Navigating Attica’s mountain trails with traditional and/or high-tech aids

As the hot weather loses its edge, Attica’s mountains have begun to beckon hikers and nature lovers, and despite the State’s apparent indifference to preserving as much of our wild countryside as possible, there are still several worthwhile places to explore within a day’s drive of the city – and a number of new guides and maps. Apart from the «classics» – the mountains Parnitha and Hymettus and the parts of Pendeli that have not been quarried or burnt – there are a surprising variety of smaller peaks around Attica which, although not as challenging, are a pleasant day’s walk. Maps and guides to Greece’s mountains are being published all the time. The latest is a comprehensive, detailed (and laminated) map of Mt Parnitha (1:25,000) compiled by Anavasi, which has specialized in hiking maps covering many parts of the country, with information in English and Greek on local sights, access and facilities. Anavasi is owned and operated by civil engineer Triandafyllos Adamakopoulos and biologist and environmentalist Penelope Matsouka, a husband-and-wife team who turned to cartography, software and publishing to meet a growing demand. Themselves keen hikers, they put their knowledge of the mountains and the needs of mountaineers to work in setting up the business in 1997. Their two maps of Mt Hymettus took months of trekking on the mountain. «Hymettus is like the Hydra of Lerna – you find one path, which then leads you to many more,» Matsouka told Kathimerini English Edition. The business includes a bookshop, specializing in a range of maps and guides, at 6-10 Harilaou Trikoupi St, central Athens, which will shortly be moving to the Stoa Arsakiou. High-tech guides The new guide to Parnitha is in Anavasi’s Topo25 series, high-precision maps designed with special software as well as fieldwork, providing over 50 different types of data including road networks, footpaths, monuments, springs and caves. Also in the Topo25 range and close to Athens is Mt Kitheronas, which stretches from the western reaches of Mt Parnitha to the Gulf of Corinth. Hymettus is covered in Anavasi’s Topo10 series (1:10,000) of the Athens area, in two separate maps of the northern and central ranges. Hikers have another tool at their disposal for finding their way around mountain trails – GPS receivers, about the size of a mobile phone. These gadgets have been around for some time but only recently have GPS-referenced maps been available for trails through Greece’s high country. Anavasi’s GPS compatible maps, also available on CD-ROM, will soon be available on GPS compatible digital format. Anavasi also provides training in the use of GPS receivers. Like all gadgets, the receivers should be used with caution. «Besides other sources of error, dense vegetation cover can block signal reception, causing position errors or possibly no position reading at all,» Anavasi warns. A more conventional but excellent guide (in Greek) that also includes shorter climbs around Attica is Nikos Nezis’s «Ta Vouna tis Attikis» (The Mountains of Attica), first published 18 years ago but sold out in the first three years. Now reissued by Anavasi and the Levkaditis Foundation with additional material, the full-color guide with photographs and maps of each mountain contains information on geography, history, flora and fauna, rock-climbing opportunities, refuges, caves, springs and access routes. Nezis goes into some of the legends surrounding these peaks – though mostly to debunk them. The Pendeli Cave, which also bears the name of the notorious 19th century robber Davelis, is better known than others, such as the Lion Cave on Mt Hymettus, where according to legend, a fearsome lion that lived in the cave wreaked havoc on the surrounding area until it was killed by Saint Nikolaos, who turned it to stone. A statue, probably dating to the fourth century AD stands outside the saint’s church next to the power station at Kamba-Kantza. While more emphasis is given to Parnitha, Hymettus and Pendeli, there are also details of smaller peaks from Pastra and Patera, west of Parnitha, to Attica’s own small Mt Olympus, just above Saronida on the Saronic coastline. ‘Real’ guides If you don’t have a GPS receiver and are not an experienced mountaineer, it’s best to begin exploring Attica’s larger mountains with organized groups led by guides from one of the Alpine clubs, as Parnitha, in particular, is notoriously disorienting for the uninitiated and even people who think they know their way around the mountain have been known to get lost. The Acharnes branch of the Greek Alpine Club (EOS Acharnon) is organizing an excursion there on November 2, leaving from the parking lot at the bottom of the cable car, walking to Aghios Georgios, Pan’s Cave, and ending up in Fyli (Hasia). The Pezoporikos Omilos (Hiking Club) goes to Parnitha on December 22 and to Mt Geraneia on November 16. EOS Acharnon 210.246.1528, Pezoporikos Omilos 210.821.8401, EOS Athinon 210.321.2429.

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