We set the alarm at 5.30 to climb the Feggari today – the highest peak of Mount Saos. Feggari means ‘moon’ because the moon forgets herself on the peak, legend has it. It is from this peak that Neptune watched the Trojan war, Homer says.
“We’re going to attack the peak!”, my travel companion announces.
“No, we’re not going to attack the peak and we’re not going to conquer it, either. We’re going to make friends with it.”, I reply in my usual soft tone, leaving him pensive for a short while.
We have been warned there is no marked route leading up the peak and finding our way is hard, especially in the beginning. Having arrived in Therma, we park the car in the shade and go up the road left of the thermal baths (one old and one new building, both closed now). We pass Paradisos reataurant on the right and a few small motels and guest houses and then we get into the plain tree forest, up a whispering stream. We soon reach a crossroad and have no idea whether we should go left or right. We spot arrows pointing to the right and follow them to a closed gate. After some confusion, we decide only that can be the way and open the gate and go up the road, in the hot sun, accompanied by the baa of goats.
The humidity is very high and is making us highly uncomfortable. It slowly decreases as we are going higher and higher and we soon get into another forest: one with shorter and younger trees, shedding their outer bark, in a perfect combination of light green and dark red. Below, ferns are rising above the dead leaves layer under which the rocks are hiding.
Looking back, we can see the silver sea behind us as we are climbing. Never before have I had such an amazing view down below while climbing up a mountain and I can’t help thinking what a fabulous descent we will have.
As we are climbing higher and higher, we spot marking (metal plates inscribed with “E6” nailed on trees and red round paint marks on rocks), while the temperature slightly drops and the humidity significantly decreases. So we gradually go easier on the panting and we no longer look like we’ve just come out of the shower.
If you associate the mountains with cold weather, prepare for scorching heat and very high humidity on Mount Saos. That is why everyone in their right mind starts early (6 am or earlier). We started at 8 (though we did wake up at 5.30). And everyone we meet is descending, while we are the only ones still going up. Everyone is warning us “it’s difficult”.
Further up, the forest changes and it’s now oak trees that provide precious shade to the climber and shelter to the tireless singing birds piercing the constant noise of the cicadas. Aromatic plants (thyme, oregano, melissa and mint) send waves of scent up into the air and we seem to be all floating in this perfumed fairy tale land of century-old trees, zen goats, myriads of curious insects and the shimmering sea below.
Only close to the summit do we find a spring and we drink and refill our bottle and refresh. Then, a bit higher, we eat in the shade of a very old oak tree. Initially, when we are still optimistic, we think we’ll eat upon our descent. Fortunately, we are well inspired and eat before we got out of the forest and into the sun. The descend will have to wait quite a few hours.
When we get out of the oak forest, an area of sadistic short bushes awaits. And the trail is so narrow that they scratch the skin above my trekking boots. I wish I had a pair of trousers to change my shorts especially for this part of the track.
With the sadistic bushes successfully behind us, we are now in the kingdom of rocks – big and small, loose and stable, they are a challenge for our abused joints. And they will stay with us all the way up to the peak.
Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the way because the marking is not very obvious or easy to spot (and it will be even more elusive during the descent), but we make it. After seven hours we are on the highest peak. The view here is flabbergasting. I absolutely love being able to see the sea surrounding the island on all parts and identify villages and beaches where we have been. We spend 30 minutes on the peak and then we start the descent, perfectly aware that it’s going to be a challenge most part of the way and hoping to be back at the car before dark.
We make two more stops on our way down – one at the spring, where my travel companion picks a huge bunch of oregano and another one of thyme to take home with us and they have now invaded our room. The second stop is in the forest, where we have dinner on a fallen, dry tree trunk, a huge bug staring at us from below its antennae resting still on a perky brunch the whole time.
It’s 9 pm when we are back at the car and we started the ascent at 8 am. We are laughing imagining dialogues among the noisy goats we meet on the last portion of the road, before getting back to the plane tree forest. Dead tired, with blisters on my feet, I am grateful I didn’t suspect the whole adventure would take us 13 hours. I might have passed on it and what a pity that would have been. Still, I have the well being of this small boy growing inside me to consider besides my own desires now and that is something so new and life changing.
Probably without a bump you would go a bit faster but where’s the charm in that?
We needed 7 hours for the ascent to the peak and 5.5 hours for the descent. Had we started earlier in the morning and had we known the way, we could’ve probably spared one hour. But not more, for sure. So I guess it’s safe to say someone in good physical condition and without a bump, starting early in the morning (at 6 am or even earlier) can do the ascent in approximately 5 or 6 hours. That is the longest we were expecting to need for the ascent, but we were late and wrong.
“Still it’s only 1600 m high. That’s not a lot of you think about it”, my travel companion remarks during dinner in the forest. “Only you start climbing from sea level…”
If you’re planning to climb Feggari during pregnancy (and probably other mountain peaks, as well), I think the following should be considered:
- Make sure you have your doctor’s approval to make effort and do sports. Pregnancy is not an illness, it’s a normal state for the female body and you should be just fine doing what you normally do (with extra care, of course) unless your doctor advises otherwise. On the other hand, any pregnancy book or specialist will probably tell you that if you haven’t done any sport or exercised prior to your pregnancy, it is not advisable to start now. I read the best way to make sure you are ok is to be able to have a conversation through any effort you make. If you can’t, you need to decrease the intensity. Anyway, I guess the first and second trimester are more comfortable for this kind of adventure.
- Use good sun protection and apply it more than once. Also wear something over your head and sunglasses. The sun is really strong.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, fit for mountain climbing. Make sure they are neither too tight nor too large – any small discomfort will become a big issue during a long and difficult climb.
- Take just what is strictly necessary. With all your tissues being softer and more elastic now, extra pressure on your joints is the last thing you want. Trust me, I have been there. When I climbed up the Ciucaș peak in Făgăraș three weeks ago, my backpack was heavier because we had to camp and spend a cold night in a tent. The pain in my hips was a significant discomfort overnight and a couple of days after the hike.
- I don’t suffer from heartburn, cravings or severe hunger, so I didn’t need to pack snacks, we just had some food (and fruit – peaches – for the little fruitarian runner on board, of course). Take whatever you really need.
- There is just one accessible water source on the way up to Feggari, after you leave the springs and stream in Therma behind. Water is a must. Take water with you. Especially since heat and humidity cause you to sweat a lot and dehydrate.
- With the shift in the center of gravity, it is much easier to lose your balance so be careful and take your time.
- Rock climbing is not advisable during pregnancy, as far as I have read. On Feggari, the last portion of the route is exclusively on rocks – no ropes or chains, but it is quite challenging and high.
- Do go with a travel partner or a group, never alone.
Good luck and enjoy every step of the way! It’s not a walk in the park, but I assure you it’s totally worth it.
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