Pyxarias is the fourth highest mountain on Euboea, Greece’s second largest island. It is located at the northernmost tip of the great mountain range forming the spine of the island, right at the point where the range concludes before the Kereus plains of north Euboea. It owes its name to the common box (buxus semprevirens) shrub (Greek: pyxari) which dominates its slopes. Despite its unique, wild beauty and its vicinity to Athens, it is very little known to hikers and scarcely visited at all. It may be approached from four main starting points: from the Kontodespoti-Limnionas road on the southeast, Vlachia village on the north, Pilio on the northwest, and Pagontas on the southwest. The latter – and farthest of the four – approach was the one of my choice for that day’s trip.
I started from Chalkida, Euboea’s capital, at about 7 am. I made a stop by the bakery to get supplied with food for the trip and took the road to North Euboea, while the blackness of the sky above me was gradually receding. Went past the towns of Artaki and Psachna and started driving up the picturesque, curvy road, until, after 35 km, I’d reached Neos Pagontas village (38.673848 – 23.557318). At that point, there is a small road leaving to the right, a sign directing to Pagontas. My turning there coincided exactly with the first sun rays finding their way from the east to the west of the island over the mountain ridge. Making a short stop at a fresh-water spring located by the side of the road to fill up my bottle, after another 4 km, I had made it to the tiny, remote village of Pagontas at 400 m of altitude.
By the verge of the village, where the road ends, a small church is situated, surrounded by some spare space apt for parking a car. Having a 4×4 vehicle, one may also drive all the way to the foot of the mountain. But as this was not the case, that was as far as I could get to. Upon me parking there, I saw that old man, one of the village’s counted-in-fingers inhabitants, striding slowly towards my part. He greeted and sought to satisfy his curiosity as of who I am and what was that I was doing there. I let him know of my intention to climb the mountain, whereupon he got a bit startled because I was going to do that all alone. Then, he started explaining to me the way to reach the mountain’s east face, wherefrom a signed trail leads to the top along the rather smooth eastern slope. That was the exact way one should normally follow to the top, however, there was a different idea I was bearing on my head that day: I was intending to climb the mountain from its west, steep and rough face.
That old fellow was the last human I was to see for many hours to come. I farewelled him, he wished me luck, and I started on my long way. It was an exquisite morning. There was nothing to be heard apart from goats and birds singing the new day’s advent while I was distancing myself from the village walking through the adorned with the luxuriantly bloomed judas trees narrow meadows. The road keeps steadily directing east for some 6 km through a buxom forest dominated by pines, firs, and chestnut-trees until it changes its orientation to the north and soon concludes to a T-junction (38.686692 – 23.625152). The one to the right leads to the east face of the mountain and the one to the left to the west. When aiming to the latter, a shortcut may also be taken by heading straight up the hill through the forest, getting back to the road after some 500 m. Moving on, and taking a right at yet another junction (38.706835 – 23.627355), after some 12 km in total from the village, the road terminates right below the west face of Pyxarias peak at 970 AMSL (38.715073 – 23.6348).
Here starts the real fun. There is no trail leading up but a way needs to be improvised. There is a possibility to keep moving north along the foot for about half a kilometer until the endings of the ridge where the inclination is smoother, but I rather chose to start the ascent from that very spot, as it would not really make any significant difference in the overall difficulty of the endeavor. For the first meters of the ascent, care needs to be taken to avoid the juniper shrubs and their frustrating prickly leaves, pushing, instead, straight through the rest of the inoffensive shrubbery. The vegetation soon becomes sparser and sharp limestone formations start dominating the slope, where scrambling and a deal of easy climbing is needed to keep moving up. Continuing so, I reached the ridge and started clambering along it towards the peak. After about two exciting hours of confronting that wild face of the mountain, I was standing on its summit at 1328 AMSL.
After about two exciting hours of confronting that wild face of the mountain, I was standing on its summit at 1352 AMSL, where my exertion got rewarded by the magnificent view I got to wonder at. Allowing myself enough time to lunch and meditate upon the world’s beauty, I took the same way down. Reaching the foot and then jogging along the road, I was back to the village and my car by 5 pm.