Sunday was about to dawn in Syntagma Square, downtown Athens. For the hour, the city was surprisingly animated by crowds of drunk people wandering around aimlessly, as if – utterly lost – they were looking for their way home. Among them, there also was a minority of sober people who’d woken up at such an early hour, bound for whatever sort of business. A part of this minority were I and the folks of the Mountaineering Club of Athens, whom I met there at 7 am, and we were going to knit sweaters. No, joking, we were, of course, going to climb a mountain. The mountain we were bound for is called Artemision.
Mount Artemision is located in northeastern Peloponnese, between the prefectures of Argolis and Arcadia, some 140 km west of Athens. Its impressive, pyramidal highest peak reaches an elevation of 1771 m. According to the geographer Pausanias, a shrine dedicated to the goddess Artemis used to be placed there during the ancient times.
As we were getting ready to go, a minor issue arose: The bus company had mistakenly sent over a wrong, smaller bus. We were already some fifteen people assembled there; and together with some more we were going to pick up along the way, we were going to become twenty-one: a number larger than what the present bus could hold. The solution to this was to drive over to the company’s office – which, luckily enough, was along the way – and change bus. Bus changed, all people picked up… we hit the road.
In order to reach Artemision, we first took the highway to Corinth. By the time we made it there and stopped for a coffee at a rest area, the previous darkness was dissolved and a gloriously clear sky was revealed by the mighty sun’s advent. We continued on the highway towards Tripoli, and left it at Sterna village. We drove on a provincial road along the dry bank of Inachos river until Lyrkeia village. Shortly after the village, we should have taken a left turn for Karya village: but we only realized that after having pointlessly driven about 10 km straight ahead. We turned back, took the right way, drove past Karya, and stopped at the point 37.6321-22.5374, by a small, round corral, whence the trail to the top of Artemision begins, at 1050 AMSL.
The bus was parked by the side of the road, and we started right away getting ready for the ascent. Two more people, who drove there in their private car from the nearby city of Argos, were added to our team, raising our total to 23 people. Being accustomed to hiking alone, it initially felt kinda weird for me to need to function as a part of such a large group. But, ultimately, the team prove to be well-cooperating and have high moral, so the trip went by smoothly and effectively.
We started hiking at 11. The first part of the trail runs south through a captivating fir and yew forest. At 37.6277-22.5350 it comes to a dirt road which, followed shortly, leads to a clearing with a large, imposing chestnut tree standing in its middle, at 37.6264-22.5344. The trail continues from there up, straight south until it reaches the curve of another dirt road at 37.6238-22.5310. We follow the road to the west until its end at 37.6229-22.5225. From there on, the marked trail continues west for some 300 m. until it is divided at the point 37.6215-22.5190. There, one may choose the left for a smoother approach or the right for a slightly more technical one. We took the right.
The trail continues to the north along the slope for some 400 m. At about 37.6244-22.5214, it changes direction to the west again and ascends straight-line until the purview. The marvelous west view into the wild hinterland of Arcadia becomes there apparent for the first time. We proceed straight towards the summit, now haughtily posing in front of our sight. At 37.6243-22.5162 starts the narrow, rugged passage leading up to the peak, known as Chtenia. There are a few tricky parts, where hands need be put to good use; nothing too technical or dangerous though.
Finally, at about 13.50, we’d made it to the top. Another team from the Mountaineering Club of Spata followed shortly after us. So we ended up being an astoundingly large crowd sharing the limited area of the summit. That wasn’t the kind of thing I am used to: sitting on top of high mountains in utter solitude and meditating amidst profound imperturbation: but I still found it pleasant enough having my lunch and a couple of fags up there, while wondering at the wide, breathtaking view of the Peloponnesian mountains and valleys ending at the Argolic Gulf.
Having enjoyed duly, we started on our way down. We chose to descend from the south face of the summit, for the sake of speed and variety. At 16.20, we were back down at the bus. It’d taken us 5.20 min. to complete the round-trip on a very low tempo. It should have taken 3-4 hours for an averagely good-shape hiker. We drove off. We stopped by the taverna in Karya village to eat, drink, and sum up the impressions of the trip; and, then, by late evening, we were entering the again dark and vivid Greek capital.