If you want to understand the landscape and the “identity” of a mountain it is enough to focus on the toponyms given by the shepherds, perhaps the oldest inhabitants of the mountains.
Lefka Ori, the land of stone
In Lefka ori massif we notice names such as Mavri Laki (Black pits), Kakos Poros (Bad road/entrance), Pavlia Chalara (Chalara are the ruins in the Cretan dialect). We still find many peaks by the name “Black” (Mavri).
Perhaps these names are a good example to describe the landscape in Lefka Ori. Eerie, lunar with black, gray, and red rocks. Arid and dry landscape, without vegetation.
But a magical landscape, that calls you to hike and conquer as many peaks as your soul desires!
Hiking in Lefka Ori
Stones, boulders, high wild summits, and a total dry landscape. It doesn’t sound the perfect scenery for hiking or multiday trekking. But guess what, it is!
However, we decided to do another small, one-day, circular hike in the heart of the mountain with our final aim the highest peak of Lefka Ori, Pachnes (2,453m).
Morning awakening to drink a hot coffee in the mountain breeze, those first minutes of the day when the peaks have taken on the characteristic orange colour of the dawn.
Waking up in the mountain in the morning also means sleeping there at night, under the stars, closer to them, at 1,900m alt. The stars are dense and close together, the galaxies are now visible and for those who know how to “read” the sky, planets that are close to the Earth, visible.
And all this because the stars shine differently on the mountains, away from the city lights.
Coffee, breakfast and with the first, warm, morning rays of the sun we are already on the trail that leads us to the heart of the mountain, to Katsiveli region. A small plateau in the middle of Lefka Ori, a place with Mitata (traditional stone-build shelters of the shepherds), one small emergency shelter and of course, in the pass between the peaks of Kefala and Svourichti (2,356m), the Chouliopoulos refuge of the Mountaineering club of Chania.
In Katsiveli plateau, in the past, during the summer months, the locals not only developed animal husbandry and cheese production, but at the same time cultivated the land with potatoes and legumes. Signs of this abandoned cultivation are the drystone walls, stone walls built without a trace of binding material.
The path until there is easy without big ascents and almost straight, impressive because it passes between the peaks of Sternes, Bournelos, Zouridia, Modaki, where their slopes rise like a big wall that embraces the trail.
And the landscape around there the typical of Lefka Ori, an elegy of stone!
New trails in Lefka Ori
After a break in the yard of a Mitato for a quick coffee and with the help of a hiking map, where we tried to locate all the peaks surrounding us, we took the path that leads straight to Pachnes peak.
The path passes by the Western slopes of Modaki peak (2,225m), a unique summit that rises like a pyramid among the other peaks of the Mountain Range, as if some Pharaoh constructed it.
The hike up to the Pachnes from the plateau is more demanding, with slightly steeper slopes but also impressive passes that lead you to points with breathtaking views of the entire Mountain. This path is worth it, perhaps one of the most beautiful in Lefka Ori.
After of five hours, from the beginning of the day, of delightful hiking on the trail we are at the highest peak of the mountain at 2,453m, and because the god of mountains, if there is such a god, loves us, he gifted us with the first time in that peak without a single kilometre of wind. Such stillness is the first time we had up there. Thank you, God!
Clear skies and grand views
And now the most difficult part, you must write down all that you see and feel when you stand at the top, the highest point of Lefka Ori.
How can someone describe the view of fifty peaks over of 2,000 meters that are rising below? A wavy mountainous sea, and you, you are standing on an islet, the ‘’islet of Pachnes’’, and observing everything from up there.
The clear sky gives you all that perspective of seeing Psiloritis in front of you crystal clear and so close, you think you will reach out and touch him. A little further south, we also managed to see a peak on the horizon that looks like an upside basket, so we know Asterousia mountains are there, with ‘’Kofinas’’, their highest peak.
Perhaps Calypso she still lives on her island, Gavdos, and from there with her songs, she tries to make us stay on Pachnes peak, since our eyes are fixed on the southern island of Europe. Something about this view makes us not want to get up. Drinking the last sip of coffee and looking South at Gavdos Island that has enchanted us as it floats in the Mediterranean sea, we know that the return will be difficult. Because we have with difficulty to resist and not turn to look back at the top.
The return path is the same as that of the classic ascent to Pachnes, lasting about one hour and a half, without difficulties and easy in summer, but difficult and more dangerous in winter with snow. It leads us to the starting point and thus we completed the small circular hike of about 6:30 hours in Lefka Ori.
Hiking, the way to discover a land
Closing this hiking cycle in Lefka Ori massif, you are understanding why hiking in Crete an experience is.
You have the option to walk on height paths and admire great views, the road trip until the beginning of the path is an opportunity to meet the Cretan soul that exists unadulterated on the slopes of the Cretan mountains. You are feeling that the myth still exists everywhere on the island, and you see it and perceive it even when you stand on the highest peak.
Finally, when you will have walked enough in Crete and its mountains, when you will have gotten to know the locals better, then you will understand why the Cretans are mountainous people.
Because with so many mountains there is no other way, your soul leads you there.