At 7 o clock we left from Skiti Kavsokalivia to start our trip to the summit of the Holy Mountain. After three earlier visits to Athos this was my main goal. Two of my friends, J. and H. had the same urge and soon we were known as the sherpa group within the Athos party of seven. We were in rather good shape. and did already two walks the days before. First from Morphonu to Lavra were we spent the first night and then the beautifull walk from Lavra to Kavsokalivia. The trip to the top started with breakfast on the balcony of the guesthouse.
Greek coffee, water and two cookies and a tumbnail glas of ouzo. I took one zip but the others were thinking on the things to come and left their glasses untouched. Directly behind the church and the guesthouse was the path. We started climbing and after a while there was a well. We drank the cold water. It was the Well of Akakios named after the founder of Kavsokalivia as a settlement in the early 18th century. We reached the area of Kerasia were they were building a large church with white marble stones. Did they bring the materials to build it bij helicopter or everything by boat and mules? By boat and mule was the only possibility. It was unbelievable because the last day on Athos we saw from the sea the harbour of Kerasia (Kleftiko) with a very steep path up the mountain.
We took a rest near a well on 700 meters. I tried to dry my t-shirt in the sun. It was a beautiful clear day.
Finally at 9.40 hours we reached the crossroads, known as Stavros, were the real climb starts. There was a path down to Karoulia and if you walked ahead it leads to Skiti Anne. A sign said that it was a 3,5 hours trip to the summit. I took a smaller rucksack and left the bigger one in the bushes. At that moment 3 pilgrims decsended the path. It was a greek Father, sixty years old who slept the night at the hut of Panagia at 1500 meters with his two companions. The day before they had reached the top and did their prayers there. After half an hour of climbing we took a rest onder the trees. We ate dolmas and bread. The view was already spectacular but we had to go on. A monk came singin of the mountain as I struggled to get higher. It was there that my moral was very low, the guys were in front and not in sight.
I was out breath and considered to turn back but then, to my surprise I saw the Panagia refuge and chapel. I walked the last meters and reached the hut. There were matrasses and beds and the fireplace was still smoking.
We took water with a bucket from the well. At this point the mountain was bare with a single tree and if you looked up you saw the stony peak.
We moved along and at 13.10 hours we were at 2026 meter and then there was only the blue sky. We made it! Three meters before the top in between large boulders I saw a small bird. It was strange because we did not see one bird the whole day. Was it a sign? You could expect to see the son of God or his mother who already spend 3 days en 3 nights on the summit surrounded by angelic choirs talking with the hermit Maximos of Kavsokalivia. The bird flew away and after avoiding a large segment of snow, I was huggin the boys. We were deligthed that we were there.
The stunning view, the green land of Athos, the blue seas wherever you looked. The strange somewhat threathening feeling that you are not surrounded by anything, which immediately dissapearred as you entered the chapel of Metamorphosis Sotiros.
Jaap Zondervan Herman Voogd
We made pictures of ourselves with the tall iron cross. We got connection with my brother W. who was in the neigbourhood of the Skite of the prophet Elijah at that time. It was not quiet because many airplanes flew over.
We left the top at 13.35 o clock and in one hour we were back at Panagia. We felt our knees and other parts of the body but rather quick we reached the crossroads at 16.15 o clock. We knew already that there was no place to sleep at Skiti Anna but we tried anyway when we arrived at 17.30 o clock. We were pretty exhausted because of the last descend which was tough. The friendly German speaking Archondariki of Anna did his best to arrange something and we got support from a party of pelgrims with their religious leaderwho were impressed by our journey and we could have stayed but then we had to sleep on the floor.
We decided to move on to the Monastery of St Paul. After 12 hours we arrived at Paulou at 19.00 hours. We had our own room, a quickshower and for dinner: cold white beans in tomatosauce, with dolmas and white wine which we ate in the kitchen. Such a perfect day!