STROMI - GIONA - PARNASSOS – DELFI – TIHIO
Stromi – Pyramida – Viniani – “51” - Agoriani - Polydrosso – Parnassos Ski Centre – Liakoura – Gerontovrachos – Delfi – Sernikaki – Ag. Efthymia – Vounihora– Malandrino – Vraila – Trikorfa - Tihio
Positive altitude: 9100m
Anyone wishing to run this race must be adequately prepared, both physically and psychologically. Total ascent is close to +9100m and the terrain is generally rocky. It could be said that this is a unique race by the standards of Greece in terms of altitude and challenging terrains. The trails can be characterised as purely mountaineering. Moreover, the philosophy of the race is semi-autonomy. There are therefore 5 aid stations (two of which for drop bags) and 8 check points. (Detailed table follows at the end of this description)
The starting point is in Stromi. Participants are encouraged to stock up, as the great ascent on Giona comes immediately next. This will be the most challenging and isolated part of the race (27km). First we follow the E4 path, and at the 3rd km we take the dirt road. At the 4th km we turn right and, after 1 km (crossroads), we take a left turn to head upwards to Myer's cave. It is worth noting here that we will pass from the cave that served as a hiding place for the British operatives of Gorgopotamos in 1944. We then cross the dirt road tapes from an old uphill footpath. After the 8th km, we now come to a hard trail leading to the famous Vathia Laka. Ahead of us rises the vertical rocky peak of Pyramida (400m). The trail circles it from the east. At the 11th km we reach the col of Platyvouna – Pyramida. Attention is required here, as we will have to go up the peak, then return to this point in order to head south towards the refuge of Giona.
Going up from the col, the trail becomes a mountaineering one, which means that there is no distinct trail but we can follow the markers. There is a checkpoint at the top (2510m.) and the exquisite view will be very compensating. All mountains from Olympus to Taygetus are visible from this point. We are at the 12th km, and here comes a big and arduous downhill slog for 15 km. We go down to the col and take a right turn (south) that will bring us to pass in front of the refuge at the 14th km. We then enter the famous Reka gorge. The trail is not always apparent, but we follow the markers. The terrain is hard and, as we reach the bottom of the creek, we have to run on the pebbles following the creek bed towards the exit. We then reach the village of Viniani (27th km) where there is an AID STATION (1st).
From Viniani, we go up the dirt road that will take us to Lamia-Amphissa country lane. We run towards Lamia (heading north but on the sideway) and, after 200m, we cross the road and enter an uphill footpath heading east. After 2km, we find path E4 and follow it to the east. Sometimes a footpath, sometimes a dirt road, our trail will take us to km 45.5 right by Kokkinovrachos peak. A steep descent begins at that point, leading down to the village of Agoriani. Right there at the 49th km (elevation 850m) is the village square with water available.
We now take path ‘22’ which first heads to the east with variable inclination. After Kitios peak (960m) we will turn north and, from this point on, we run continuously downhill. ATTENTION: Even though the downhill slope is mildly inclined, it is a dangerously rocky terrain. At the 58th km we reach Kifissos Springs (an archaeological site with plenty of running water all around). We follow the road for 2km and arrive at the village of Polydroso (elevation 380m.). There is a central station on the 60th km. AID STATION no. 2
The National Path 22 is a beautiful ascent up a dirt path through the fir trees, and will take us close to the Ski Centre of Parnassos (Fterolaka 71st km). A dirt road which then becomes a footpath will lead to the base of Liakoura peak (known as Lykoraea in ancient times). The path ascending towards the peak (78th km) is the same as the path of descent. We are now at 2457m, which is the highest point of the route and looks down to an incredible view to the north. After returning to the base of the cone, we will continue west on a relatively indistinct footpath towards Gerontovrachos which stands at 2367m as the second highest peak. The view is equally breathtaking, this time looking south to the gulf of Itea.
At first the descent heads to the north, but eventually we turn west to approach the small ski centre of the Athenian Mountaineering Association, which we then leave behind to reach Refuge Defner on the 85th km. Here, at an elevation of 1800m, is the 3rd AID STATION. From here we will enter a footpath lusciously covered in fir trees, which will take us to Livadia in Arachova. At the 90th km we will vertically cross the asphalt road and will take a dirt road that will lead us west towards the Forest Service outpost (right below Korykion Antron cave). A mild downhill dirt path starts there. On the 98th km begins the ancient stone path which is fairly broad and looks over the archaeological site of Delfi (100th km). Equally impressive is the valley of Pleistos river, with olive groves that extend all the way to the sea.
From the centre of Delfi village, which is where the E4 European long distance path crosses, we will follow an ancient footpath towards Chrysso village. We will then go down a dirt path until we reach an olive grove, which is the place with the least elevation on our route (40m) (WATER FOUNTAIN). We will cross the olive grove through small tractor paths (used only for the harvest of olives). Attention is required at the 109th km, where we will take an underpass to cross the National Road of Itea-Amphissa. We will then run gradually uphill until we reach Sernikaki village at 112.5km. (WATER). From then on, an uphill footpath will take us to a vertical rise of rocks. The only pass is the well-known ‘Portes’, where we will cross over to the small meadow of Ag. Efthymia. The old trail has now become a small dirt road for the largest part, leading to the village of Ag. Efthymia (117km.) with a mild uphill slope. This is where we find the 4th aid station
As we go down to the village bottom, crossing through a dirt road lined with dry stone right and left, we will find ourselves in ‘Gardiki’ meadow. Soon we will enter a creek through an almost flat footpath. We will then run along an asphalt road and at the 124th km we will reach the centre of Vounihora (WATER FOUNTAIN).
Here we begin a strenuous ascent to mount Kokkinari (part of mount Ghiona). We will follow the asphalt for 1km and, just past the last houses, will take a right to a small uphill rural road. After 1km, we will go off that road to follow a trail inside a creek, where at times we will come across the dirt road. At the 130th km we will reach the highest point at 1310m. looking down to a breathtaking view at lake Mornos. We will then go down a small forest track, then on to a footpath. ATTENTION: From kilometre 131 to 132 lies the most technical trail of the route. The terrain is flimsy, therefore extra care is required when going down, as it is a relatively steep slope. As we come out to an asphalt road, we will take a right (towards the north) to reach the centre of Malandrino at the 132.5 marker, at a 600m elevation. (WATER).
There follows an easy crossing through the meadow of Malandrino. After we go down from the village to the meadow, we will vertically cross the old National Road of Itea-Lidoriki. A small rural road will take us to a trail leading to the village of Vraila (138.5km. at a 550m. elevation). This is where we find the 5th aid station
We will follow the asphalt for 1km downhill heading south. We will turn right (west) and head uphill on the dirt road. Ahead of us, two hills (Vouni and Aetovouni) are effectively “blocking” our route. In between is Vathyrema gorge. An impressive footpath has been carved into the south bank of the gorge, used in antiquity to access the mountains of Dorida. We run alongside the gorge (water is drinkable). We then take a right to head north, and will go up a steep incline for 1 km to reach a dirt road. We will follow the dirt road for 1km more, then switch to a footpath that will take us up to an anonymous peak at 1178m. with a chapel that looks down to lake Mornos. We are now at the 147th km.
The descent from that peak is a beautiful trail leading to Bouhori Ridge above the villages of Milia and Stylia (at an altitude of 1000m.). This col has a beautiful view to all surrounding mountains and Eratini sea. This is the beginning of the final extended ascent of the race, that the amazing oak forest will definitely make up for. A mild dirt path will lead us to a dirt road. We will follow that dirt road, passing by the first wind turbine, only to get back on the footpath on a now alpine terrain. At the 155th km we are now at the top of mount Trikorfa, at an altitude of 1530m.(CHECKPOINT WITH WATER). An exquisite view to the high mountains of Roumeli (Ghiona, Vardousia) and the gulf of Corinth to the south, and the mountains of the Peloponnese (Helmos, Ziria, Erymanthos, Panachaiko).
A fantastic downhill trail through the fir trees will be a great opportunity to pick up speed for those who still feel up to it. A short uphill section leads to the chapel of Ag. Constantinos, then turns downward. Along the dirt road we will come to a cement water tank (159th km, 1054m. altitude) (drinkable water is available in portable containers).
At that point, we will turn right (west) to an undulating trail, running through a wonderful oak and pine forest. After 4km, we will come to a main dirt road. We will follow the markers on the trail right up to a cement water reservoir on the asphalt. We will then go down the asphalt road and pass through the village of Tihio (spring)
After 1km of mild uphill slog, we will reach “Theatraki” and cross the finish line, after 165 challenging but beautiful kilometres!