613 – To the summit

image from Russian book. See nr. 611.
At five o’clock we finally reached the path. The question was whether to continue another 1500 meters to reach Pangaea (Panaghia)2007, a walled chapel were we could spend the night or descend 200 meters to the skite Kerasis (Kerasia). It was the loss of 200 meters which made us decide to continue upwards. This left us with 3 hours. According to our calculations, we would reach the chapel by dusk. The map indicated a source of water. We hadn’t taken enough water with us. But the source had been cemented over. Pipes took the water to the hermitages below. No more cool water for the hikers. We were sweaty. Although we were tired and ourshirts were unpleasantly wet, we speeded up so that we would not arrive in the dark. The shrubs became trees. Acorn woods and pine trees cooled us down. We continued, regardless of our sweaty shirts. We quickly walked another the 300 altitude meters.I got depressed. Until now I had been at the head of the group, now I let Guenter lead, and I dragged myself along at the back of the group. I was afraid that we didn’t have enough water. Guenter forced me to drink. A longer pause strengthened

But it wasn’t enough. With great difficulty I somehow managed to keep on. Especially the last meters were arduous. One could see the chapel, yet it just never seemed to get any nearer. In the chapel there were 3 wooden boards to sleep on. A cistern contained rainwater. It wasn’t clean, there was a layer of dirt on it, but it was drinkable. We used a pot hung on a string to get to the water below. Before we drank the water we let the dirt settle to the bottom. Our bottles of water were empty, this dirty water was the only alternative. I put on all that I had with me and got into my sleeping-bag. I still shivered. I was having a fit of shivers. With great effort I managed to eat a cheese sandwich. Again, Guenter forced me to drink. Although I had overexerted myself, I could not fall asleep. My friends seemed to have a bet about snoring. At first it was very melodic.Like a jazz band. Guenter held the rhythm, Walter was bass. I must have fallen asleep at some point, as next morning they told me that my snoring was unbearable. I probably fell asleep after having stuck in my ear plugs.

We got up at seven. It was cold. The sun started to rise. Slowly the sun came out. At first it was just red. The sky burned. Then the sun rose. A red ball of fire, increasingly shining more light and reflecting in the sea. We left all the unnecessary baggage behind, and continued our hike at eight. We paused twice, and reached the summit at half past nine. The iron cross at the summit is dated 1897. Below the boulder sporting the cross there is a small chapel. The chapel had everything which could be found in a church. There was a bench just outside of it, behind a wall andso protected from the wind. You could see the sea below, as well as the peninsula.Clouds drifted across the sky. This was Athos’ summit. The mists seemed to form an artificial horizon. The blue skyline looked arched. “The earth is round” came to my mind. Looking to the West, you could see Mount Olympus and to the North, the Bulgarian Balkan Mountains appear out of the mists. On the peninsula, one could see the monasteries Karakalou and Iviron. One could also see the amount of damage caused by the fire which had raged a couple of weeks ago: hectares of burned forests.

According to the lodge book, here a notebook, the last visitors were here three days ago. The mists turned into clouds, and they approached the mountain. But during our descend they pulled back.

Text by Johann Guenther and Father Mitrophan 2003. Read their book on Athos here.

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