Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.
There’s limited information (in English) on climbing Mount Olympus in Greece, the home of the ancient Greek gods. Here’s my Mount Olympus advice.
Dave’s tips for climbing Mount Olympus:
- Fly into Thessaloniki. Relax for a night and drink some (not too much) Ouzo.
- The next morning, take a bus to the main bus transfer station in Thessaloniki.
- At the transfer station, take the bus to Litochoro – the town at the base of Mount Olympus.
- The bus to Litochoro goes to another town first (you may have to transfer, or your bus may go directly like ours did).
- In Litochoro, take a taxi to the Prionia parking lot (25 euro each way!) and get the driver’s number for the way back in case you can’t hitch a ride down after the hike.
- From Prionia (1100m), hike up trail E4 to the hut called Refuge A (2100m), Spilios Agapitos. The hike takes about 2 ½ to 3 hours, 6.4km long gaining 1000m with very little downhill.
- Refuge A is a great hut with food, (bottled) water, and blankets. You will want a sleeping bag or camping sheet. There are no showers or potable running water, but you can buy bottled water relatively cheaply. Sleep overnight and start rested the next morning.
- Leave heavy items in the hut if you plan to come down by this same trail. After a breakfast of bread and coffee (yes, the €4.50 breakfast isn’t too impressive), start up to Skala. It’s a relatively short hike of under 3 hours, but the path is very steep.
- From the peak of Skala at over 2800m, you have the choice of Mytikas (2917m) or Skolio (2911m). Mytikas, the highest point in Greece, is a difficult scramble with potentially fatal consequences if you slip and fall the wrong way. Don’t attempt Mytikas unless the peak is free of high winds, rain, snow, and fog. The alternative of Skolio is not the highest point in Greece, but it’s a safer walk to get there. And it’s still a peak on Mount Olympus.
- The way down is tough because of loose sand and rocks on the steep trail. Here you really want some good hiking boots. Walking poles wouldn’t hurt either.
Another possibility to make life easier would be to rent a car for the 2 days in Thessaloniki. I think this would be cheaper, because we paid €15 each for bus tickets and €25×2 for taxis. Renting a small car for 2d should be less than 80 euro. There is ample parking at Prionia (though it might get full on summer weekends). It would be a lot faster by car as well, without having to wait for so many taxis, buses, etc.
My impressions: this is a serious hike. It isn’t quite as technical as climbing Zugspitze in Germany (because no climbing gear is needed as it is on Zugspitze’s Hoellental route), but the overall energy needed is similar. The vistas are phenomenal! I shot several timelapse sequences with my Nikon D7000 during the climb… those will be in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!
Posted 5 years, 5 months ago at 9:55 pm. 4 comments
I met Neil, a fellow Zugspitze enthusiast, via an English-speaking web forum. He was kind enough to write a great post about his love for Germany’s highest mountain, and a recent hike up one via ferrata section. Complete with fantastic Zugspitze photos! On to his story…
When I was 12 years old, I went, with my family, to the Tyrol for the first time. We’d always been on holiday a lot, but this was only my second trip abroad and my first trip to see “proper” mountains. Sure, Wales and Scotland have mountains, but it’s not quite the same! I found the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak at 2,962m, on the border with Austria, particularly awesome, and enjoyed the cable car trip to the summit immensely. The holiday to Ehrwald (Austria) made a huge impression on me and has remained one of my favourite destinations.
Fast forward 22 years and this (admittedly slightly weedy) 12-year-old is now 6 foot 2 and a keen hiker. This year, we repeated the holiday – parents, me (and my wife), as a 60th birthday present for my Mum. As our holiday commenced, my sister was drinking fermented mares’ milk in Mongolia on her honeymoon having not washed for 6 days, I was drinking European lagers in the mountains and swimming in crystal clear warm mountain lakes. Sometimes, the world has a wonderful unfairness about it!
If you’ve never been to the Tyrol, imagine for a moment a paradise of good rustic food, refreshing lagers and unusual Austrian wines, snow-capped mountains, beautiful sunshine, meadows of wild flowers, friendly people, mountain lakes, glacial fountains in town centres from which the water is clean enough to drink, pretty houses with flowers bursting from their window boxes. Oh, and Obstler: the local schnapps which is like drinking burning sandpaper, and which is used to toast almost everything.
When my wife and I go on holiday, we usually spend at least a couple of days apart. It’s not that we’ve been married so long that we can’t bear to be together, it’s just that we have different ideas of fun. I like walking, she doesn’t. Ten years ago, our “solo days” would involve my wife painting or relaxing and me going for a country walk. Over the years, “walk” has gradually yet steadily evolved into “fairly dangerous hike/climb”. So this year, against the advice of the man in the hiking shop, I decided to tackle the front of the Zugspitze, via the Wiener-Neustädte-hütte route. There are a number of routes up this mountain, ranging from relatively mild (but long) beautifully scenic routes round the back of the mountain, to this in-your-face, straight up, and slightly shorter trek. And it was fun!
Setting off just after 8am from the village centre, I began the lovely varied walk by making my way through the village, through the meadow, and into one of the larch woods which are so common in the area. Car-wide tracks lull you into a slightly false sense of security, and it took only 40 minutes to reach my breakfast stop, the Gamsalmhütte. Unfortunately, I hadn’t checked their opening times, and Tuesday is their closed day. Hungry walk for me then!
I’d like to interrupt my hike story for a second to tell you a little more about hüttes. Basically, these mountain huts, located anywhere from the busy top of a cable car, to the middle of nowhere on a desolate ridge behind a huge mountain. They provide mattresses on which weary travellers can spend the night, as well as a varying range of food and drink items, ranging from a large and diverse menu at the busier huts, to a more limited range of home-made produce at some of the more remote ones. Beer is a staple, although I wonder how they manage to deliver to some of the higher ones!
Back to the Zugspitze, and I proceeded from the Gamsalmhütte up what would be, in winter, a busy ski slope. It was steep yet enjoyable, and looking back there were fabulous views across the valley. From here, already fairly high, the vegetation began to thin out and the hike continued across, at various times, grassland, scree slopes, rocks, unsafe-looking wooden platforms, and snow. The route passed under the cable car, from which the lazy people waved to me, and past some derelict buildings until eventually, after what felt like about 3 days to my stomach, but was nearer 2 hours, I reached the Wiener-Neustädte-hütte, probably the most remote hut in the region.
Deliveries to the hut are obviously difficult, and the chap inside informed me that I could choose between sausage and bread or soup, nothing else. I had a kasknödelsuppe – a clear soup of beef stock with a cheese dumpling in the middle, which was delicious (although to be fair, fermented mare’s milk would probably have tasted good by this point!). The hut itself was built in the late 1800s and was a beautiful cross between refuge, café and museum. For people staying overnight, there was no television, but an “entertainment corner” consisting of board games, a few books, and a guitar. The interior was of dark mellow wood with little natural light, and a number of antique hiking and objects hanging from the walls. There was also a guest book to sign, the first entry having been made in the 1960s. There are various hikes from this hut, but the most popular is obviously upwards. As I left, I looked at the photograph in the porch showing the route up from the hut – basically a wiggly red line up from the rock face!
The last bit is by far the most fun. This is the start of the via ferrata: metal rungs in the rock with a cable to attach safety ropes (which I didn’t have – oops!). The first part after the hut is across scree to the bottom of the rock, and at this point the via ferrata begins, firstly up the side of the mountain, and then for a while through a cave. The views behind and down are truly breathtaking and as the path, marked by red paint (blood?), winds its way up, the ascent is quite rapid.
About half way between the scree and the summit, the via ferrata comes to an end, and what remains is of equal steepness but without the mechanical aids. At times the path is indistinct and you just have to follow the person in front, at other times it’s quite clear. Eventually you reach the ridge, where you join with the Gatterl and Reintal routes for the final ascent, which is a little easier.
The last few yards to the tourist platform are, disappointingly, via a metal staircase, after which you have to get through the crowds of day-trippers (who’d ascended via the cable car) and queue for the final few yards to the summit. When I was there, those queuing for the summit were a mixture of elderly tourists and children wearing plimsolls, and over-cautious 30-somethings with full climbing gear, who looked a little out of place! From the summit, you can see the various routs up in each direction, after which it’s a queue back down to the platform and a celebratory schnapps and germknödel (sweet dumpling) in the café! Remember to take lots of cash with you, as they don’t take cards for the cable car down and it’s a long walk back!
Thanks again, Neil! If readers enjoyed this article, please check out Neil’s Hiking Site for more.
Posted 6 years, 6 months ago at 12:06 pm. 1 comment
Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world, measured from the sea floor. Not the highest, mind you, but the tallest from base to summit. Its peak is at 13,796’.
Most people come to Mauna Kea, spend a half hour at the visitor center (about 9,000’), and drive straight up to the summit where most of the world’s finest astronomical observatories are located. Then they get altitude sickness: headache, nausea, shortness of breath, the whole bit.
That seems too easy to me.
Instead, I decided to climb up from the visitor center. The trail is a bit over six miles, and almost a mile of vertical. This was complicated by the cold I was coming down with, but I figured if that slowed me down enough, I’d just turn around.
Here’s a view of Mauna Loa on my way up. The younger sister of Mauna Kea, she is the largest volcano in the world by mass. There’s one larger volcano in the known universe, but that’s on Mars. See the web of different colors on the side? Those are lava flows from about every 20 years, going a long way back. She’s overdue to erupt again. Apparently I climbed Mauna Loa in a previous life, in 1834. The summit is 13,679’, deceptively high because the mountain has such gradual slopes.
As I climbed, I wondered at the lack of signs showing how far along the trail I was, or how high I was. I guess some other hikers had the same thought. But apparently they had a GPS, because they left me this:
At this point, my nose was running like a faucet. I felt a bit lightheaded, but that could have been from the cold or the steady uphill climb. One thing I’ll note about the hike: I’d heard it was rocky and the footing was bad. WRONG. Most of the hike is on sand-like dirt, so it’s a bit like climbing up firm sand dunes.
A few short sections were rocky, or made of pumice stones like those in a gas grill. I didn’t have any problems there, although I could see how someone that is not too coordinated to begin with might have issues after getting hypoxic from the altitude.
As I neared the top, the trail split and I gambled on which path was the real trail. I crested a hill and saw Lake Waiau – “placenta lake,” where native Hawaiian chiefs used to throw their firstborn son’s umbilical cord to give the child a place in the afterlife as chief. I didn’t get any closer than this, because I didn’t want to go downhill and then back up again.
Shortly after turning around at the lake, I saw some telescopes over the crest of a hill! Now I finally believed the mantra I’d been repeating for the last four hours: “I’m 80% sure that I’ll make it to the top.” You can also see a representative (if less sandy) section of trail here. It’s not so bad, eh?
After a bit of a walk up the road (because the trail stops), I came to one final, sandy hill, higher than the last of the telescopes. The wind was whipping at 30-40mph+ (that’s 60kmh+), and it was a few degrees above freezing. With the wind and the slight hypoxia, it was so cold my fingers went numb in under 30 seconds.
As I neared the peak, I was unbelievably excited to have made it. Now I know how people feel when they summit Everest or a similar peak. I swear the tears dripping down my face were from the wind in my eyes, though.
After hitchhiking back down to the visitor center, I waited around for sunset on top of a nearby ash cone. This strange slantwise effect must be due to the mountain’s shadow.
Hiking up Mauna Kea was one of the hardest things I’ve done.
My hike was probably made much tougher because of this cold. I’ve been battling it for two days since Mauna Kea, though fortunately it isn’t too bad. Nevertheless, I may have lost the desire to hike up any 7000m or 8000m peaks someday. I’m not sure that 22,000’ and above is the place for me, sans oxygen.
But you never know… maybe I’ll change my mind. Anyone want to sponsor an expedition?
Posted 6 years, 9 months ago at 3:30 pm. Add a comment
My plan for May 24th: hike the Na Pali overlook trails in Kokee Park. Signposted at 9.3 miles (not including another mile to some viewpoints and 2 miles along the road back to the car). The trail had a good bit of up-and-down, probably a couple thousand feet of vertical.
Was it worth the blisters? Absolutely! This is almost the same view I got from the helicopter, though I got there under my own power. Of course, it took a whole day, so I’d still wholeheartedly recommend the heli tour to see 20 views like this in an hour. Let’s face it, most of us don’t have 20 days to spend hiking in Hawaii, though we may wish we did.
There were so many great shots from this day, so I have a feeling I’ll do a whole piece about this hike later on. Here’s a nice spot below one of the overlooks; props to the couple who took the photo for me. My wireless remote isn’t good that far, as I found out.
By the time I returned from this killer hike of roundabout 12 miles, the general store at the top of the canyon had closed. I wasn’t about to chill for 6 hours alone at Camp Sloggett, so I went to town to check out a microbrewery and stock up on food. On the way I found this:
While in town, I added shrimp to the menu, in addition to the remainder of my canned food. Howzabout this for campfire cooking, with zero preparation or planning?
Here’s my shout out to Blair’s Death Sauce crew. It was the only spice I had besides non-dairy-creamer, and I figured the creamer wouldn’t help shrimp & tamales too much. It was damn tasty on both the shrimp and the tamales!
Next came an experiment that failed. This is what happens when one invents a recipe idea while alone in the woods with limited ingredients, after having a few beers. Recipe: sliced apples. Guinness. One packet of sugar. A square of Lindt 90% dark chocolate. Cooking time: however long it took me to clean up the kitchen and take a shower.
Flavor of the apples in the center, which didn’t get burned to the side of the can: err, well, edible. No, let’s go with the ever-popular… “interesting.” Alright, enough food stories, it’s time for bed!
Posted 6 years, 9 months ago at 3:57 pm. Add a comment
This post is for Scott, who will be proud that I made the hike in less than half the signposted time (just like the section up to the Höllentalangerhütte at Zugspitze).
Schedule for May 13th:
- Wake up at 3:45 (15 minutes before the alarm is due to ring) because the Incas want revenge on my digestive system. Immodium: check.
- Eat a quick breakfast of bread and jam, while meeting a cool Argentinian named Laura.
- Get in line at 4:30am to buy a bus ticket; hop on a bus around 5:30.
- Receive a stamp allowing me to hike up Wayna Picchu, the mountain overlooking Machu Picchu (a privilege accorded to only 400 people per day: 200 starting at 7am and 200 starting at 10am).
- Start up Wayna Picchu at 7:00, 8th person in line; each person signs in for safety.
- Pass the other 7 people ahead of me, booking up the trail (which is about 360m-vertical of stone staircase, straight up with NO flat sections).
- Arrive at the top 10 minutes before the next hiker! Enjoy peace, solitude, and a slight hypoxic bliss after climbing 360m of uneven, ankle-wrenching stairs in 29 minutes.
- Did I mention peace and solitude at the top of the world?
- Enjoy this beautiful view of the ancient Inca city:
- Don’t forget about peace and solitude, and beautiful sunrise views.
If you have the chance to visit Machu Picchu, do not think you can do it in one day from Cusco. You must stay overnight in Aguas Calientes the night before to do this right. Some people will even want to take two days to visit Machu Picchu (which means two $40 entry tickets – but you DID come all this way!).
For those in good shape who don’t mind walking up a lot of (somewhat sketchy) stone stairs, DO get up super early and go for Wayna Picchu (also spelled Huayna Picchu). If you’re lucky like me, your jet lag (from points east) will have you waking up early anyway.
If you’re a fast hiker, make sure you’re at the front of the line of people at the Wayna Picchu gate (starting at 7am). Alone at the top, you’ll experience a peacefulness you won’t soon forget.
If you have serious hiking cojones, take the alternate route down to the Temple of the Moon, on the back side of the mountain. The trail has some hairy sections with cables/ladders, and I would NOT recommend it for those afraid of heights. It descends below the level of Machu Picchu, then climbs back up and rejoins the Wayna Picchu trail somewhere in the middle. The hike back up from the Temple feels like as much climbing as Wayna was in the first place.
A fellow blogger has his impressions here: Streets of Lima Post.
p.s. Laura, if you’re reading (and if I’ve remembered your name right), hope all is OK? Never saw you again during the day, or at the hostel before I left for a pre-train dinner of pollo a la plancha. Hope you didn’t sprain an ankle on those d*mn stairs. Incas’ revenge indeed!
Posted 6 years, 10 months ago at 2:11 pm. 5 comments
By the time you read this, I’ll probably be in Machu Picchu! So I may be slow responding to comments.
Okay, I’m not usually one to complain about prices when it comes to gear, because one pays for quality. But I just had to buy a replacement part for my Camelbak hydration reservoir – the Big Bite valve, which I somehow lost while snowboard carving this past weekend. Let’s just say I was a little shocked by the price:
You read it right. Eight euros (or about $11) for a tiny piece of molded rubber with no moving parts.
So, that brings me to my question for all of you hikers, trekkers, and backpackers:
What’s the best hydration pack system?
- Pricing that doesn’t make you feel like your wallet has been violated
- Long-lasting materials and parts which are high quality
- Usable bite valve with an easy-to-operate lock
I’ve tried a couple brands of hydration bladders over the years, and so far Camelbak is the only hydration system that I liked. But today I’ve seen there are several new ones out there that I hadn’t seen before (Deuter, Platypus, etc). Does anyone have an experience with a hydration reservoir that compares well to Camelbak?
Posted 6 years, 10 months ago at 1:00 pm. Add a comment
Stay tuned for my upcoming ebook: “How to fit a 30L daypack inside an already-full 65L backpack!”
If you’re feeling adventurous, check out an author interview that I gave over at Swordreaver! It’s a cool blog that has lots of author interviews and a fast-growing base.
I leave for my plane in a few minutes, hoping to avoid any ash-cloud delays. 😉
Posted 6 years, 10 months ago at 11:29 am. 2 comments
In case you didn’t see Part 1 and Part 2, that’s because they were published quite a while ago. I’ve been busy with snowboarding, and decided that this final post & video about a summer hike would anyway fit better once spring arrived.
After crossing the Höllentalferner glacier, we continued climbing up the wall for a long time.
As we neared the top this beautiful view greeted us:
Here’s the Eibsee, which we could also see briefly from the train on the way down.
Now, for the final video. High-def views over the Höllental and everything beyond!
Watch “Climbing Zugspitze: Part 3” in HD on YouTube. A big thanks to Danny Galixy for letting me use some of his fantastic instrumental music for these three videos!
We made one slight error, in that we planned to hike back down. But the ascent went slower than expected with our acrophobic friend, so we took the train down instead. That would have been no problem, except that we’d left some sleeping bags and shoes at the hut, planning to pick them up on the way down.
So… after arriving back to the car in Hammersbach, Scott and I did a lightning-fast hike up the bottom section of the mountain. This time we chose to go via the Höllentalklamm, a gorge with a river, instead of the longer (but fee-free) Stangensteig. When I say lightning-fast, I mean the signpost said 2 1/2 hours, and we did it in 1:15. Our Smartwool shirts were soaked with sweat!
In the end I’m glad we did this bottom section twice, because the Höllentalklamm was gorgeous! You walk up narrow staircases cut into the rock, with splashing waterfalls and scenic views everywhere. I’d recommend if you are hiking up and down, to go up Höllentalklamm and down Stangensteig to take in both scenic routes.
For the full details about the hike, where to stay, where to rent gear, and all that – check out Part 1 of this series. The end of that post has all the hard facts listed in English for your Babelfish-free understanding. Part 2 of the Zugspitze series is all about the via ferrata sections (where you’re clipped to the steel cables on the cliffside) and the glacier.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and seeing what Zugspitze is like. Let me know if you have any questions I can answer about the hike or the mountain! I’m happy to help fellow English speakers figure this baby out, because almost all the information out there is in German (grin).
Posted 6 years, 11 months ago at 6:34 pm. 9 comments
One of the destinations I plan to visit on my round-the-world trip is Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands. By lucky coincidence, I got in touch with a local resident who volunteered to write a guest post about this fantastic island: Jake Garrett from The Villas at Poipu Kai. Currently [month of Mar 2010] they are offering a promotion for a free helicopter ride to Waimea Canyon. On to Jake’s post, which includes details on a great hike I’ll definitely do!
In 1866 Mark Twain travelled to the Hawaiian Islands and gave the secluded tropical paradise a real place on the map. He was on assignment from the Sacramento Union and wrote 25 letters documenting his journey. During his time he never made it to the Garden Isle of Kauai, yet Kauaians are anxious to claim him as part of their history. The legend goes that when Twain visited the Waimea Canyon he dubbed it the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Well, the story is false, but it doesn’t require a folk hero to see that the title is well attributed.
The Waimea Canyon stacks up the Grand Canyon quite well in beauty and history. Two natural processes have formed the island over the last 5 million years – natural rainfall from the wettest place on earth and the collapse of the islands’ primary volcano. Centuries of cataclysmic events and continuous erosion give sightseers a breathtaking experience. The canyon is 10 miles long, 1 mile wide and 3,600 ft deep. The displaced sediment over the years forms the entire plain of the southwest portion of the island.
All these facts make Waimea Canyon a must see when visiting Kauai. You can make the trip to the canyon one day long or a week long. If you are going to make it a day trip be sure to bring a long sleeved shirt. The temperature up the canyon is 10-15 degrees cooler than the rest of the island. Also, you should go on at least a small hike. While the lookouts are nice and the vistas spectacular – there is nothing like walking down through this immense canyon and forest area. There are a number of hikes that you can choose. A great day hike is on the Canyon Trail to Waipo’o Falls. The trail is 2.4 miles one way. The trailhead starts at the Pu’u Hinahina lookout between mile markers 13 and 14 on Waimea Canyon Drive. The hike should take 2-3 hours depending on how long you linger.
The stories that you will be able to tell will give Mark Twain his biggest regret – not visiting the Grand Canyon of the Pacific!!
Thanks for the great post, Jake – this canyon is somewhere I’ll definitely spend a few days during my trip in May!
Posted 7 years ago at 7:39 pm. 6 comments
If you are new to this post series, start with Part 1 of the Zugspitze hike. All the details of how to get there are at the end of Part 1.
The first video saw us up the Stangensteig, passing over the Höllentalklamm, and reaching the Höllentalangerhütte for a nice Schweinsbraten (pork roast) with red cabbage and dumplings. The next morning we started early and reached the first stretch of via ferrata, where we clipped into steel cables and walked on pegs across the cliff. Kind of like this:
And of course there were these pesky ladders,
Then the Höllentalferner glacier itself!
I had skied on glaciers before, but in the winter they look like the rest of the ski slopes. Never had I seen one in the end of summer, mixed with dirt and rocks, full of deep crevasses.
Enough photos for now, on with what you’ve all been waiting for: part 2 of the video! There will be at least one more part after this. And again, thanks to Danny Galixy for the amazing music!
Watch “Climbing Zugspitze: Part 2” in HD on YouTube.
A few more choice photos: Scott and Bunky walking up the glacier, taking in the view…
And a bit later, Scott being nonchalant… I think he clipped in for a total of fifteen minutes during several hours of via ferrata ascent. It must be those expensive mountaineering boots, perhaps they cannot slip.
That’s all for today. The next (and final) post should be up sometime after the weekend. Summit views and perhaps a bit of the train ride (we ran out of daylight, and our group’s acrophobic member wasn’t planning to hike down).
Part 3 is now posted! It took a bit longer than originally expected, but I hope it’s worth the wait!
Posted 7 years, 4 months ago at 9:51 am. 9 comments