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Monday, December 16, 2019

The Dangers of Hiking Around Mount Athos


While hiking around Mount Athos is not typically dangerous if you follow some basic rules and guidelines, sometimes accidents happen that remind us what precautions should be taken to avoid such dangers.

A TRAGIC EXAMPLE

On December 12, 2019 the body of a young Romanian pilgrim was found in the courtyard of the Cave of Saint Athanasios the Athonite, having fallen 40 meters off a cliff (see photo above). He was holding in his hands an icon of the Virgin Mary.

The 28 year old victim was a guest at the Romanian Skete of the Honorable Forerunner, when all traces of him were lost in the morning of December 11th.

At around noon his lifeless body was found by a monk of Great Lavra Monastery. Apparently he had graduated from the Theological School in Bucharest a few days before.

As of today, the autopsy is currently being done in Thessaloniki to determine the cause for the tragedy.

This story should remind people to never walk close to the edge of cliffs while traveling the Holy Mountain, as there is usually nothing to protect you from falling. Traveling around alone is also highly discouraged.

TRAVEL GUIDELINES

It is usual to walk in the monastic republic of Athos in order to reach the various monasteries. It’s the best thing you can do to get to know Athos. There is rich vegetation, untouched forests, scenic trails, creeks, small waterfalls, fountains and many other beauties.

Despite all this beauty, there are some dangers in this untouched nature. In order to protect yourselves from these, we would like to give you some basic rules for your hike that will make your stay there as safe as possible.

It should be noted that on all roads on Athos there are road signs. The signs show the direction to the next monastery, skete or harbor.

Hikers should stay on their initial path. Outside of the signposted paths, there are many other paths or ways that sometimes lead to dead ends, they are difficult to walk on or are even no longer accessible for safety reasons. The rich vegetation covers some of the hiking trails, which can be dangerous as many hiking trails are close to steep cliffs and canyons. Even minor carelessness can lead to injuries in such cases.

There have been many cases of light or serious accidents. Such as falling down in canyons or getting stuck in the deep winter snow in hard to reach areas of Mount Athos away from the main trails. All this resulted in rescue teams being sent out to search. Unfortunately it happens that the search for the pilgrims could be unsuccessful and some have not been found until today.

In order to prevent any danger, we ask you to read the text below carefully.

Before the pilgrimage and hiking, there are some rules to keep in mind:

INFORMATION

– Inform yourself about the weather.
– Inform the monastery where you are staying about your planned trail.
– It’s good to give your cell phone number to at least two other pilgrims who will stay with you in the same monastery. Inform them also about your planned trail and when you are planning to return, so other pilgrims will be able to get help if you don´t return.

PLANNING THE HIKING TRAIL

– Plan your hiking route carefully.
– It´s also important to plan when you are going to start your journey and when you´re going to arrive at your destination. Here it is important to know your limits. A too optimistic time estimation can lead to problems. You have to be aware of the fact that the time you needed to get to your destination will be needed at least also for the return journey to the monastery.
– Do not leave the signposted trails. Such unmarked trails lead to dead ends or other dangerous places.
– Proper clothing and equipment are essential.

ATTENTION

– Never go long distances alone in the forest. It is always advisable to be at least two.
– If you feel powerless or dizzy, find a shady place and take a 30-minute break. Do not move on until you feel better. If you continue to be powerless, call someone by cell phone and tell them your location and symptoms.

SAFETY RULES

– We advise you to wear clothes in signal colors, it will be easier to find you.
– Avoid dark or even camouflage clothing.
– Adapt your clothing to the current season.
– Wear hiking boots.

ESSENTIALS

– Your backpack should not weigh more than 12 kg. (This is the maximum weight a person can carry on their shoulders for a longer period of time).

You should carry with you
– A walking stick
– Water, snack, peanuts
– First aid kit
– Flashlight and batteries
– Charged phone with activated GPS tracking
– Small pocket knife
– Compass
– Map
– If necessary a GPS device. The coordinates of Karyes are: 40°15′26″N 24°14′42″E

DANGEROUS WEATHER PHENOMENA

It´s not possible to make a correct weather forecast on Athos. There are extreme weather phenomena. Avoid the peak of Mount Athos during the winter months. During the winter months, there can be strong winds and gusts on the top. Moreover there is a danger of extreme snowfall or lightning strikes.

112 IS THE EUROPEAN NUMBER FOR EMERGENCIES

Emergency situations in which rescue teams, the fire brigade or the police are necessary are among others the following:
– Accidents
– Suddenly feeling ill
– Fire / forest fires
– Explosions
– Earthquake
– Raids
– Terrorist attacks
– Suicide / death

This number is only to call in emergencies.

What needs to be mentioned when calling the 112?

Say the following things on the phone:
– First and last name
– Mobile number
– Your exact location
– Describe the reason why you called
– The number 112 is always available regardless of the provider with appropriate mobile phone reception. Depending on the type of mobile phone, it is even possible to call the number without a SIM card.

RESPECT

– Don´t make a fire. A gust of wind can turn a small campfire into a fatal forest fire.
– Do not leave any garbage.
– No vandalism of buildings / monuments. Please also respect the animals and their habitat.
– It is forbidden to write any initials or other writings on buildings, in caves or on rocks.

We respect nature. It is the source of life.

The picture below shows the distance of the 20 different monasteries in hours and in kilometers.



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