|The Taygetus range in spring rising like a wall above Sparta.|
|My first full view of Viros Gorge from the village of Tseria near Kardamyli whetted|
my appetite for the traverse a year later. Profitis Ilias is in the distance at the
upper left of the photograph.
That fascination led to a desire - and it was a desire, something like a lust and a need - to traverse the Taygetus range from east to west, from Sparta down into Outer Mani.
|My copy of Mani.|
|Patrick Leigh Fermor's house outside Kardamyli.|
Recently at the Durrell conference at Rethymnon I met Chris White who is an expert in Leigh Fermor's exploits in Crete and has tracked down his routes and hideouts from the time when he and the resistance kidnapped the German commandant General Kreipe. I asked Chris about Paddy's traverse of the Taygetus and he agreed that his description is vague, most probably because he never did it, instead that he made several shorter explorations and then linked them up in his book to look like a traverse.
Which confirms what I began to suspect at the time. After poring over maps looking for Paddy's possible route I eventually gave up and decided that the only thing to do was to keep it simple and direct. I would climb Profitis Ilias from the Sparta side and then come down into Outer Mani along the Viros Gorge which spills into Kardamyli and the Messenian Gulf.
|Wending my way up Profitis Ilias.|
Having shown Neville the eastern approach and the western flank of Taygetus and had a good look at the peak of Profitis Ilias and the Viros Gorge, he announced himself game and we set off, friends driving us back to the Sparta side. If they did not see us again soon, they were to do something, though none of us knew what.
|Michael atop Profitis Ilias.|
|Neville looking for a way down. There is no way down except the gorge.|
We soon received a warning of what could happen if things went wrong. We began by walking south along a ridge but it came to a sudden end with no way down. Here we found a piece of paper held down by four stones, saying Nikophoros K------ (I forget the last name) eton 38, also two cardboard boxes held in place by stones inside, a scarlet robe also held down by stones, and a reed cross lying among the stones. Neville immediately went looking for the grave itself and found it beneath a rocky ledge, a body-length pile of stones.
We retreated back along the ridge and found a more promising line of descent. But the scree, being loose underfoot, made it difficult to descend without slipping, which I did, destroying my water bottle at the same time. Even a bottle each was too little, it soon became apparent. This was early September and there was no water anywhere. And we now had one bottle of water between us for a descent that I hoped could be accomplished in a day but maybe not.
|Neville at the grave of Nikophoros.|
|In the gorge, climbing over boulders.|
|The long dry descent.|
|We finally reach the tree line but still no water.|
|Two days after our traverse of Taygetus, myself and Neville at Old Kardamyli at the mouth of the Viros Gorge, somehow alive and well.|