m descend. All the ski runs in this domain should terminate at 1900m as from this elevation, it is an easy traverse to the refuge of Petrostrouga where after a quick meal can get you ready for another run.
(photo by Mike Styllas)
THE VALLEY OF XEROLAKI (D+ 1550m)
The old glacial valley of Xerolaki (meaning the dry river in Greek) is a very one of the most pleasant ski mountaineering routes one can find in the mountains of Greece. The village of Petra is 7km off the national road connecting Katerini to Elassona. From the village of Petra follow the signs towards Olympus – Kokkinopilos. After 11.2km on the forest road you will come upon a junction. Take a left on the junction as the forest road becomes a little narrower. Continue for another 8.5km on the forest road without taking any junction and you will come upon an almost U turn of the road obliterated by a large creek. Park your car next to a concrete pond of water and get your skins ready.
Despite the time consuming forest road (1 hour from the village of Petra), the whole experience of skinning up to the summit of Christaki and skiing down. The route is easy, without technical difficulties in an environment that is not representative of Greece, but more of alpine destinations. The valley of Xerolaki is narrow and deep with north and west orientation and the snow lasts until late in the spring season. This route should be avoided after heavy snowfalls as the side walls avalanche frequently. Navigation is straightforward when confined in the valley, but can be problematic when reaching Megali Gourna where the valley widens considerably. At this location Christaki cabin (2450m) is located which is always open, but in heavy winters gets totally buried by the snow. As someone ascends he soon discovers that a great variety of skiing possibilities opens up along the lateral sides of the Valley of Xerolaki.
The Greek Vallee Blanc, the Valley of Xerolaki (photo by Mike Styllas)
CLASSIC SKI DESCENDS
SUMMITS EAST COULOIRS : For ski mountaineers of an advanced level the east couloirs of the Mytikas ( 200m 45- 50o), Stefani ( 150m, 50 – 55o) and the in between couloir of Strivada (100m, 40o) can offer a unique experience of skiing steep terrain with views to the Aegean Sea. The shortest and easiest of these three is the couloir or Strivada , which can give you an introduction of the skiing in this part of Mount Olympus. Stefani couloir is wide on its upper part but the lower part is steep and sometimes gets icy.
The east setting makes conditions to change fast, especially in the spring season. After skiing any of the summits’ east couloirs the possibility of skiing down the slopes towards Prionia is open. A general Southeast (skier’s right) direction should be followed to get you to the helipad below refuge Spilios Agapitos (closed in winter, no winter room). From there you can still enjoy some tree skiing down to the snowline and walk via the E4 trail to Prionia parking, where there is a taverna. From Prionia is a 4km walk to the parking of Gortsia.
GAVOS VALLEY : If after climbing the summits of Mytikas or Stefani or skiing their couloirs, you plan to return to the Plateau of Muses, there is another alternative for a 1000m ski run through the valley of Gavos. The run starts with a 35-40o 100m couloir, which opens to a wide slope with many different options. The most obvious option is the direct descend in the couloir. A traverse to the right can bring you in the trees where snow usually remains in better condition. The ski run terminates at an elevation of 1500m, where the valley narrows abruptly. From that point traverse to your right in the forest and follow the red marks on the trees. Even though the forest is dense skiing is possible. After 800m, you will reach a junction and the marks on the trees have blue color. Follow the blue marks towards Prionia.
The hikers ought to judge the conditions and their strengths and take the appropriate safety measures during their excursions.
(photo by Mike Styllas)
- Download the Avenza Maps app , which is free on Play Store, App Store, Windows Phone Store.
- Open the app and choose the shopping cart icon.
- On the search bar type “ROUTE maps Ski Mountaineering Olympus Map” and on the world map you will see our map over the area of Olympus. Tap on the pin and buy it.
- Activate your GPS and see your location appear on the map with a blue dot.
We wish you enjoyable and safe routes to the mountain of gods!
Infos & photos by Mike Styllas