The Lefka Ori Mountains of Crete

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Partisans, desolation, invasions, tributes, finality, limestone, stepfathers
& Greece.

The following images were captured whilst I trekked for nine days over the White Mountains of Crete, the Lefka Ori, alongside my stepfather, Tony.

Tony Blyth has been visiting the island of Crete for more than forty years, following in the footsteps of his father, who was there in May 1941 when the German invasion took place. He was very lucky to escape with his life; instead of surrendering, he went into the mountains and fought with a band of Cretan partisans.

At the age of seventy-two, with two new ankles, Tony made the decision to take one last journey over the mountains that have shaped his life over the last thirty years, as a tribute to the thousands of soldiers who walked this same path during the war.

I joined the team and traversed the bare, craggy peaks of the Lefka Ori, which lie at an altitude of 1,800 meters (5,906 feet). Formed of pale, coarse limestone, the rocks here resemble the surface of the moon, and it is one of the only high-altitude deserts in the world. It is incredible to think that around twenty thousand Allies and Antartissa (resistance fighters) came together in this desolate, craggy region to resist German troops.

Although Nazi soldiers were able to push the Allies back through the mountains toward the south coast, where they were met by naval forces, eventually the last of the Germans had no other choice than to surrender. A lack of ammunition and general survival supplies allowed Crete to regain its independence in March 1945, and the Allies were—and are—forever grateful to the inhabitants of Crete for joining forces and defending against the Nazis.

Matt Porteous showed an unusual interest in photography from an early age; his first yellow underwater Minolta accompanied him everywhere. It was through that simple lens that he learnt to capture the sublime beauty of nature. See more of Matt’s work on Instagram. (All photos © Matt Porteous)

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1 Comment

  1. Awesome. What a story and history, in snaps and words!
    The evacuation paths of the Allies in 1941 followed the deep canyons from the White Mountains down to the Sea of Lybia and the port of Sfakia. The deepest and most beautiful one, Samaria Gorge, is a national park since 1962 and an extremely frequented trek, yet beautiful, with a vertical drop of 1.2 km. The gorge of Agia Irini at the western edge of the White Mountains is easier, shorter, almost quiet, and less than half the vertical drop; a good warm-up exercise before a day in Samaria. In September and October, water tends to dry up, so a big bottle is a must.

    I also remember the “hiker’s highway E4” near the coast, from Paleochora eastward to Sougia & Moni. Seaviews and a couple of secluded pebble beaches take turns along the trail. The vertical profile of my route, perpendicular to several valleys, was a bit exhausting. Yet the terrain and nature of Southern Crete was definitely worth it. Enthralling throughout.

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