Refuge ‘A’ or “Spilios Agapitos” is set into a small rocky outcrop, called “the Balcony”, at an altitude of 2.060m. The refuge belongs to, and is governed by, the Greek Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (E.O.O.A.). Founded in 1930, it was the first Greek refuge (Refuge A). It was named “Spilios Agapitos” in honour of the first president of EOS (today E.O.O.A.), architect and engineer Spilios Agapitos who designed the first building of the shelter. The construction was completed in 1931 and could accommodate 25 people. Gradually the sanctuary was expanded and improved. Now has 110 sleeping positions divided into three wards: central, exterior and the new wing “Kostas Zolotas.”
Today, the refuge is the central location to many a visitors, who wishes to meet the challenge of climbing the mountain of the gods. In the height of summer it is a bustling respite for trekkers the world over. Coming as far a field as America and Japan, in order to enjoy the natural beauty that Mount Olympus has to offer. Refuge A also plays host to one of the way stations on the gruelling Olympus Marathon that is an great annual event and spectacle.
The refuge is managed by Maria Zolota and her husband Dionysios. They have been managers for over 13 years, and took the position after Maria’s father retired from the work. Spilios Agapitos is manned by, on average, eight workers during the trekking season, and can cater to your every need. It has a fully equipped kitchen that can serve breakfast, lunch and evening dinner (with a tasty set menu), for a great deal of the day. The hostel is opened to any visitor who passes by, but residents are asked to consider some simple rules. These are explained as you check in, and are shown to your sleeping bunks.
The hostel itself comprises of the main reception area and staff quarters, connected to this are two large dinning/recreation areas, where people can rest and enjoy their food, and chat among the other trekkers. In the main building there are situated several dormitories, and a bathroom facility. At the rear of the main building is situated the second dormitory area and new wing. The new wing houses a bathroom area too, and there is a third in-between the main building and the second area. At altitude the nights, and even sometimes the days, get a little chilly, so the refuge has two fires burning on such occasions. For those who wish to wash themselves there are showers, though the showers are not heated and must be used at your own discretion.
Your time at the hostel
The refuge is powered by a generator and newly installed solar panels, and therefore to conserve the resources used to power the hostel, lights in the building are switched off at 10pm and are opened again at 6am. It is advisable to carry a small travel torch with you at all times. Also, for your own comfort, it would be wise to bring a pair of soft soled indoor shoes. It is not permitted to wear boots in the facility, and you will be requested to leave your walking shoes at reception on arrival, and wear slippers provided (if you are unable to provide your own). It isn’t guaranteed a size will be available for you, so is strongly advised you bring such a pair with you.
The refuge has two large communal areas for eating and resting, and on warmer days the refuge also has a magnificent patio area built on the balcony. This provides a most perfect vantage point for some of the most beautiful sunrises seen in Greece. This spectacle happens early in the morning, and depending on the month, can be as early as 5am in the morning. Also, it should be noted that the weather is very changeable, due to the nature of the mountain and it’s location. The temperature can drop very quickly between sun and shaded areas, so be cautious on such provisions when packing clothing.
The Spilios Agapitos refuge serves as a hostel to travellers on the E4 path. The facilities are there to provide the necessary rest and relaxation provisions needed for any weary traveller. It is governed by the regulations of E.O.O.A (Greek Mountaineering and Climbing Federation) and also would like patrons to abide by laws and regulations of the National Park in which it resides. For this reason, the refuge expects all who frequent to be polite and respectful to others and the mountain itself.
Overnight stays at Refuge A
The prices of both the residents of the refuge / camper & nights out solely by E.O.O.A.
Bed for non-members – 13 euro
Bed for members of mountaineering clubs with authenticated identity – 11 euro
Camp for non-members – 4.20 euro/person
Camp for members – 3.20 euro/person
Use of facilities for non-residents – 1,60 euro
Information for the night
The shelter has blankets (from 3 per person) and pillow (which changed daily) but no sheets. The blankets are washed at regular intervals but kept clean as much as possible please guests, or bring their own bedding or sleeping bags. For those unable to carry a disposable sheets are to buy. Guests should have their own personal hygiene items (towel, soap, etc.), essential lens for nighttime and slippers or shoes with a second clean smooth bottom for indoors (all visitors necessarily change their shoes when entering indoors). There are some flip flops at the shelter for guests’ convenience but are shared. The refuge is open daily from mid-May to late October (usually closes on the 28th) from 6 am to 10 pm. The restaurant is open all day until 9 pm. Guests must be at the shelter until 8 in the evening.
Considerations for the trek up
Mount Olympus follows the E4 mountain route, which starts in Litochoro and reaches to Skala and onto Kokkinoplos. If you are new to the mountain, there follows some advice advice from the refuge wardens or persons in charge. Olympus, like any mountain, can be deceptive in it’s appearance. For this reason, you should come prepared. Independent of the season, there is a need to drink water (more in the summer). You should consider a need to bring at least 2 litres per person, for the walk up from Prionia to “Spilios Agapitos” (Refuge A). The weather can be changeable, so always think to bring some water-proof clothing, and at night (at altitude) the temperature get very cold. So also bring warm clothing of some kind. Again, depending on the season, the type of shoes you wear can be important. It is advised that they are comfortable, but strong enough for the rugged terrain and paths.
The journey to Refuge A, from Prionia, can take between 1.5 hours upto 6 hours (with an average time of about 3 hours), depending on your speed. For this reason you should plan your day accordingly. Noting that the refuge closes registration at 8pm and seasonal changes in sunset can affect visibility in late afternoon and evening. If you feel that you may be leisurely about the trek up, do take provisions like snacks (the best snacks are high-carbohydrate or fruits). To help with the walk up, it is possible to obtain trekking sticks at the Refuge, or in your own country (online) before coming. They help spread your load as you walk, and are a great aid. Also, be aware that eating too much at lunch on an afternoon ascent can be exhausting, as your body is competing to digest food as well as muscle energy climbing. For this reason, it is suggested you eat a light-medium lunch of carbohydrates (like spaghetti) and then eat snacks at intervals on the climb. There are two convenient stopping points on the way up where you can sit for a few moments rest. The best advise however, is to take it easy!
Source (photos & text): http://mountolympus.gr