An employee of a Scandinavian embassy. A CEO of a major shipping company. A construction company worker specialized on working at heights. A consultant.The list goes on and becomes even more surreal. Nevertheless, all these seemingly unconnected people, came together in the high mountainous villages of Crete, around Psiloritis, to participate in Pierra Creta, Europe’s southernmost ski mountaineering event…
In a mystical land, full of contradictions. Exposed to experiences that are hard to put down in words or explain in sentences. We all find ourselves lost in the Greek backcountry natural environment, hosted by serious, somber people, in villages of questionable architectural aesthetics. It is in this world of contradictions that you find these same village people opening up their home to you, sharing their food and time with you, welcoming you into their lives. These villages that look so strange, when you first lay eyes on the half-finished concrete buildings and tinted windowed pick-up trucks, will enchant you with their unyielding spirit, their unique lawless fighting spirit and history, until you soon find yourself wishing this was your origin also.
What is Pierra Creta? A ski-mountaineering competition race? A grass-roots movement of friends and kindred spirits? Resistance? An ode to the mountains and their universal appeal to souls around the globe?
Simple, Pierra Creta is all of the above.
It is a perfectly organized SkiMo race, with 2 flawlessly designed routes, high level competition, under conditions of absolute safety. On race day, we faced very adverse conditions of high winds, snow and rain, dense fog at times. This was exactly the moment where the organizing committee stepped up and showed its true grit and seriousness, shifting through a couple of optional routes very quickly, providing us participants with a unique experience on the mountain. On each check point, we found volunteers with a clear view on the conditions and the race details and more importantly, understanding the needs that a participating athlete has. The course markings were accurate, distinct in the foggy conditions, while respecting the natural environment we were racing in. We could not ask for anything more from a serious, international SkiMo race.
Pierra Creta however is not only for tight racing lycras and 180 bmp heart rate. It is for racing teams in skis, boots and equipment of the ‘90s. It’s for freeriders and spitboarders in cool, baggy clothes, who suffer and laugh at themselves on the ascents and shred the steep descents. It is the race where alcohol is served on most aid stations on makeshift bars, at altitudes over 2.000m. It is the event where children from the local villages, under the tutelage of the organizing committee, will put on skis for the first time in their lives and even compete in a small race. It is the feeling of finishing the race in the arms of a crazy guy with a microphone, then being ushered under a banana tree in the snow, where you are presented with an amazing local beer and a finisher medal which also serves as a beer bottle opener. It is a group of closely-knit friends, who dream, dare, fight and put their lives and souls into what they call the Cretan ski mountaineering movement.
Finally, Pierra Creta is all about the mountain. It’s about Psiloritis, Lefka Ori, Olympus and all the archetypical mountains around the world. It’s the unexpected, the harsh and the one that’s difficult to reach. It’s the moment when you reach the summit of Psiloritis, you look at the endless, blue sea and you feel insignificant and so important at the same time.
In Pierra Creta you do not participate in a race. You are the race. You are unique, but also an integral cog of this subculture.
Your only problem now, is that you have to wait for another 2 years for the next edition of 2021.
Pierra Creta or Death!