The first ascent of the route "Kopsi Naoum" (AD+, 2500m), or "Xerolakki", as usually called, was realized on 15-16/7/1975 by A. Spanoudis - P. Tyrninis - P. Botinis - E. Eleftheriadis.
The first ascent was realized in 17h, while 11 pitons were left on the rock along the route. On 10/7/1077, A. Spanoudis - E. Eleftheriadis added the lower part of the route, known as "Podi tou Naoum" (D, 230m), which basically is the natural beginning of this ridge, and so completed the route. This part of the route was climbed in 4,5h while 5 pitons were left on the rock.
The first complete repetition of this route is believed to be the one realized in October 1978 by P. Skoutelis - M. Arzoglou - V. Hatzirvasanis, who actually ascended a variation of "Podi tou Naoum", since they chose to follow a different line, on the left side of the classic route, which moves exactly on the ridge. The first winter climb of the initial route, not including the lower part, "Podi tou Naoum", was realized on 25-26/12/1975 by V. Georgiadis - A. Spanoudis - P. Tyrninis. Finally, the first solo winter climb was realized by M. Tsoupras.
Characterized by 1100m elevation change and 2500m length, the route was named after Xerolakki, the huge gully which begins from Kazania, passes through the entire northern face of the mountain and is located on the right side of the route, while on the left side of the route we find Mparmpalas' gully.
In order to approach the area, one can get to Katerini and from there take the road that leads to Elassona. There is a point where we meet a crossroads and there we take a turn to the left toward the village Petra, 7Km away. After leaving this village, we meet a sheepcote; and from that point after, the forest road begins. We follow that forest road, which can be driven through by a common car, since it is in a good condition. At 4,7Km we meet a turning point to the left, which we ignore. At 8,2Km we meet another crossroads which again we ignore. At 10,2Km there is a spring on the right side of the road with water during the whole year, as well as a deserted fire-guardhouse. At 11,2Km we meet a turning point to the left and we take the turn. The road from which we went out continues straight ahead to the village Kokkinoplos. At 17,9Km we go on to the left ignoring the road which turns right. At 19,7Km we have reached the point where the road takes a very close turning as it meets the gully of Xerolakki. From this point, we start walking as we are in the final part of the approach to the ridge. After only a few minutes walk in the gully and upwards, we meet on the right side 2 - 3 niches on the rock, like small caves, which is by the way a nice place for spending the night over, in case of course we get there in the middle of the night. The total time required all the way from Katerini until this point is about 1,5h - 2h, that's why it would be better to make sure that you get there on the afternoon of the day before, so that you can have the whole next day for the climb, especially during the winter that the car, due to the snow, might not reach that point and so you shall have to walk longer. In that case, there is an alternative solution; make contact with Foteina village and ask the locals to take care of your transport (via 4x4 vehicle) at a typical cost.
The most common repetition of the route is the one not including "Podi tou Naoum" and it starts from the milestone, where the first abseil is also found, while it exits from "Portes". We get to the milestone by ascending to the ridge left to the gully, at first with direction south - southeast, until we get to the point where we are looking at Kazania, and then we turn to the left, eastwards, until we meet a group of rocks, which we avoid by making a detour to the left as we take a huge turn northeastwards. We continue straight up while little by little the forest is ending and so, as we pass through some rocks toward the end, we reach the highest point, the milestone of the top.
If we wish to go for a complete repetition of the route then we will have to go on for another 200m after the turn and on the road so as to meet the starting of the first part of the ridge, "Podi tou Naoum".
In order to climb "Podi tou Naoum" we start to the left of a tree near leaning scree. We go up a strap with direction slantwise to the right until an arête. Then we turn straight up on the arête on a field with overhanging handholds, and then we take a step on loose rocks (IV+) and we continue on the rim of the arête on an easy climbing field (III) until we get to a mossy ledge. After an easy rope length we reach the base of a frictionless slab with overhanging handholds. We climb on the slab by taking some balance steps (V) and we continue on a mossy gully for several rope lengths (II+ to III) till we finally reach the milestone.
The first abseil is at the milestone of the peak. By using a bolt and one piton, connected to each other with a wire rope and a snap shackle we get down for 35m. From here starts the ridge of the first big tower. We ascend walking to the right of the ridge for about 2 -3 rope lengths and there we meet a slab which requires climbing (IV+) for only a few meters. We go on walking a bit to the left, reaching the ridge more and more. As the ridge starts to become less uphill we get to a dead end, something like a balcony, from where we have a panoramic view of the rest of the route until the verges of the Mousses Plateau and Profitis Ilias. We head to the right and we start descending, passing from a place suitable for 2 - 3 persons spending the night over, until we find, southwards, a narrow (about 3m wide) col from where we pass through to the other side and we continue more carefully on the ridge which becomes more and more narrow. Finally, we reach an even steeper point where the second abseil is set up with two pitons.
For those who are more experienced and more risky there is also the possibility of downclimbing a vertical and exposed small (8m) gully found to the left. A bit after, the ridge begins to slightly shelve, more narrow each time, until it ends to a thin ridge which we have to ride in order to pass it over (10m). At the end of this ridge which is also the end of the last tower of the ridge, we will find the last abseil of the route. The abseil must be done toward the left, looking up, by passing the ropes through a V shaped by the rock. There is the possibility of avoiding this abseil by downclimbing a ramp found to the left a bit after the thin ridge. This was the route followed by the climbers who opened up the route. We go down for about 50m and we are at the side of the tower. This is a very good place for spending the night, at the point where we get to a big slope. Now, the difficulties of the ridge are finishing as we start walking on its left side at first. The course of the ridge by itself will lead us to the right side, and so we start moving on sloping slabs with direction slantwise down, and we meet an easy gully (20m) which we follow down. If we turn back a bit to the right, after the end of the descent, we will see a small elevated cave, ideal for spending over the night.
In case of winter climb of this route and depending on the quality of the snow, we can go on without passing to the right side of the ridge, which would mean of course that we bypass the cave. The uphill leads us to the middle of a big tower. We traverse all across this tower by its left side and we continue until we get to a smaller tower which again we traverse by its left side too. The ridge ends here, which again is a good staying overnight place, and what is left now is the exit to the plateau. There are three ways to do that, depending on the conditions and whether we have any more strength left. The first way is the winter exit that follows the gully (80° IV+, 50m) which is in front of us and which leads behind the refuge "Giosos Apostolidis". The second way is the exit of the route the way it was made during the first ascent and which requires climbing on a dihedral (V+, 50m) a bit to the right of the winter exit, where there are some old pitons and which also leads behind the refuge. The third way is to go on by traversing to the right, toward Portes (col between Toumpa and Stefani). One must be extremely careful with this traverse during the winter so as to avoid causing an avalanche or falling in the steep slope. The exit from the traverse can be made by following an easy gully (II) which leads to the slab of Toumpa or by continuing the traverse until Portes from where the exit is even easier. Refuges are only 5min away from Portes, towards the north-east.
It is important to know that all along the ridge, after the milestone, there is no escape possibility but at the beginning, from the col after the first abseil, and also at the end, after the last abseil, by making successive abseils from the trees (there are slings used in the past for escaping) since the crag is very steep. In any case, in order to make an escape, we descend leftwards, looking at the plateau, so as to reach Mparmpalas' gully, and from there downwards in order to get to the forest road. During the first part of the route, "Podi tou Naoum", escape is made always to the right.
In order to go back to our cars, we can return from Xerolakki gully, to which we get by descending straight down from Portes, following the marked footpath. As soon as we get to the bottom of Kazania, we only have to follow the course of the gully and that will lead us.
It must be pointed out that in case of winter repetition, at least one bivi will be necessary and of course the demands of the route are way too increased, which makes it completely unreachable for someone who is not experienced enough, without this meaning that during the summer the route is recommended for beginner climbers. The unapproachable area and the microclimate of the mountain, which may create very unfavorable conditions, as well as the difficulty in making an escape or the long returning, are the characteristics that make this route so serious.
One of the routes for escaping from the ridge which was equipped by the members of SEO of Katerini, is at the second big tower, before the abseil of the route. There are two bolts with rings on the ridge, on the side that looks at Kazania, from where the first abseil is made. A second abseil is also made by an anchor of two bolts, while further down, on a characteristic crag, there is one more bolt which helps to descend to the forest. Extreme caution is required during the winter, since we cannot know which among all the abovementioned pieces of equipment can be visible. Besides, we do not know the grade of avalanche danger on this side of the mountain.
Part of the ridge where the blue arrows show the escaping points. In the background, one can see the forest road.
A part of the ridge and the top of the plateau as seen from the milestone. The line indicates the route after the last abseil. The two variations, left and right of the ridge, and the three exits of the route toward the plateau, are visible too.