Kallergi Mountain Refuge

Pachnes from Xyloscala

 

Whilst the ascent of Gingilos, 1,974m, is a reasonably straightforward ascent from Xyloscala * (see Explore ! – April 2014), summits across the Samaria Gorge – Melindaou, Pachnes and other peaks in the Levka Ori – are less easily attainable, and outside the scope of many visitors to Crete.

One shorter, easier, and rewarding ‘expedition’ is to walk up to the mountain refuge at Kallergi, a climb of 450m from Xyloscala, and enjoy wide-ranging views over the Samaria Gorge, Pachnes, Gingilos and the Omalos plateau .

Kallergi Hut

Situated at 1,680m on the north-west rim of the Samaria Gorge, Kallergi Refuge was built during the Greece dictatorship (1967-74), opened in 1971 and used for military training.

Kallergi Refuge

 

Afterwards it was taken over by the Chania Mountain Club (EOS), and is open daily during the summer months (May – October) and at weekends in winter.

Kallergi Hut

An overnight stay is an experience, with accommodation (for 45) in bunks or an Alpine-style sleeping platform, and simple meals available. ** Onward routes include the difficult trek via Pachnes to Anopolis, the even harder E4 trail to the Niato plateau and Askifou, and through the Eligas Gorge to Agia Roumeli.

With the exception of a few setting off for Linoseli and Gingilos, almost everyone at Xyloscala will be heading down the gorge to Agia Roumeli, so leave the crowds behind, and take the path signposted E4 and ‘Kallergi Refuge 1 hr 30’.

Path sign

 

But first, gaze across the vastness of Samaria Gorge to Pachnes, highest White Mountains peak at 2453m, which usually holds snow until late June, but which this year, worryingly, had all but gone by mid-April (see photo at the start of the article).

The path climbs gently, contouring around the hillside above Xyloscala, and soon “the voices on the road, they have gone.” After twenty minutes or so, pass through a gate to join the rough service road, but before that, enjoy the view to the wide Omalos Plateau, now a thousand feet – 300m – below.

View to Omalos

 

Turn right, uphill : this isn’t particularly inspiring, but height is gained easily and quickly. At the next bend, waymarking (blue & purple) leads up a gully, more directly to Kallergi, but this is loose, rocky, and you’ll lose the views, so better to stay on the road.

The top is marked by a small stone shelter (“koumi”) built in memory of a young Cretan shepherd murdered here in 1941.

Koumi sign

 

Kallergi is just five minutes’ away, and en route you’ll pass the legendary wooden toilet, overlooking (and overhanging !) the depths of Samaria, far below.

Kallergi toilet.. Gardez l’eau!

 

Views from the terrace are breathtaking – you remembered a camera and binoculars, didn’t you ?

South are Volakias, 2116m, Gingilos and Psilafi, 1984m,

Volakias & Gingilos

 

to the east is Melindaou, 2133m,

Melindaou ridge

 

and the ridge over Mavri, 1883m, to Psari 1817m (the route to Katsiveli traverses this high ridge.) Pachnes is more distant, with the cliff face of Zaranokefala, 2135m, away to the south-east.

Kallergi Hut

There’s every chance of seeing eagles here, possibly Griffon Vultures, and if you’re very lucky the rare Lammergeier, or Bearded Vulture (recognisable by a distinctive diamond-shaped tail, and wing-span up to 280 cm) circling high in the thermals.

Descent is by the same way, either returning to Xyloscala or following the service road down to the Omalos plateau. There’s an alternative, from Kallergi over the Koukouli ridge heading north-west to Omalos village. I’ve not yet walked this route, but Christoforos Baladimas, the summer warden at Kallergi, who waymarked the path, tells me it takes around three hours, and is easier to follow in ascent rather than descending.

* Xyloscala is 65 km from Paleochora, through Rodovani and Agia Irini. An early morning
KTEL bus runs in summer, and both Notos Travel and Psarakis Taxis offer transfers.
One suggestion – tried and tested – is to climb Gingilos, stay overnight at Kallergi, and
next morning walk down to Agia Roumeli to take the “Samaria” ferry back to Paleochora.

** Bookings/reservations through Christoforos Baladimas at (0030) 28210 44647

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View to Sougia

As promised last November, here’s another section of the E4 path through Crete, and to complement the walk from Tripiti to Agia Roumeli (see Explore ! June 2017), this time it’s the route westwards from Tripiti to Sougia.

Allow 4 hours walking time for this, and another two hours for rests, taking photographs, and just enjoying the scenery, which is spectacular.

After the morning ferry from Paleochora, and a leisurely breakfast in Sougia, this time we took Captain George’s speedboat to Tripiti * – a fifteen-minute journey, and with the 50 euros cost split between five of us, a bargain.

 

Our plan to stay overnight in Sougia, and walk home the next day, gave an opportunity to walk some distance up the Tripiti Gorge, past the site of Pikilassos on its west side.

Tripiti Gorge

 

Little remains of this Dorian city, which together with Elyros, Lissos, Syia, Tarra (Ag. Roumeli) and Yrtakina, formed the Confederation of Oreioi c. 300 BC. The ascent of the gorge to Linoseli below Gingilos and Volakias is long, wild, unmarked and arduous, not to be attempted without a guide, and we returned after exploring only the initial stages.

Back almost to sea level, we began the relentlessly steep 300m climb to the ruined Turkish fort.

Turkish Fort

 

Arriving there breathless, it’s easy to forgo and omit a further climb to the church of Profitis Ilias Tripitis, another twenty minutes away, but don’t miss this on any account, the views transcend all else on this walk.

Profitis Ilias Tripitis

 

From Cape/Akrotiri Kalotrividis beyond Domata beach, west to Cape Flomes – our “crocodile” – a 20 km stretch of the south coast of Crete is 400m below you.

East from P Ilias

 

The annual Panayeri festival here in mid-July is a splendid occasion, well-attended, with participants celebrating and dancing long into the night. There’s a concrete cistern which collects rainwater, for use only in an emergency. Rest and enjoy.

Profitis Ilias

 

From the Turkish fort the path winds downhill, easily at first then more steeply. Shortly after starting our descent we passed the Voukilasi spring, trickling into and filling our water bottles, but it’s an unreliable water source, especially during the summer months when it usually dries up.

Voukilasi spring

 

The path down the rocky, tree-filled ravine almost reaches the sea, before turning westwards, but it’s possible to reach a small cove, below a recently built house, for a refreshing swim.

Sougia is still a couple of hours away, the E4 undulating pleasantly along and above the coastline. You might catch a glimpse of the double-roofed Ag. Antonios church at Hareis, below, but it’s not easy to reach by foot – and time-consuming – and my only visits have been by kayak.

Soon you’ll reach the foot of the Keratidias Gorge, descending almost vertically from Koustoyerako, and described in ‘Explore’ – February 2017. There’s a “sting in the tail” here, with a sharp climb from the gorge foot, then losing height again before the trail contours below rocky hillsides (which contain the “Cyclop’s Cave” – ref. ‘Explore’ March 2011) to reach a road-end high above Sougia.

There’s a short cut off the winding track – easily missed, though it’s marked on the Anavasi Hiking Map (Crete 11.13) – which will save time and energy, otherwise the longer way will take you into Sougia and its many rewards, one of which is to relax in the sea, or at a table above it, and look back along the coastline to Profitis Ilias church and reflect on a fine day’s walk.

East from Sougia

 

* Captain George taxi-boat : (0030) 28230 51133 Mobile 6947605802

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