The accomplishment of a promise…

14 10 2011

This time it was something like keeping our word….

Not that we did it compulsively. No, not at all!! It was more like when you have discussed many times with a friend about how much you both want to meet and eventually a day comes and you know that it’s now or who knows when….

It was almost four months ago. We were walking back from Dirfys’ peak. I was watching “M” walking a few steps ahead of me and was admiring that determined walking style of hers. It was then, seeing her walking this way and heading coincidentally towards Xerovouni that was lying at the horizon ahead of us, that the idea of climbing Xerovouni was planted into my head. Xerovouni had to be next! At least, as far as prefecture of Evia was concerned.

We drove to the starting point of the trail that was supposed to lead us to the top of Xerovouni mountain. “Xerovouni” actually means the dry mountain, or else the mountain without a single trace of vegetation. Looking at it from distance, while still driving in our car, we could clearly see for ourselves why Xerovouni has ever got that name in the first place. Xerovouni seemed like it has always been a massive cliffy rock lying on top of an unjustifiably infertile sloppy terrain.
Perhaps, it was the contrast with the rest totally green environment that made it seem and sense in that way. But nonetheless, looking at the whole picture, “Xerovouni” was definitely the right word for this particular mountain.

We set off from a dirt road, not far from the main asphalt road. We made a short descend and found our way through the ferns and into the woods. The start of the trail was completely the opposite than “dry” scenery. Tall firs, soft and humid ground and insects’ buzz. The weather was sunny. A bit windy but not too much. Seemed more like spring than autumn. definitely a perfect day for a stroll in the woods.
At some points,  we noticed that the trail markings on the trees were placed in such a way that we had to look backwards to find our way on the trail while we were actually moving ahead. That was bit of an awkward thing to do. Joking and laughing around, we said that this seemed like that the wrong-oriented-markings were some kind of an omen or even that somehow, someone was trying to  convince us to turn back and not go any further. That was definitely a silly thought of us to make and pretty soon faded away.

We came to the first  junction which was well signed and took the road towards the summit. But although the marking were made pretty obvious, somehow, we missed the next junction and took a wrong turn down another different trail heading elsewhere….
We came out of the woods and into the ferns. We walked a while till we noticed that something was definitely going absolutely wrong. We weren’t able to see the summit and the trail was heading on a side direction.
We were one mountain ridge off course. Fortunately,… it was a small mountain ridge.
I explained “M” my suspicions and agreed that it would be better if we would climb up that ridge and then try somehow to get on the right trail instead of going back to the point where we believed that we had taken the wrong turn and try all over again. And so we did….
Climbing that ridge was easier than we first thought. It was a kind of orientation challenge and this attached a sense of adventure to the whole thing, which was actually nice and certainly most welcome for both of us.

Having made it to the right trail again, we took a look back to the woods and the trail which we were supposed to follow to find our way back, took a look at Xerovouni’s top ahead of us and pushed on.

We hiked for a while on low vegetation rocky terrain. The trail was rather clear and easy to follow.

After a while we made it to the point where true hiking was about to start. At last, our stroll was about to obtain some interest.
After all, going up has always being our main goal…
We took our time to observe the scenery and enjoy the pleasantly cool breeze. That was a nice opportunity for both of us, to catch our a breath till we throw ourselves back on the trail again.

As we were getting closer to the mountain top, the impression of an easy challenge has slowly started to fade away. The mountain, the closer we were getting the more vertical…. and rocky was becoming!

Looking at it, we could imagine only one way to approach the top and that was through the shards of rocks. One way or another, eventually, it seemed that we would have to cross this risky part to get to the solid rock and finally be able to make it to our final target.
Just from the look of it, we could figure out that this part was not going to be something that easy. Further on, we found out that trail was actually approaching the top, just the way we had imagined, …through the rolling shards of rock and we prepared ourselves for what was coming next.

A few meters before we hit the rocky trail, “M” stood for a while and looked at the mountain in awe!!! I watched…..
There was something mystical in the atmosphere….!

I always thought  every person, some time, gets a moment of pure truth. Moments that help him realise the inevitable insignificance of his own presence in the world and offer him the clarity to sense the true purpose or the actual reason for his being there at that particular moment.
I hoped that this was the case for “M” too. After a while, we walked on. I didn’t dare to ask….. I always believed that such moments should remain personal. At least for a while, until they get ripe enough in your mind and soul and you are ready to share them with those that you think they will be able to understand them.
Although,  instead of having a moment of truth, perhaps “M”, had just had a moment of plain realism and the only thing she might be thinking of was: “What the Fuck am I doing here in this wilderness and why the hell should we climb all these bloody rocks????” Who knows, I still havent asked……
But anyhow, soon after that, we looked at each other, nodded our heads to assure each other we are ready to go and we climbed on…..

It was a steep ascend and the rolling shards of rock were making it really difficult for us to stand without using our sticks.

We made it up to a spacious flat square rock, wide enough to accommodate us both and we thought that this was about time to a rest a bit and enjoy the view.
The rock itself and the almost vertical inclination of the slope, made it feel like sitting on a balcony on a very tall building. We had a few nuts and a pasteli (honey & sesame bar), discussed about which place lies where in the horizon and we got back on our way once more.

A few meters higher, the ascend was interrupted, just for a while, by a small downhill part, then a small “garden” of ferns and then another harder ascend which had to be performed on top of rolling shards of rock, which were once more lying between us and the mountain top.

That point further, it was apparent that there was not a specific trail to follow. Actually, it could have never been, since the marking of route in such a terrain is rather impossible. There were only goat trails, coming and going towards the top and these were all over the place… There was no tested route we could trust.
We took a look back at Mount Dirfys. That was so ironic…!! Few months ago, when coming back from Dirfys top, we had never thought, not for a single moment, that climbing Xerovouni might have been that hard and risky. We had the impression that, more or less, this hike would be just another piece of cake…..

But as it was triumphantly proved, and actually thrown right on our faces…, we had only fooled ourselves!!! Xerovouni was standing there, tall, showing its teeth and demanding due respect….!

From that point further, we only managed to hike half way ahead towards the top. It was a hell of a rolling ground to step on…. Everything beneath our feet, no matter how or where we stepped, was sliding and rolling down the slope and into the ferns’ garden.

“Do you think we will actually make it to come back this way, love?”, “M” asked.
…..I figured that this was one of these questions, to which someone is not absolutely obliged to respond and decided to remain silent……

It was obvious. Xerovouni had overpowered us. It wasn’t the risky nature of the uphill venture that made us to call it a day…..
It was actually the perspective of a much harder and riskier downhill return, ….plus the simple fact that none of us both, that particular morning , was actually in a mood to end up, much similarly to the rolling rocks sliding beneath our very feet, down below and inside the ferns’ garden.

We got ourselves down that dodgy rocky slope and took another look at the area in search of an alternative approach. Shards of rock were lying all around and there was no way we could ever make it to some solid ground, any near the mountain top, without crossing a some other equivalently dodgy and steep rocky slope. So, we took our way back….

We were both disappointed. But eventually, we figured that just being there and doing what we actually had done was itself a very generous reward. Plus the fact that this particular day we were both offered a very good lesson never to underestimate a mountain and its unique character.

Looking back at this experience of ours right now, I think that in fact we were not “defeated” at all. We were just offered the chance to become a bit wiser……





4 responses

14 10 2011
Orel Engel

You probably did a smart choice. It happened to a friend and I once. We had planned to climb a mountain but the weather was really poor that day. We reached the secondary summit but there was a strong gale and rain and we couldn’t see around us because of a thick fog. We knew the summit was really close but there was a big gap ahead. We had spent like 1 hour in this shit weather and I was very frustrated to have to go back, but that’s what we did in the end. We never found our way back and arrived probably 1 or 2kms far from where we had started to climb. I was very very frustrated. 2 weeks later, the father of a friend was telling me that a good friend of his had died falling from cliffs on the same mountain few years ago, and I understood when you really feel unsafe you have to stop and go back while you still can 🙂

17 10 2011

What you describe like “really feel unsafe”, I think is actually a sign that your whole body and mental system is giving you that you are not ready to do that…. Sometimes, when this is just a hint, perhaps you have to take the risk, being extra cautious, and eventually make a “step” forward. But when you really-really feel unsafe, I agree with you. Better stop. There are always more and better things to come…

12 02 2013

It sounds like you saw the ‘light’ and realised in time that nature was too strong to tackle in this instance. Wise decision. But so well written. I love reading about the adventures and can sense the respect you have for nature and for ‘M’.

12 02 2013

Thanks for your comments and especially for your time to read it through.
As for nature and “M”, well, “M” is nature! Could be no other way…!

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