Mount Athos Pilgrimage Hike
June 1-6, 2008
Photographs and essay by
The Icon Painter's Terrace, Agia Anna
Monk waiting on the dock at Agia Anna
Evening at Agia Anna
Butterfly on wildflower
Trail from Vatopediou to Iviron
Dock at Agia Anna
Agias Annas from above
Peter Schmunk anticipating
the ascent of Mt. Athos along the trail
through the "desert" from
Magistis Lavras to Kerasia
Donkey train descending from the 6600 ft summit of Mount Athos
View to the northeast
from the Summit,
Looking down the switchback trail on Mount Athos
The blue beyond the clouds is the Mediterranean Sea!
GR at the Summit, Mount Athos
Photo by Peter Schmunk
Flowers sheltered like cenobitic monks in a crevice
at the summit of Mt. Athos
Trail to Agias Anna from
Summit of Athos
Fountain at the Monastery of Iviron
Dome of the Fountain at Iviron
Catholicon at Monastery of Iviron
Font along interior wall by gate of Iviron
Window through a window,
Monastery of Iviron
Dome and Walls, Monastery of Iviron
Font at entry to trapeza (dining hall) at Iviron
Courtyard at Iviron
Gateway from the Courtyard at Iviron
Doing God's work at Magistis Lavras
Monastery of Magistis Lavras
At the Port of Magistis Lavras
Port at Magistis Lavras # 2
Stavronikita Monastery (lower left) and Mount Athos
View of Mount Athos from the North
Hiking partner Peter Schmunk along shore.
Olive and cypress trees from guest house balcony at Kerasia
Domes and roofs at Kerasia
Port and Monastery of Simonas Petras
View to the Northwest from the balcony of Simonas Petras
Stone masonry at Vatopediou Monastery
Disparate Origins, Common Destiny.
Skiti Agia Andrea
From disparate origins to a common destination.
G.R. Davis (far left), Peter Schmunk (center), and Dave Whisnant
with Orthodox pilgrims George and Dmitri at Vatopediou Monastery.
Hiking distances based on Dusty Dave's pedometer calibrated against
known distances from Friends of Mt Athos web site:
Day 1: Karyes to Vatopediou = 7 miles
Day 2: Vatopediou to Iviron 12 miles (Should have been less but Dave and I lost
the trail at Kalaigra and had to follow the road.)
Day 3: No long-distance hiking; the three of us rode the bus from Iviron 17
miles to Magistis Lavras.
Day 4: Magistis Lavras through "the desert" to Kerasia = 7 miles
Day 5: Kerasia to Mount Athos summit to Agias Anna = 8 miles
Day 6: No long-distance hiking for GR & Dave who took the ferry from Agias
Annas to Simonaspetras. Peter hiked that segment alone.
Day 7: Simonapetras to Dafni = 5 miles
Total for GR and Dave: 40 miles
Estimated total for Peter who hiked the segment from Agias Annas to Simonapetras
on Day 6: 47 miles
Other photos by G.R. Davis from summer 2008: Rome
A Pilgrimage to Mount Athos
"Have you had a metaphysical experience?" the monk
The question caught me unprepared. Not expecting an affirmative response from
my two hiking companions, I replied optimistically "Not yet!" There
was still time. We were four days into a seven day pilgrimage hike on the Holy
Mountain, or Agios Athos as it is called by the Greeks, a rugged spine of land
eight miles wide jutting 35 miles southward from the mainland of eastern Greece
into the Aegean Sea. At the southern tip the peak of Mount Athos penetrates
the clouds. Tomorrow we would attempt to reach the rocky summit at 6660 ft.
Yes, there was still time for a metaphysical experience, and I suppose I'd like
to have one, though I hadn't consciously considered that to be the purpose of
this trip. But now confronted with the question, what was it that had drawn
me to the Holy Mountain where 18 active Eastern Orthodox monasteries persist
among the ruins of nearly 200 sites once occupied by as many as 2000 monks?
Folded in my pocket was my diamonitirion, a permit issued in the Ecclesiastical
Office in Ouranoupoli and required of all pilgrims who board the ferry that
provides the only access to the Holy Mountain. Only 110 pilgrims, all men, are
permitted to arrive on the Holy Mountain each day, and of this number, only
10 visitors may be non-Orthodox. No women or children are allowed, nor are females
of any species except wild birds and a few cats.
"What is your confession?" the guestmaster at Vatopediou Monastery
had asked four days ago when we arrived at our first monastery.
With special thanks to
Peter Schmunk, my long-time traveling partner who organized
this trip, and
"Dusty" Dave Whisnant who shared his maps and good judgment and pedometer
The three of us pursued our mutual love of art, the outdoors,
on this "pilgrimage hike" on the Holy Mountain.
With heartfelt thanks to
Tia Palmisano-Davis, my lovely bride of 27 years, who,
though weary of seeing my innumerable "pictures of peeling paint"
nevertheless supports me in innumerable ways and is largely responsible for
I used a Nikon D70 body with two Nikon lenses; a 20 mm and
a 28-105 mm.
Because we hiked with backpacks about 40 miles over mountainous terrain, I didn't
bring a tripod. I wish I had, but my shoulders are glad I didn't.