The hidden strength inside of you: Climbing up the Papingo Mountain
Your week always starts more pleasantly after a full, joyful weekend.
Our meeting was at 6:20 AM on Saturday, our destination the Drakolimni – dragon lake in Greek - of the Timfi mountain, in western Greece. We had decided to try doing this more than a year ago, and we couldn't wait for the time to come. And it was about time now!
The night before, after an exhausting day at work I did have some doubts about this. How would I wake up at 5 AM, barely fit and rather sleepless and make it up to the top of a mount in a 4-5 hour hike to go (and as much to come to down right after)? But I had seen some photos and my desire to see that little lake prevailed. I woke up an hour before the alarm went off.
It was dark when we met with the rest of our team. Quickly we figured out everyone had similar doubts about trying this, we even joked about this. Where there hell were we going in the middle of darkness? And how did it happen that we'd start with such a big route, especially those 2-3 of us that hadn't been on top of a mount in the entire lives? At least it was starting nicely, with all those jokes and teasing each other.
Where there hell were we going in the middle of darkness? And how did it happen that we'd start with such a big route, especially those 2-3 of us that hadn't been on top of a mount in the entire lives?
We arrived at Mikro Papingo (Small Papingo) at 07:45, when it was anymore bright. Twenty minutes later we started our route. Our first goal was to reach the refuge at 1950m. Estimated time was 2 hours and 50 minutes to get there. A sign we came across a while after starting was quite informative, yet not very encouraging, despite the fact we knew was ahead of us. Three hours of ascending isn't a simple thing for someone not trained.
Our team consisted of 7, of which only one had done this before and was serving as our guide. We did have the necessary equipment though, like backpacks with snacks and water, trekking poles and hats. But, mostly, our mood was good.
Every start is difficult, don't they say? Very quickly, I started feeling exhausted and the thought I might not make was passing through my mind. I did not want to give up though, so I went on with the thought of at least reaching the refuge. It felt like I was the weakest link! Luckily, the others in the team helped me by taking off some of the weight I was carrying and teasing me. Imagine that I was so exhausted I gave them even my camera, which I typically treat as an extension of my hands.
The key to getting to do this was finding your own pace, after all. As soon as I did that, I managed to even observe nature around us. At first, the changes in the landscape around us were quite intense, as we progressed. Dense forest at first, a drier landscape afterwards.
The key to getting to do this was finding your own pace, after all. As soon as I did that, I managed to even observe nature around us.
The good news about going all the way up to Papingo were that during ascend the mountain hid the sun. It would be quite touch otherwise. This is also one of the reasons to start early in the morning this route.
Another important thing was getting electrolytes along the way, i.e.: in the form of an isotonic drink and a couple of snacks. Those two, with the help of a couple of good jokes from team members helped a lot. Nevertheless, looking up, the mountain seemed huge and our route endless.
We chose to have a quick stop half an hour before reaching the refuge. This helped us to continue, although it was obvious we were quite tired by the previous two hours. The last part to the refuge didn't happen easily. The sun climbing up in the sky and the temperature rising added to our tiredness. Needless to say, I was always the last one, the others often turning around to see if I was still following along.
When I reached the refuge myself, it was exactly 2 hours and 50 minutes after we set off. So, that sign was correct and referred to untrained, inexperienced people like me, I thought. But the important thing was that all of us, including myself, were there. Our first goal – getting to the refuge – had been achieved.
We took a breath, and hydrated ourselves with water, juices, coffee and tea, had some snacks and changed our sweaty clothes. It must have been the quickest 45 minutes I've recently had and soon we were off for the second part of our "mission"; getting higher up to the lake.
The descending route that waited for us after the refuge required careful steps as the ground was full of stones. Luckily it was just for half an hour or so, and then another round of ascending route which was quite challenging. I had to find my pace again, as the sun and my exhaustion made it seem endless. Where on earth was this lake?
Luckily, our will to continue exceeded our exhaustion. The encouraging words of people descending and the descriptions of how beautiful the scenery up there was helped as well. A little while before our destination, a mark in a stone gave us the courage we needed for the final part.
At 1 PM the last one of us – myself – arrived, an hour or so after the refuge. The alpine meadow was waiting. The lake was in front of us. And, as we expected, the landscape was impressive, imposing, paying you off for the pain of getting there.
The alpine meadow was waiting. The lake was in front of us. And, as we expected, the landscape was impressive, imposing, paying you off for the pain of getting there.
It was time to enjoy. Getting some rest, enjoying a snack, playing at the lake. The water is very cold but relieving, ideal for feet spa and full tiny little alpine tritons, those little "dragons".
An hour or so later we started our descent. It was easier and somewhat shorter, but required you to be focused on not getting injured. A quick stop at the refuge was again a good idea, particularly due to the half-hour ascend right before that. Of course, the descent right after the refuge helped point out the contrast with the toughness of the ascent on our way up. You, sort of, admired yourself for having made it to the top!
We arrived at Mikro Papingo between 5:50 PM and 6:25 PM, the last one being, always, my happy self, with lots of photos in my camera. We were all exhausted but satisfied, full. It was high time to indulge ourselves with delicious food and some wine at Ano Pedina. A few hours, several jokes and good laughs later, I arrived back home at 11-11:30 PM, which marked the end of a really nice day. It was dark when I got out, it was dark when I got back in.
The main takeaway is that for a one-day excursion it's a rather demanding one. But it's definitely worth it, and you should try it, even if you're not really fit. Getting one with nature, breaking away from urban life and socializing with those you meet as you walk the path are all paying you off. And don't forget that, when you make it, your self-confidence hits the roof!
... for a one-day excursion it's a rather demanding one. But it's definitely worth it, and you should try it, even if you're not really fit. Getting one with nature, breaking away from urban life and socializing with those you meet as you walk the path are all paying you off. And don't forget that, when you make it, your self-confidence hits the roof!
About the Point-of-Interest (POI): The Drakolimni (Dragon Lake) is located at an alpine meadow of the Timfi mountain, at an altitude of 2050 m, to the NW of Ploskos top at 2377 m, NE of the Astraka top at 2436 m, some 3.5 hours to the South of the Monastery of Stomio. It's quite well known for its alpine tritons ("Dragons"), where it's taken its name from. There's no other way to get there, other than trekking.