Friday, 1 August 2014

The Routes up Mount Psiloritis

There are a number of different routes up to the peak of Mount Psiloritis, depending on how far you want to walk and the amount of ascent you can manage in a day.  They are all quite different and unique.  If you tackle them on your own without a guide you must have mountain experience, be reasonably fit, take the appropriate equipment with you and enough water and snacks. There are some water points on some of the routes but they are not always easy to find so you should have with you at least a couple of litres of water for the shorter ascents and more for the longer ascents. You should have good equipment and know the weather forecast as well. In the summer there can be 35 degrees on the coast but on the summit with wind and cloud it can be freezing with little visibility.  Be warned and take care.

Below I will outline some of the different routes and in all cases you return by the same way you came.  If you have someone to help you and to pick you up from a different point then you can combine some of the different routes, or if you want you can spend a few days walking the routes and camping.  The terrain underfoot is loose rock in the main and is not easy walking.  I advise you to always walk with walking poles to give yourself extra stability and security, especially when descending, and always to inform others of your route and expected arrival times.

a) Mygero Refuge Hut to the summit (2.5 hours)

This is the quickest and shortest ascent.  You start at 1550m altitude and  ascend to 2456m.  It takes two and a half hours to reach the summit and involves 1000m of ascent and 5km of walking.

It is possible to sleep the night in the Mygero refuge hut as it is left open all year round.  There are sleeping mats on raised platforms around the room and a sink and fireplace. Outside there is a toilet which sometimes works.

The path for half of the ascent is paved with stone which is useful on the way up but can be difficult on the way down as small stones on its surface make it very slippery.  The path is easy to follow and goes off in a south east direction until you reach a col where you take a right turn heading for the summit.  You can just make out the small church of Timios Stavros at its peak.

b) Nida Plateau to the summit (3.5 hours)

This route is 7.5km to the summit and starts at an altitude of 1350m near the Ideaon Andron cave. The path begins on one of the bends on the dirt track that takes you to the cave. It involves a total ascent of just over 1200m and I would allow a good 3 and a half hours to reach the peak.

The route follows the E4 path and is well marked with yellow and black markings.  After about an hour the path forks and you can either follow the route left or right. They join up again at a height of 2200m after a couple of hours walking.

c) Fourfouras via Toumbotos Prinos to the summit (5.5 hours)

The village of Fourfouras is in the Amari valley, at an altitude of about 480m.  The E4 path to the summit starts 200 - 300m from the southern edge of the village near a small church.  The first stage of the walk is 6km and goes up through the forest of Pardi, one of the last holly-oak forests left on Crete, to the refuge hut of Toumbotos Prinos, at 1500m, and takes about 3 hours.

The lower section of the path follows dirt tracks and is not well marked so it is possible to take the wrong turn here.  Generally you want to get to the bottom of the steeper ascent you can see above you on the edge of the mountain.  The tracks are fenced off at three or four points so you need to open and close them carefully, but you can get through.

You leave the dirt track behind you after passing through a last gate and follow the E4 posts marking the way up a fairly steep slope.  Pick out the E4 markers and head for them and don't get side tracked too far to the left and into a gorge too early.  The path is not easy to follow and unless you know roughly in which direction it goes it is difficult.  As you gain altitude the path takes you steeply up a gorge, looking for a way through the cliff of rocks that lies ahead. 

Eventually, after a lot of effort you reach an upland plateau and from here it is a 20 minute walk in an easterly direction to the refuge hut.  This is closed and there is no water, but there is a covered balcony where you can rest or spend the night if necessary.

From the hut the E4 path is better marked and easier to follow.  It takes another 2 and a half hours to reach the summit.

d)  Kamares via Kamares cave and the Nida Plateau to the summit (8 hours)

Kamares village is in the Amari valley at an altitude of 600m.  The caves take their name from the village and the Kamares ware, Minoan pottery, was named after finds in the cave sanctuary at Kamares on Mt. Ida in 1890.

The path starts at the southern edge of the village and you follow the E4 posts steeply upwards and into woodland for 2.5 hours until you reach the caves at 1700m. In places it is easy to follow but you must be careful to always follow the E4 markings and not get drawn off to the left which is a path that follows another shorter route to the summit round the left side of Mavri. There is a water point in the woods at perdikonero at 1400m if you can find it.

The Kamares cave is not visible until you are looking into it from its lip and is not very impressive to look at.  However, it has a fantastic view down over the Mesara plain and has great archaeological significance.

From the cave follow the path down to the left, descending 250m, following the red dots which mark the way. The path goes down steeply before heading over a small ridge. The path follows the side of the Mavri until you reach a dirt track and the Nida plateau. Then walk towards the Ideaon Andron cave and the start of the route to the summit. This is about 5.5km and takes 2 hours from the Kamares cave.

e)  Zaros lake via the Rouvas Gorge and the Nida Plateau to the Summit (8 hours)

Starting at the lake of Zaros at an altitude of 430m you follow the E4 path up past the church of St. Nicholas into the gorge.  It is an impressive steep-sided narrow gorge with picturesque wooden bridges. Until now the path is easy to follow but as you exit the gorge and into Rouvas forest you must be more careful to keep following the correct path.  If you go wrong you must head for the church of the Archangel and St. Efrosini which at some points you can see on a hill to the north west. From the church you keep following the E4 path in a northerly direction ascending a very steep slope. This takes you up into a gorge and you follow the path to the left to the area called Amoudhara at an altitude of 1450m. From Zaros to this point is 7km and it takes about 2.5 hours.

From here you follow the dirt track for 8km to the Idaeon Andron cave on the Nida plateau.  It is generally flat walking and with a good pace it takes about one and a half hours.  Then if you wish you take the E4 path to the summit.

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