A Double Parnitha on the ice, please…!

15 04 2011

Two weeks before Christmas and the meteorologists on tv started talking about some heavy snow coming on.

The “worst” weather, they said, was expected  around weekend and heavy snowfalls were forecasted even for the northern subusrbs of Athens. “Fingers crossed” I said, “and maybe, ….who knows, they will come true at last”!
It was Friday morning and the winds had already started becoming gradually stronger and chillier. When eventually the first snowflakes made it to the groung level, we had the first sign that the weather-people had a bulls-eye and that the long-desired snow was eventually “at the gates”.

And there it was, a “white day” at last!!!! …..and what a day, Saturday!!!!! My favourite day of the week.
“Come on, love. Rise and shine!” I urged “M”, while jumped myself out of bed. “We have to get ready, …Parnitha is all ready and waiting for us”, and putting my serious face on, added to that ….. “Will not seem nice to be late, you know”.
“M” smiled, thought of the warm scent of the toasted sandwiches, with banana, nuts, peanutbutter, honey and cinammon, which we usually make in such circumstacesand, got herself a nice boos,t that she apparently needed, stretched a bit and then got herself out of bed as well.

We had breakfast, packed our staff, got ourselves all dressed up for that special occasion and headed out.

It was still snowing and from distance the mountain seemed to be quite foggy above 700mts. There weren’t expected many hikers on the mountain at that specific day and with these conditions we decided we should do a trail that we had done a few times in the past and it was familiar enough for us to carry on when the trail-signals would be probably lost because of snowfall, at some point. I knew that Parnitha’s trails are mainly signalled by paint marks on tree trunks or on big ground-rooted rocks and having them covered by snow was a proximate probability in such a weather. We thought a bit and decided to follow the Chounis’ Gorge trail ,which is starting from the edge of Thrakomakedones and is climbing all the way to Flambouri Refuge. We drove up to the mountain foothills, at the edge of Thrakomakedones town, parked our car, lifted the windscreen wipers up, put our jackets and bacpacks on and set off.

During the first meters in the path, two dogs came our way. They were a black one and a white one! The black one was a plain street-dog and didn’t seemed to be quite pleased with all that snow and cold that had unexpectedly come upon her. The white one, on the other hand, was a wolf-hound, and contrary to his “girlfrined”, being in his natural environment, appeared to have the time of his life. They approached us jumping around our feet for a while and after we said our brief hellos we decided to return on our way. It seemed though, that our unexpected four-legged white friend didn’t mean to let us go all by ourselves and kept coming along, sometimes leading and sometimes following our steps. When our friend was leading the way, every now and then he was standing still for a while, looking at us until we got near him and then he started running and jumping again, playing in the snow.
It was a beautiful day! A bit cold, but still beautiful. The scenery at the foothills was like drawn out from a fairy tale. All the leaves and the branches and the trees were bright white and frosty and at some parts, being bent by the weight, were forming an archway along the trail.

But, as usually happens, ideal things are not meant to last for long. We crossed the small stream twice and after we gained a few meters in altitude, we got ourselves more exposed into the strong winds. At this point we noticed that the snow except of downwards can fall sideways, as well. Sometimes, it was even falling ….upwards. It was like a blizzard!

Ice was starting to build up on our hoods and clothes on the side that the wind was blowing. I thought that it was inevitable that soonest we would get into a less windy place, all this ice would turn into water, due to our body temperature, and eventually we would get soaked and cold. And then it struck me! ….We had no waterproof trousers brought with us, ….and that meant to be a terrible mistake.
“M” had started feeling really cold. Wind chill must have been around -15deg celsius at this point. I tried to keep her moving and maintian her concentration on our goal. We pushed further up, hoping for some wind shelter when we would get ourselves into the woods again. Our friend was still coming along, but he had started getting really wet himself too. The snow was keep getting thicker and thicker and our steps were becoming heavier and heavier. It wasn’t the cold or the snow that had got our spirit down. It was actually that silly mistake we had made to get ourselves all the way up here in such a weather without waterproof trousers.
After walking for a while, facing this strong icy winds, we got back into the woods again…..! It was this very moment, being cold and frozen like we were, when viewing all this beautiful scenery that was sculptured overnight, …that I felt respect!

Snow has considerably thickened and it was now reaching up to our knees. We were mainly moving by “giant-steps”. As far as the poor dog is concerned, we could now hardly distinguish his head, since he was apparently exhausted and had stopped jumping and “diving” into the snow-powder and thereafter had decided to go only ……”breaststroke”. The trail-signaling was not viewable anymore. The signs were covered by snow. We had to trace our way up. The dog seemed like he knew the trail all the way to Flambouri Refuge and appeared willing ,despite his exhaustion, to help us track our way up. We were moving slow and sometimes we were getting confused by the fog and the similarity of the snow-covered scenery and we had to return back a few steps and alternate route.
Meantime, another hiker, following our snow-trail, caught up with us and we hiked along for a while. He was a rather amusing guy, less geared than ourselves, and he was all time muttering “I must be a nut-case. What the fuck am I doing here? I should have never left home. I should put up a fire and stay in watching the snow fall and enjoying a nice hot cup of coffee!!” After a while, that was exactly what he decided to do. He said “Guys, i am going back…. No more of this for my account” and left.

I felt like relieved being left in the serenity of the scenery and back on our own again. We pushed on a little further. We had got almost there and there were two hard climbing sections left before Flambouri. Although, in the meantime, the weather had gone even more windy and it was snowing hard. It was so cloudy and foggy, that it was actually felt like late afternoon. I turned to “M”. Her trousers were frozen and soaked and she was shiverring cold.
She said “…love, i think we should be getting back too….”!
The tone and the tremble in her voice made clear to me that she was really cold and that she had starting getting really worried, …..maybe even scared.
I really wanted to make it till the refuge, but I felt that it was about time to admit that we had to turn back. Deep inside, I knew that our attempt was doomed to fail right from the moment that we left our waterproof trousers behind. And that was a fact, without waterproof trousers, we couldn’t go far…..
Making one last effort to avoid quitting and turning back , I asked “M”, “…are you sure? ….we are not that far you know!!!”.
“How long time we have to walk to get to Flambouri….?” “M” responded.
“In these conditions, I can’t say for sure, depends on how much snow will be further on, …..but it seems it can only get thicker” I admitted…..

…..We turned back!

The dog stood there for a while and seemed quite puzzled watching us heading our way for return. After a while, I guess he realized that we were determined to return back and came along. While descending, I felt really worried about “M”, being all wet and cold like this and I was really disappointed we couldn’t make it to the top. I looked up and told “M”, “I will come back tomorrow”. She didn’t seem to take this remark of mine seriously and gave no reply….

Next day, the weather had seriously improved and some friends thought of hiking up the same trail we had tried to do ourselves the previous day. “Are you coming along?” my friend asked on the other side of the phone. “Sure”, I said. I got dressed, packed, kissed “M” goodbye and went off.

The weather was sunny and some of the snow had already started melting down. It was a beauty!

We had a wonderful time hiking upwards and tracing our way to Flambouri. We got there, had a cup of tea, changed into dry clothes and headed our way back in a hurry, before it would start getting dark and the trail turns into an ice rink. Down at the place from where we had started earlier that day, we were full of wonderful pictures and emotions and felt pleased.
It was a marvellous weekend for everyone but specially for myself, since I had the rare opportunity to see two of the many different faces of the mountain in such a short period of time od a single weekend. When I got back at our appartment, I showed “M” some of the photos i had shot and she was really disappointed she couldn’t come alongas well.

We wished for the next heavy snow fall, and promised to ourselves that this time, whenever that would be,……. we would definetely make it to the top, …..no matter what!





5 responses

14 10 2011
Orel Engel

That sounds like a very nice weekend! I can only imagine the feeling of doing the trail in the fog and then with the sun. Even if you didn’t make it on the first day it’s probably a very good memory, getting caught in this blizzard 😀 I would’ve been worried without waterproof gear tho.

17 10 2011

You are totally right about the gear! The gear is everything out there….

24 11 2011

I’m sure it was a rough hike with the wind and snow blowing sideways and upwards sometimes…sounds kind of crazy, actually. But what beautiful pictures! I love the snowy scenery…it’s so clean. Thank you. 🙂

24 11 2011

Actually, its been a real pleasure 🙂
The second day was definitely a brighter one and spared us with a few nice, clean pictures, indeed. Snowy sceneries are also my favourites, but unfortunatelly cannot say the same goes for “M” too. Women….! 🙂

25 11 2011

I do understand about the woman’s perspective sometimes, my wife doesn’t like the snow…or even snowy pictures, either. 🙂

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