Afentis Christos NW Face seen while struggling towards its north ridge
The shortest and most popular route to Dikti
or Afentis Christos
starts on Limnakarou Plateau
, several hundred metres above the Lasithi Plain
. It can be reached by car along a very rugged dirt road and at 1100m offers the highest trailhead for the Dikti Range
. Much of the route follows the Cretan trekking trail E4
, until it reaches the saddle which separates the two mountains.
From here the ascent to Dikti
is a well marked path through the sloped south face of the mountain, while the route to Afentis Christos is a long, rocky scramble up the north ridge with several exposed sections, a rocky, featureless plateau and several false summits. Even though this route is marked, orientation can turn rather difficult, especially in foggy conditions.
The route to either summit is between 14 and 15 km long and scales up to 1100m elevation. Thanks to the rough rocky path you will need a long day to get to either summit and back. Best seasons are spring and autumn. In summer the arid area can turn blisteringly hot while winter snows barely cover the karst features of the mountains making orientation even more difficult. With good snow cover, however, ski tours to either mountain are possible along this route.
Psiloritis seen during the ascent along the route
To reach the trailheads you need to follow highway no 90 east from Heraklion
. For the Lasithi Plateau
leave the highway near Chersonisos
and follow the signs for the Plateau. Once on the plateau, drive to Agios Georgios
, where a small mountain road heads up to the Limnakarou Plateau
The Agio Pnevma chapel in front of Dikti
- Start altitude: 1100m
- Summit altitude: 2141m / 2147m
- Prevailing exposure: N
- Type: Hike and Scramble
- Protection: None
- Effort: 2 - Elevation gain: 1100m
- Power: 2 - Strenuous
- Psyche: 1 - Easy
- Difficulty: 1/2 - Easy for Dikti, more difficult for Afentis Christos
- Orientation: 1/3 - Easy for Dikti, difficult for Afentis Christos
As there are no decent parking spaces on Limnakarou Plateau
, head for the little chapel Agio Pnevma
in its midst where at least you can put up your to the side of the road. A little further onward there is a road intersection, where you can find some additional space for your car as well as some trees for shade. At first, stay on the road, which heads towards Dikti
. It heads to a farmstead (aggressive dogs), which it passes some 200m to the east. The road finally ends in a wide, dry creek bed.
Here the actual ascent starts. Yellow signs for the E4 trekking trail
lead into the creek bed. First you follow the bed on its western bank, avoiding some large boulders. After a while the path starts to cross the bed. Look Out for an E4-signpost
on the eastern bank while scrambling across the rocky plain. Once on the far side the path turns right and upward, heading steeply towards a first saddle at roughly 1550m elevation. Here, on a fine day, wonderful views develop to the Psiloritis Massif
in the far west, which seems to hover above the plains below.
The path turns southward, descending into a large dell, then negotiating it between a multitude of bushes. At the end of this plateau the path turns west, circumventing the westernmost part of Dikti’s west ridge (also an option to get to the Dikti summit
). We stay un its southern side and now steeply scramble up towards the saddle, which separates Dikti
from Afentis Christos
. It is located in a karst area, which without the E4 signposts could be very confusing to get across. At elevation 1820m you reach the broad saddle.
Head along E4
for a couple hundred metres and before it heads down towards Selakano
turn left (yellow marks). The ascent route heads for the Dikti south-west ridge
, which it follows on its southern side. In a few places you gain the ridge but for the most part you avoid the rockiest sections by turning onto the south slope of the mountain. In the topmost part the path heads out onto this slope for a long half-circle which regains the ridge just underneath the summit cone. Th vertical west face is avoided by turning south again, heading up to the summit from the south directly.
Afentis Christos Ascent
From the saddle turn right onto the sloped karst plain north of Afentis Christos
. The path runs a half circle, heading east to reach the broad north ridge of the mountain. Here you scramble steeply up for a few hundred metres until the path crosses over to the eastern side of the ridge, which it never leaves until the summit.
Occasionally there is a stone cairn but in general the path is devoid of any markers. It turns south-west following a bend in the ridge and staying high above a valley which comes up all the way from Selakano
. Up front you see three false summits, one after the other, before the real summit with its little chapel comes into view. Heading up to one of the saddles between the summits pays off even though they don’t lie on the regular route. They offer stunning views into the Afentis Christos north face
Finally you reach the last saddle, descending into it across big boulders. The final ascent is pathless - in fact there are several options, none of them marked. One of the options is to head up the north ridge directly but this requires the use of hands. A slightly easier route avoids the north ridge on its eastern side and leads up the summit the back way from the south-east.
Hiking gear is sufficient. Bring a lot of water - it can be very hot on the dry karst. Also, bring warm clothes. Strong winds are not uncommon on Crete's highest mountains.