It was an exquisite Greek summer morning. The blue color which dominated the sky was steadily adopting brighter tints as the mighty sun was slowly progressing on its course. A soft breeze was blowing over the heat-stricken earth and was offering some relief to every living thing in need of it… And we were driving out of the Greek capital directed towards Peloponnese and its second highest mountain, Mount Kyllini.
Mount Kyllini (gr: Κυλλήνη, often spelled Cyllene or Kyllene, and known also as Zereia) is located in the west part of Corinthia, some 150 km west of Athens. It is neighbored by Oligyrtos Mountain to the south, Aroania Mountains to the west, and the Gulf of Corinth to the north. The mountain is separated into two distinct bodies (the “Small Zereia” on the east reaching 2117 m. of elevation and the “Big Zereia” on the west reaching 2374 m.) by the Flampouritsa Valley, which penetrates into the massif and gives it a characteristic crescent shape. The valley is occupied by extensive Conifer and Platanus forests, which host an astounding diversity of unique flora and fauna. The upper levels of the mountain are generally barren and smooth, making it easy to walk pretty much anywhere on it. It also enjoys an especially prominent place in the Greek mythology as the birthplace of god Hermes and the Pleiades.
We drove towards Patras until Xilokastro, where we left the highway and took the road to the picturesque Trikala villages, on the north foot of the mountain. Passing the villages, the road continued for some few kilometers up the mountain until it terminated at the ski center of Zereia (37.9464-22.4312). We parked the car, packed the stuff, and started on our way up to the higher storeys of this world.
It was about noon time, and, by then, the previous cheerful mood of the sky had been replaced by a somber one. Thick clouds were accumulated over the mountain. But, as they were not intent to be released to the ground in the form of rain, their presence was quite pleasant to us while having to ascend the first, steep part of the trek. After reaching the purview, we kept moving steadily south in a much smoother inclination. That was a very beautiful part of the trip, crossing through a sparse fir forest while peering at the imposing Big Zereia to the west and the equally so Small Zereia to the east after the deep valley.
We left any vestiges of forest that there were behind; changed our direction to the west, straight towards the summit; and, by early afternoon, we’d made it to that placid spot by a clear, gurgling streamlet where we stopped for the day. We pitched the tent; made a delicious spaghetti with tomato sauce, cheese, and tuna for dinner; and spent the rest of the day indulging in the profound quietude which pervaded that little secret spot upon the earth. There was nothing breaking the silence apart from the streaming water, the soft hissing of the wind, and the periodical mooing expressed by a herd of curious cattle attending us from the distance.
Night befell… And it was quite a chilly one. Firewood was sparse, but after giving the right amount of effort we’d managed to collect a decent amount of it to keep a fire burning for the few first dark hours. The moon was one night past its full phase. Soon after the sunset, the clouds occupying the east horizon started to form a brilliant crown around their verge. And then, the incandescent rocky sphere made its glorious appearance over them, suffusing the mountain with its silver radiance, and the soul of any thing having a soul with a fierce rapture.
The mooing and chirping of the awakening cattle and birds let us know of the new day’s advent and urged us to exit the tent. Despite the sun having already risen, light was dim. It would be a foggy day. After giving the right amount of time to breakfast and aptly experience the surrounding peace, we started on our way to the top. Taking the mountain road which passes from there for about 1 km, we reached the point (37.9340-22.4045) where that road meets a gully. We took that one straight up, to soon reach the upper slopes of the mountain. We there got greeted by a drove of wild horses which inhabit the mountain. The noble ungulates kept attending us from the distance they judged to be safe, as we were toilsomely approaching the peak.
A couple of hours after we’d left our last night’s refuge, we were at last standing on the top of Mount Kyllini. Unfortunately, the fog kept dominating the mountain, thus blocking the view to the distance which would otherwise have been astonishing. There was nothing moving, let aside the vapor in the atmosphere. But then, I noticed a man coming running along the ridge to the south towards our part. He soon was there. There was actually a mountain marathon taking place on that day. He had preceded the runners in order to set a registration point on the top of the mountain. That would definitely be quite an interesting spectacle to attend. So we took our places leaning lazily against the summit’s trig pillar and stayed there greeting the exhausted, though gleeful runners, until all the 100+ of them had passed us by.
For the sake of variety, we decided to take another way down. We followed the ridge to the south, where the runners had just come from, and reached the last day’s streamlet which we followed down until the tent. We had lunch and some chilling time; we packed everything; and started on our return to the car.
The stability of the gaseous state of all that water in the air appeared to be somewhat precarious as we were nearing the lower levels of the mountain. By the time we’d reached the boundaries of the forest, a sequence of thunder outbursts roared savagely out of the sky, and all the water it contained was let to the mercy of gravity, being poured in great loads upon our heads. The fog was, too, quite a problem. Limiting the visibility to some few meters, caused our slightly aberrating from our proper way, ending up descending down to the ski center from the very steep slope to its southwest. Besides the marathon we encountered up on the top, there was yet another race taking place on that day in the area of the ski center. It was a motocross race. Admittedly, it was quite scary coming down and hearing the powerful 2-stroke engines of the racing bikes raving around us, without being able to see absolutely anything around us in a distance greater of a few meters. Pretty much as wet as we could possibly be, though sound and safe, we made it to the car.
Besides the marathon we encountered up on the top, there was yet another race taking place on that day in the area of the ski center. It was a motocross race. Admittedly, it was quite scary coming down and hearing the powerful 2-stroke engines of the racing bikes raving around us, without being able to see absolutely anything around us in a distance greater than a few meters. Pretty much as wet as we could possibly be, though sound and safe, we made it to the car and started on our way back to Athens. Another epic mountain journey was just completed.
Video: Climbing Mount Kyllini
Mount Kyllini Photo Album
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