Mt Olympus – 6,401ft
Eric Gilbertson and Matthew Gilbertson
Date: November 14, 2014*
*(Highest legal point obtained; we stayed outside the barbed-wire fence surrounding the communications equipment on the top)
Cyprus is one of a handful of countries whose highest point is occupied by a military complex with very difficult access. (Other notable countries like this include Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, Sri Lanka, and Laos). For these countries if we can’t get permission to visit the actual highest point, we generally settle for the highest legal point, with the hope that some day access restrictions will ease and we can tag the true highest ground.
The top of Mount Olympus, in Cyprus, is capped by a NATO monitoring station and closed to the public. Thus, the highest legal ground is actually at the edge of the barbed-wire fence along the outside of the complex, a few meters below the true highest ground. Matthew and I thought it highly unlikely we would be granted permission inside the complex, so settled for reaching the highest legal ground.
On November 13 we flew from the Canary Islands, having climbed the Spain highpoint Teide, and landed in Larnaca, Cyprus. Matthew somehow managed to get a 3-hour layover in Malta on the way, which was just enough time to reach the highpoint there at Dingli Cliffs.
We rented a car in Larnaca around 9pm and started driving inland. It took a little getting used to driving
on the left side of the road, but luckily there wasn’t too much traffic. We wound up narrow mountain roads to the town of Trodos, then drove all the way to the end of the road at the entrance to the NATO complex on Mt Olympus. There were many signs warning not to enter and not to take pictures here. We walked around a bit, then drove back down to a trailhead at the side of the road.
After loading up our backpacks we hiked a mile or so along a trail, then pitched our tent on the dry rocky ground in the sparse trees. It was around midnight, and we easily fell asleep.
In the morning we hiked back up to the barbed-wire fence surrounding the summit complex, and reached our highpoint near the top of a ski lift. It looked like the ground inside the fence was a meter or two higher, but we were at the highest legal ground.
We snapped a few pictures, then hiked back to the car and drove back to Larnaca. Our next stop would be to climb another Mt Olympus the next day, this one the highest mountain in Greece.