Oh, that was a lot better !
Those of you who are regular readers of my walking blogs will remember that I climbed Mount Ainos back in May 2012, and you can still read about that here. If you scroll down that blog you will notice the Comment which pointed out that I had not, in fact, reached the summit last time despite my following the instructions in the guidebook. So I had to return to finish it off, and this time I had the hire car, so was able to cut out all the hassle and expense of the taxis from last time, which was a result in itself. Unfortunately, having done our walks around Old Valsamata (which you can read about here), Fiskardo (which you can read about here), and Sami (which you can read about here), Debbie was not feeling up to this one and so went to Argostoli for coffee and cake instead, while I drove over from Lassi and was also able to stop on the way to take a couple of close-up photos of the not-so-secret NATO radar base.
I was following the same route as my previous attempt and set off at 0945, which meant I was already an hour ahead of last time despite having left the hotel over 40 minutes later. The start is at 1044 metres and the air is cold and breezy, the sky overcast with some black clouds but the sun is peaking through, and mostly it is misty. It felt cool as I walked at a brisk pace and there was very little sound. Like last time, I will be surprised if I encounter many other people. It is really just a matter of walking the hairpin bends and taking in whatever you can see of the scenery on either side through the pine trees, which is practically nothing in this mist. This is a tarmac road, and could not be easier walking, other than for the gradient. I pass the guard hut at 0953.
I notice the other trails which lead off from the main track, and they seem to have more and better signage than last time, but I am concentrating on pushing right on and arrive at the picnic area on the left at 1020. This is supposed to be a little over half way and it has taken me 35 minutes, which is both pleasing and encouraging. My fitness has clearly improved since last time. The track just keeps going up and up, and while it is not difficult because I am walking on a tarmac road and not through the pine forest itself, it is relentless and somewhat monotonous. This time I cannot see anything ahead of me from higher up the mountain because of the mist, and while I recognise the picnic area which I pass on my right, it still comes as a little surprise when I suddenly reach the T-junction at the top and turn right towards the communication station. I have arrived here at 1100 and have seen one car driving down my route and one car driving up. Another car arrives at the top just after me. I wandered around at the top, although I could not see anything of a view through the mist, and then decided to find the true summit.
I walked from the communication station across the T-junction (so that the road up to here was on my left) and continued along the track which leads to a fork. The path to the right leads to an area which would have extensive views over the southeast corner of the island if it were not for this mist. The path to the left goes downhill, and I took that. I noticed that the two guys who had driven past me on my way up were walking ahead of me, so I hoped they knew where they were going as I overtook them. The path was winding and still going downhill, with rocky woodland to the right. I suspect this is a trail which leads down towards Sami, and if I come back again it looks like a far more interesting way to come up the mountain.
After about 15 minutes of walking I found a sign on the right pointing to some wooden steps which led into the wooded area, so I followed it and gradually made my way up the wooded slopes, with a huge buzzing sound in my ears, which made me wonder where the wasps were hiding.
I eventually came out of the trees and followed a track across the rocky landscape, coming to a mound and following the track up that, until I could see a dark blue scarf attached to a pole, blowing in the wind. I clambered up the last little bit and was at the real summit, 1628 metres, with the scarf on the pole, a cairn of stones, a stone plinth which held the visitors’ book, and a wooden board which did not appear to serve any particular purpose. I had walked for 5.5 miles and had arrived at 1140.
I wrote a message in the visitors’ book and took some photographs of the mist.
It did clear a little from time to time, but never to such an extent which allowed me the same views I had enjoyed the last time I was up this mountain. The two guys I had passed had also come up to the summit and one of them was kind enough to take some photographs of me up there in the clouds.
I eventually began my descent at 1200. I was soon very glad that I had reached the top when I did as I passed a coach coming up the road. I would have disliked being among a crowd up there. I did not encounter any other hikers, but did count 6 cars going up and 5 cars and a scooter going down, together with a couple from Holland who were cycling to the top as I made my way down. I took a little detour to the Environmental Research building to take advantage of their viewing platform. The building itself was closed but I was able to get up on to the viewing platform by the outside steps. If only the mist had cleared… I got back to my car at 1349 and the only obstacles still ahead of me were the goats sitting across the road just before I got back to the not-so-secret NATO radar base.
It had been a very satisfying morning and now I was going back to Lassi for a swim in the sea. Life is good.
I walked 12 miles in total and had an ascent of just under 600 metres.
You can see more photographs from my climb here.