On our first full day at the cell, we decided to hike up to the peak of Mt. Athos, which stands at 2033 meters (6670 feet). It turns out Kerasia is the best starting point for this hike, so it was a great opportunity. My friend Iakovos went about an hour up with us, to make sure we found the right trail. We also went with two older gentlemen who were also visiting the cell.
Here I am with Iakovos during a brief stop.
We left the cell (500 meters) at 8:00 AM and reached the refuge, called Panagia (1500 meters) at 11:00 AM. The refuge has about 15-20 bunk beds in a single hall, along with a rudimentary kitchen and a chapel. We stopped to take our photo at the cross marking the spot, and then took a rest in the kitchen and filled up on fluids and bread.
We also went into the chapel, prayed a petition and sang some apolytikia.
Then we set out again to conquer the last 500 meters, and reach the chapel at the peak, dedicated to the Transfiguration.
As you can see from the photos, the last 300 meters or so had quite a bit of snow. The wind was also quite strong, making it cold up there.
I hadn't expected to climb to the top and I didn't have good shoes, so I actually stopped about 200 meters short of the peak, when it became clear that the semblance of a trail was impassable due to snow and ice. Three of the other four decided to scramble up the rocks to the top, while I went back down to the refuge with the other man.
I headed back down to the cell at about 1:15 and reached there around 4:00. The others came back around 5:00.
The next day, boy, were we sore! So we spent the day reading, relaxing, and talking with Fr. Theologos about St. Paisios.
We also went up to a neighboring cell dedicated to St. George. There are only a few other cells in Kerasia, and it seems that most of them are "zealots" (i.e., "Old Calendarists"). This was also the case with the large cell of St. George, which has about 10 monks. Ironically, they themselves are split now into two groups. But they were very kind to us during our visit, and they showed me their woodworking workshop, where they make incredible ecclesiastical products. They gave me a CD with photos of all their work. When I get time, I'll post some photos. Really, it's some of the best work I've ever seen.
A photo of the church at St. George's from the backside.
And here's a photo of me as we hiked up to St. George's. What you see in the background is the Cell of St. John the Theologian, where we stayed.
For more photos from the pilgrimage, click here.