FHU Abroad

The Peak of the Trip

Sep. 30, 2016

FHU students hiking at Mount Olympus

On September 22 at nine o’clock in the morning, a group of 20 arrived at the base of a mountain with an altitude of 9,554 feet, packed and ready to climb. We all began our journeys at the same point and the same time, but we very quickly got settled into our own paces and ascended the mountain in different groups. I can’t speak for anyone else’s hike up Mount Olympus, but my experience was one that definitely impacted my perspective.

I started walking up the mountain feeling great. I knew I wouldn’t be one of the first people to the hostel, which was located about halfway up the mountain, but I thought I would be able to keep a decent pace the whole way through. There were four of us walking together at the beginning, and we had planned to stick with each other the whole way through. About 20 minutes through we realized that this was not the best plan. Two of our group went on ahead while the other two of us stayed behind to go a bit slower. Within five minutes, we decided that I needed to go on ahead if I wanted to peak (which was my goal from the beginning). If you’ve ever left someone behind on a mountain, you’ll know that it is a very concerning position to be in. I knew there was another group coming up behind us, but I didn’t know how far back they were, and I just didn’t feel right about leaving someone alone. After a couple minutes of debating, though, I went on ahead with another member of our group who passed by us. After trying to keep pace with them for a few minutes, I was worried for a moment that I would end up hiking alone. However, I soon met up with Callie, one of our original four, and we continued up together.

As we were hiking, Callie and I realized that the two of us sticking together was the best idea, because we had about the same pace. We would walk up about two rows of a switchback and take a 20-second break to catch our breath (because we were both a little more out of shape than we probably should have been). On our way to the hostel, we met so many people from just about everywhere. It was such a cool experience, because even if all we said was “hi” to each other, there was a type of “we’re both climbing this mountain, we feel your struggle” connection. My favorite part of climbing was getting the opportunity to meet all the new people along the way. We met one Greek man that stopped to have a conversation with us about what we were doing climbing up the mountain, and all along the way to the hostel, we kept passing and getting passed by this group of three from Boston. Since it took us about three hours to get to the hostel, we saw them quite a few times, and we eventually decided that they were our “Boston friends” (even though we didn’t even know their names). Our last interaction was with two guys on their way down the mountain; we had been hiking for almost three hours, and we were beginning to lose hope. We must have looked exhausted and helpless, because as we stopped to catch our breath for about the 20th time, one of them said, “You’re almost there! You’re so close; it’s just around the bend.” It was exactly the kind of encouragement we needed to push us just a little bit further to get to the hostel. We expressed our extreme gratitude, wished them luck on their way down, and within ten minutes arrived at the hostel. The bright yellow sign was one of the most beautiful sights I’d seen all day long.

The moment we walked into the hostel, we were met with a wave of warmth and a swarm of strangers. We took off our muddy shoes, put our backpacks down, and joined the rest of our group that had already arrived for lunch. Our spaghetti portions were mountainous and well received by all of us hungry climbers. Shortly after we arrived, the larger group of students resumed their climb to the peak while a few of us stayed behind to rest longer. At about one o’clock, three of us decided to climb up to the top of the mountain. This time we learned to go slower and pace ourselves better, so we didn’t have to take as many stops. The climb was much different this time around, too. It was colder, for one; we didn’t have our huge backpacks on, and the path was much less traveled than the first half. Rather than steps made from stone and wood, the trail was mainly covered in gravel-like rocks, and most of the way was less of an actual path and more of a collection of routes that would eventually connect. We spent most of the way guessing which ways would be quicker, and we usually ended up taking the more difficult path. About two and a half hours in, we met up with our Boston friends again—this time missing a member of their group who decided not to peak. We were just wondering how much further we would have to go when they said they’d heard there was another two hours before the peak. Our hope was depleting, and we almost decided to give up. However, we made the decision to keep going and to turn back if we didn’t reach the top within the hour. About 10 minutes ahead, we met the larger group of our party heading down from the peak. They told us that we had only 15 minutes more worth of hiking before we’d reach the top. With renewed joy, we made our way hastily up the mountain to see the peak. Shortly after, our Boston friends joined us, having heard our conversation with the other group. It was such a fulfilling moment, reaching the peak. The view wasn’t gorgeous—all you could see were the clouds surrounding us—and it was so cold you couldn’t stay there long, but it was so worth it. I’ve never felt more accomplished in my life. All of the steps, all of the pain, all of the cold. Reaching the peak was worth every bit of it. Yes, it was hard and gross and definitely not for everybody, but if given the chance, I would do it over and over again. So if you ever have the opportunity, take it, push yourself, and climb the mountain.

FHU students on Mount Olympus

- Destiny Lewis, Junior