Down Day Stairs Up — Greece


Post by WildSnow.com blogger | January 11, 2016      
This ancient stone arch bridge, built hundreds of years ago, still spans the river. Bolted sport climbing routes are available on nearby cliffs for modern day endeavors.

This ancient stone arch bridge, built hundreds of years ago, still spans the river. Bolted sport climbing routes are available on nearby cliffs for modern day endeavors.

After an illuminated ski touring experience on Mount Smolika, moist rainy air has infiltrated the highlands of Northern Greece. Too much rain and too little visibility for ski touring, so we break out our deeper touristic natures and check out Hellenic attractions and food in the Zagori region of the country, near the Timfi massif (perhaps the country’s best variety of ski terrain). I’ll embed a map below that at least gets you started on locating some of this stuff. I also should note that guide George Rokas, manager of the Astraka Refuge on Mount Timfi, is the guy showing us around along with American (and somewhat Greek) Constantine Papanicolaou.

Huge gorges riv the landscape, a wild  mountain area where summer trekking is popular.

Huge gorges riv the landscape, a wild mountain area where summer trekking is popular despite wolves, bears and packs of shepherd dogs that can take you out in five seconds, leaving nothing but a pile of cracked bones.

Traveling around this part of Greece is an exercise of winding roads that seem to almost magically end at your destination, or even return you to your starting point after you’ve traveled every direction on the compass. The convoluted but fun driving is caused by one of the narrowest gorges in the world cutting the topography like a split molar.

Checking out Vicos Gorge.

Checking out Vicos Gorge. I’m thinking that Gorge gazing could become a serious pastime around here. The sense of depth and mystery makes you think the face of Socrates is somehow going to materialize in the clouds.

Here in the Pindus Mountains, the Vicos Gorge is at one point 900 meters deep and only 1,000 meters wide, apparently qualifying for the Guinness Book of Records for some kind of narrow canyon qualification. Tributary gorges rip the area in every direction, with nearly every automobile drive winding along a shelf road etched by insane Epirean road builders over stomach flipping exposure.

Yes, tourism can be brutal. That’s how I feel when we hike out to a cliff perched ancient monastery for a view of the Vicos Gorge. Rocks with dolomite colors rise up into the mist, with a monk’s escape trail etched in enormous cliffs both upvalley and downvalley from the stone huts. Our guide George tells us we need ropes to navigate safely, so we reluctantly turn from what could perhaps be the best trek ever.

Another stop, the Skala of Vradeto, a set of 1000+ stone steps crafted by Grecian masons many centuries ago. The steps wind up the side of a smaller gorge, with a sort of organic feeling to the design that makes you appreciate those ancient craftsmen as well as keep your camera out. A series of large dry-stacked rock retaining walls create a shelf for the stairs as they climb over cliffs and traverse rock outcrops. An easy hike of about an hour brings us to the top, where we walk a few hundred meters to the tiny stone village of Vradeto for a Greek coffee (somewhat the same as a Turkish coffee, perhaps not quite a strong.)

The Skala of Vradeto, popular for trail runners with good knees.

The Skala of Vradeto, popular for trail runners with good knees.

Can you spot the Skala of Vradeto stairs.

Can you spot the Skala of Vradeto stairs?

The stairs, looking at one of the villages they were built to connect.

The stairs, looking at one of the villages (Kapesovo) they were built to connect. (Legend holds that a young bride died while taking a hike shortcut between the two towns, so they built the stairs to prevent further tragedy.)

Our mandatory tourist walk of the stairs complete, we head to the village of Vladeto for a coffee.

Our mandatory tourist walk of the stairs complete, we head to the village of Vladeto for a coffee.

We must not have sugered our coffe enough, as our next stop (after driving back around the stairs) is Sweet House Sterna, a desert and herb shop seating 10 people and centered over an ancient cistern you can look down inside through a glass table top in the center of the room. Yes, it’s all a bit strange, but in a good way. The owner’s daughter takes us on a scent tour of their locally made herbs, liquors and yes, sweet stuff. Louie picks up a string of walnuts coated with reduced grape juice. I grab a flask of lemon flower schnapps for friends in Austria. We all enjoy a plate of goods I can’t name, but did give me a pretty good buzz.

Sweet House Sterna, those are brandy cakes t the top,  soaked apricots at the bottom, and to the right something made out of concentrated grape juice.

Sweet House Sterna, those are brandy cakes at the top, soaked apricots at the bottom, and to the right something made out of concentrated grape juice that was like chocolate grape jelly.

Last thing on the plan, Greek dinner at a pleasant non-smoking restaurant. Fun day, even if it didn’t involve ski touring.

Greek dinner in the northern highlands, shepherd pie and meat.

Greek dinner in the northern highlands. Garden salad; cabage salad; chicken shepherd pie; baked lima beans; hearty bread; pile of lamb chops.

Map below is centered on the village of Kapesovo, where we enjoyed the Sweet House Sterna and nearly overdosed on sucrose due to the traditional taste treats locally made by the owners.



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Comments

4 Responses to “Down Day Stairs Up — Greece”

  1. Wookie1974 January 12th, 2016 1:37 am

    Going. Defo.

  2. Lou Dawson 2 January 12th, 2016 6:46 am

    Wookie, it’s so easy for you to get down here. Recommended, but a heck of a lot different than the Alps in terms of the infrastructure. I’ll get into that eventually.

  3. scott January 14th, 2016 10:48 am

    Lou – off topic random question for you. My liners in my 27.5 TLT Mountains are shot and was wondering if you might have any suggestions on what liner I could replace them with? Will a size 27 low volume intuition pro tour liner fit in a 27.0 TLT shell?

    Thank You

  4. Wookie January 15th, 2016 1:36 am

    Scott – probably not. I’ve got both these things and the stock liners are so much thinner than the intuition tours that I can only imagine sizing up the boot would allow you to fit them. Alternatively- there are some aftermarket euro liner brands that are much thinner (Palau?) but maybe easier than that is to just buy a new liner from Dynafit. They have a separate SKU for them in Europe, so your shop should be able to order them. You can also buy them online at Bergzeit.de and have them shipped if nothing else works. If you liked the old liners well enough, then I’d do that. At bergzeit you can choose between the cr and cl versions too. Custom Ready – which is cushier and was originally the only version available in the US, and Custom Light, which was the standard in Euroland and is a little lighter. I ride the light, and think they are great. Although the intuitions are also good, is have to buy a bigger boot to fit mine.





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