This winter in Greece, is rather dry so far and therefore we did not have many chances to enjoy winter mountaineering activities like the previous years. Nevertheless, last week there was some snowfall and in combination with low temperatures, we decided to go and climb one of the many couloirs in Gerontovrachos – Parnassos.
Located at the center of Greece, Parnassus (Parnassos) is one of the biggest and most beautiful mountains of the country. Its highest part is Liakoura peak at 2.457 m. and Tsarkos (2.415 m.) and Gerontovrahos (2.389 m.) peaks follow.
Mount Parnassus is a great area which extends to the municipalities of Boeotia, Phthiotis and Phocis.
Since 1938 a big part of the forest area of the mountain, has been declared as a National Park, which along with the one on Olympus were the first ones that were established in Greece. The Mountain of Apollo, as it also called, is known from the ancient times, as there are many myths connected to it.
Kelaria (parking lot) – Gerontovrachos
We arrived in Parnassos Ski Centre in early evening and we already knew that part of our approach hike would be done in the darkness. However, the evening was lovely and with a beautiful full moon we hiked towards the Profitis Elias chapel which is located about 2.220 meters above sea level.
The approach hike is easy, though is quite steep. Therefore, one needs to keep in mind the wight of the sleeping and climbing gear that is carrying.
As soon we have reached the chapel of Profitis Elias, we met two other guys that they were also planning to sleep in the cold but very hospitable chapel. They were in Parnassos for SkiMo, but we were there in order to climb one of Gerontovrachos’ couloirs.
Gerontovrachos Climb via the far right couloir
Gerontovrachos is one of the most important winter climbing areas in southern Greece. Modern routes with major technical difficulties coexist with the old classics, giving young mountaineers the opportunity to test their strengths in a very friendly field with easy access and return, minimal objective risks, small expansions, several ropes for company and of course music from the ski resort.
There are around 13 routes of mixed and/or only ice climbing during winter time.
We woke up at 6.00 and it was a freezing cold, but of course we were very excited to go our climb. Our initial plan was to go for the Sugar Mountain (II 2+ M1+, 180m.), but due to the fresh snow, the risk for an avalanche was rather high for that route. Therefore, we decided to go direct via the couloir that is located eastern from Sugar Mountain.
The approach walk from the chapel to the beginning of the route was very short. 3 or 4 minutes. A soon we reached the base of the route, we created the first belay and after that we started climbing.
The climb was not difficult and we did it in 4 pitches. The first 10 meters of pitch 1 and the last 30 meters of Pitch 4 were the most difficult, but nothing to worry about.
Gerontovrachos Peak – Profitis Elias chapel
After a rather easy couloir, we almost reached the peak of Gerontovrachos. Though, in order to reach the peak, we had to hike for about 7 minutes more.
From the top of Gerontovrachos the view was stunning and in such a clear day we were able to see the following mountains:
- Vadousia (part of the mountain)
On Gerontovrachos there are the following climbing routes:
- Chatzigeorgiou -Torelli
- Sugar Mountain (Florian)
- Ouranio Toxo (Rainbow)
- Psigio (Fridge)
- Maggisti – Soufi
The difficulty rate on these routes ranges between II 45ο till IV+ and 75ο
Details of the Climb and Hike:
- Location: Parnassos Mountain
- Starting Point: Kelaria Parking lot
- Trail Signs: No trail signs but very obvious route
- Minimum Elevation: 1.600 m
- Maximum Elevation: 2.389 m.
- Elevation Gain: 789 m.
- Total Distance: 10.3 km
- Difficulty: Difficult
- Water Features: No (during winter)