Those of you who know Crete will be aware that Pachnes is the highest mountain in the Lefka Ori range, at 2453m. Its only 3m short of Mount Psiloritis, the highest in Crete. Aficianados threaten to build a stone obelisk on the top to rectify this shortcoming! And you can climb Pachnes in a day trip!
What its like
It’s a stunning experience, because about 200m above the tree line (about 1600m) the landscape changes. It becomes a totally alien moonscape. Barren, harsh, unforgiving and inhospitable, the mountains and valleys stretch away in every direction in glaring white.
There’s hardly any visible life. There are brilliant white perfect cones, long knife edged ridges, deep circular sinkholes. The quiet is complete, and, together with the landscape, a little ominous. But above the sky is a vivid enticing blue, white clouds scud across, making a striking contrast.
How to climb Pachnes in a day trip
Unless you are a really keen (or insane) hiker, you wouldn’t want to climb the whole way in a day. But for guests at Panokosmos, we have a way to do it. Starting from Panokosmos in the Apokoronas you first need to drive to Anopoli. Its a wonderfully quiet and peaceful plain, high above the south coast.
Then we arrange with brothers Manousos or Antonis at Anopoli Taverna
for you to be taken up in their pickup trucks to Rousies, a spot about 400m below the summit. If your bottom isn’t up to an hour long drive over dirt roads sitting on a hard bench, you can travel in comfort inside!
From there it’s a 2h walk (took us 2 ½ h but we are old!) to the top.
To clarify this “walk”, it is a fairly chunky hike with a bit of clambering over rock faces, long traverses over sloping solid rock, and some long paths in shale & gravel.
Madares – the high desert
Up in the heart of the White Mountains, Pachnes forms part of the Madares – the high desert. This is unique on earth, a limestone landscape subjected to over 200cm of rainfall, mostly as snow.
This makes it one of the wettest places in Europe. The word Pachnes means romantically “morning dew”or on the other hand more prosaically in Cretan “fog”!
Why is the Madares so barren? Because the limestone rocks are porous, crumble into scree and thus break down into sand and silt. There is nothing to retain water despite the immense rainfall. This falls mainly as snow which when it melts, disappears into the sinkholes which dot the landscape.
And why are there so many perfectly conical mountains, all with the same slope – which is apparently at an angle of 32 degrees? That is caused by frost breaking up the rock into scree. At steeper angles the scree rolls downhill. Any hollow gets filled, any projection gets shattered by frost therefore creating this slope.
What lives at 2400m?
Even at this altitude we saw sheep “grazing” – heaven knows what on. We saw tiny plants right on the summit.
There are thistles on the way up. However, you’d think the sheep spent more energy moving from one tiny plant to another than the energy they might provide!
Stand on the summit, take in the extraordinary views. For example, there’s the Aegean sea in the north and the Libyan in the south, the conical peaks, the sinkholes, the vivid whites and pinks of the rocks. Its an awesome experience.
And how to get back down again!
Surprisingly perhaps, tho there is no mobile phone signal on the way up, there is on the summit.
Very convenient to call Manousos to come to collect you. It will take you about an hour to get back down, just about the time it takes him to drive up to meet you! Then you have time for a great meal at the taverna before the drive back to Panokosmos.
The joys of Panokosmos
Of course you don’t have to stay at Panokosmos, but we’d love to see you here.
or taking a drive to see the sites. Chania is a great town to visit, particularly to go to the street markets, and of course you’ll want to get the benefits of the Cretan diet – be it the yoghurt and cheese, or the olive oil