Approaching Mount Olympus
with the appropriate photographic &
mountaineering equipment

With the end of winter season, which rolled with highly unpredictable weather conditions on Mount Olympus, with ascents that did not always have the desirable result due to unsuitable weather conditions, begins a more productive period with excursions to the summits. Thus, approaching the summertime I recall the splendid weather towards the end of last August, when after some time I would be on the trail again for another ascent. This time I had to make some test shots in order to get started with the Mount Olympus Summits Project

It was the perfect time of season to escape the scorching summer heat and seek refuge on the cool mountain slopes; the higher you climb on the mountain, the lower the temperature. The light, which falls more gently on the mountain during the late summer months compared to the rest of the season, is an added bonus for the eager photographer. 

For the next ten days Kakalos Refuge, located at 2,650m, would be my home. The general purpose of my trip was to explore the trails leading to the summits above 2,000m altitude, to plan which ones I would follow and take a test of a few 360° shots. Getting started with my explorations I had to choose which photographic and mountaineering equipment would be necessary. Luckily, the weather on the mountain was good, helping my effort. I chose the first morning hours and sunset when the light is appropriate to photograph the peaks around the Muses Plateau; Profitis Elias, Kalagia, Mikri Toumba and Megali Toumba.

The rest of the time was devoted to planning the details of the trip in general; a great part of it was spent marking places on the map and discussing not only with Mike Styllas, friend and manager Kakalos Refuge, but also with many friends and acquaintances who happened to be there at the time.

Day by day the map gradually came to life, marked with notes about the future routes to follow. Merely the idea that each sign on the map marked a location I would walk on and photograph, had me overexcited already. “You have a long way to go…” Mike told me repeatedly with a good-hearted smile; a lot of people offered to help me in the project by accompanying me on some routes.
The days on the mountain went by very fast. Eventually, gathering all my notes and plenty of photographic material, I returned back to the harsh reality of city life. But I was determined not to stay for long!

It was high time to choose which photographic and mountaineering equipment I would need for the project. One of the factors that had to be examined and calculated with care was the weight of the equipment, since most ascends would last for several hours.

Looking closely over my notes I realized that in some of the routes it would be possible to approach the peaks after stopping at a nearby refuge. I could leave the bulk of my equipment there and continue up carrying only what would be absolutely necessary. 
When it comes to accommodation, refuges offer the best solution for climbers everywhere. In my case, the greatest challenge I was faced with was that of the weight. I had to carry around quite heavy mountaineering equipment as it was; the weight of the cameras and other photography equipment would be an added burden. All this weight could certainly make my way to the respective refuge a lot more difficult, but once I had got there I would still be able to leave back part of the equipment and take with me only what was necessary to reach the peaks. Surely, this would make the climb up so much easier.

What would I do, however, in the routes where the option of stopping at a refuge did not exist? In these cases I would have to add a tent, a sleeping bag, cooking utensils, food, water and other supplies for meals and accommodation for at least 3-5 days in my bag, and thus the weight and volume of the mountaineering equipment necessary is substantially increased. After placing before me on the one hand the list described above and the total equipment on the other, I was finally able to distinguish between what I would really need on the mountain and which things would not be necessary.
Below you can see which the photographic and mountaineering equipment I use during the project.

Photographic equipment

Η πραγματοποίηση του project απαιτούσε τον κατάλληλο τεχνολογικό εξοπλισμό που θα μου παρείχε και το επιθυμητό αποτέλεσμα. Οι πράγοντες που θα έπαιζαν σημαντικό ρόλο στην επιλογή του ήταν η αξιοπιστία και το βάρος. Η εταιρεία Canon, η οποία έδειξε ενδιαφέρον από την πρώτη στιγμή για το απαιτητικό αυτό εγχείρημα, στηρίζει έμπρακτα την διαδικασία υλοποίησής του και την ευχαριστώ ιδιαιτέρως γι' αυτό. Μέσα από μια μεγάλη γκάμα φωτογραφικών μηχανών και φακών, μου δίνεται η ευκαιρία να χρησιμοποιώ ότι ακριβώς χρειάζομαι ώστε να έχω την ιδανική απόδοση.

The realization of the project required the appropriate technological equipment that would provide me with the desired effect. The criteria of choosing the right ones were credibility and weight. From the very beginning of this original project, Canon took a great interest in it, actively supporting its implementation. Thanks to Canon I have the opportunity to choose through a wide range of cameras and lenses the right equipment that I just need in order to have a great result.

The basic and necessary equipment used for this type of photography is a Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera (810g), the fisheye lens Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L USM (540g), the panoramic head Nodal Ninja 4 RD16-II Advanced Rotator (1340g) and a carbon tripod of Manfrotto MT190CXPRO4  (2000g). So far, counting only the photographic equipment necessary for 360° shots, the weight is already 4700g. From then onwards I had to choose carefully what more to add.

Sometimes the harsh terrain prohibits my carrying a 1500g DSLR and matching lens hanging from my neck! So, in those cases I carry with me a lighter camera for quick shots, a Canon PowerShot G3 X (740g) is one of the "small" cameras most suited for that purpose; it is small in terms of weight and volume yet has huge potential. I always keep it at hand, ready to use.

Even though Canon EF 24–70 mm f/2.8L II USM can weigh up to 950g, this lens is one you simply cannot leave back at home. It is ideal for landscape photography because the aperture (f / 2.8) helps a lot when shooting in relatively harsh conditions, such as early in the morning, in night shots or indoors.

When climbing up the mountain there will arise plenty of opportunities to put a zoom lens up to good use; to shoot the clouds that run between the rocks and the wild goats grazing on the Muses Plateau at dawn or even the morning mist hanging among the trees – such stunning images appear before you with every step. I will carry such a lens on several of my ascents; it is the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM (1490g).
On my ascends I usually use – and occasionally abuse- at least one Go Pro camera, as the results you get from such cameras nowadays are quite impressive. Combined with a Manfrotto Mini Tripod, it is the best choice for easily shooting time lapses and videos.

With the total weight having reached 7880g, it is now time to consider the peripheral accessories, such as chargers, batteries, filters and so many others. Whether I stay in an organized shelter or in a tent, the peripherals I need are approximately the same in terms of weight. The ideal solution for me would be to carry as many batteries as possible, including a solar charger; these can really save your day on the mountain when a plug is nowhere to be found! But even on the times when I might manage to have access to electricity at a shelter I cannot do away with the extra weight, since the chargers themselves weigh almost as much as the batteries… So much for my good mood for getting rid of them!

So far, counting only the photo equipment there are already 10kilos in my bag. I will need to carry all this equipment on my back to the nearest point possible before reaching a peak.

Mountaineering Equipment

Choosing the right and case-appropriate mountaineering equipment is an integral part to my ascends on the mountain. The North Face, with whom I have collaborated over the past four years, were enthusiastic about the project from the very first moment. Among their vast range of products I had the opportunity to choose exactly what I needed as far as clothing, bags, tents and sleeping bags are concerned, that would make my stay on the mountain as comfortable and safe as possible.

A tent, which I will certainly need for these routes where I will not have the comfort of shelter accommodation, occupies a special place in my bag in terms of volume and weight.

Initially, for the most remote spots that I will have to approach by myself I chose the The North Face MICA FL1, a one-person tent that weighs just 1130g. It took me less than five minutes to set it up for the first time, in relatively good weather. The space inside is indeed meant for just one person, though with a little effort and a lot of patience one is able to squeeze his bag inside, if for some reason it cannot be placed in the special container of the tent for that purpose.

In the winter months the The North Face ASSAULT 2 is an ideal solution with a very good ratio of weight and volume. It is a tent that weighs 2.240g and can sleep two people comfortably, even in case the equipment has to be placed inside for protection against the harsh weather conditions.

Then it was time to choose my sleeping bags. Among the wide range of sleeping bags offered at The North Face, I decided on a lightweight sleeping bag -weighing less than 1kg- for the summer months and for my stay in shelters, and on a The North Face Superlight -weighing only 794g yet suitable for freezing conditions- for the times when I would have to face more difficult conditions on the mountain.

Last, but as important as all the above, is the consideration of the mountaineering equipment I will need to keep me rested, fed and safe on the mountain.

When you climb up Mount Olympus off the beaten track and away from organized refuges, your meals and accommodation require special care and planning. You can’t do without a set of cooking utensils, hobs, thermos and different kinds of climbing equipment. Taking into account the amounts of food that you must carry on you, the added volume of your equipment is rather significant.

The people of Alpamayo Pro, having years of experience in this field, examined my requirements for the necessary equipment responsibly and offered me what was most reliable, bearing in mind my limitations in terms of weight and volume.

When all was said and done I had to come to terms with the fact that my backpack will weigh at best (that is, in case of staying in a refuge) approximately 13-15 kg, while in case of having to spend a night or more in a tent the weight will reach and perhaps exceed 20 kg.
But who cares about all that! What is most important for me is the unique view that I would face from each and every summit of the tallest mountain in Greece and the fact that I would be able to share this breathtaking view with the whole world.

So, here we go for the next excursions! Let’s all have a wonderful trip!

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Posted by Babis Giritziozis

Babis Giritziozis
Canon Greece Ambassador - Adventure Photographer / The North Face® Greece Photographer 

Babis Giritziotis is a proffesional photographer based in Thessaloniki, Greece. In the past he has collaborated with travel magazines in Greece and abroad, covering topics in various countries in Balkans, Europe and Africa for several years. Since 2008 he deals exclusively with mountain sports photography and video production. He collaborates with the majority of Greek mountain sports organizations and he has covered various events for significant companies related to the mountain activities field in Greece, Alps and Nepal. 

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