Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chirripo "Land of the Eternal Waters"

With only a few days left in Costa Rica, I wanted to fill you in on what I did last weekend. Over the past few weeks I've been considering everything I've done here and I came to the conclusion that I still really wanted to climb the highest peak in Costa Rica. This is the type of hike that requires some planning. For starters, you have to have a reservation at the Summit Lodge for at least one night and since it's dry season the reservations were full. So, we had to arrive in San Gerardo a day early to wait in line at the ranger station for the 10 spots they keep open for people like us who just show up ready to make the trek to the summit.

We stayed right next to the ranger station, so we were the first in line bright and early Saturday morning before the ranger station opened. After making the reservation and paying the park entrance fee, we had the rest of the day in San Gerardo where there is not much going besides the beautiful views of the mountains.

Sunday morning we started on the trailhead right after 5 am. From the trailhead, it's a 14 kilometer hike to the Summit Lodge and then another 6 kilometers to the summit. The trail is very well maintained compared to other trails I've seen in Central America and there is even a lodge at 7 kilometers where you can refill water bottles, which makes a difference when you are carrying all the food and clothes you need for two days. Despite many stops for food, water and photos, we made it to the Summit Lodge in 7.5 hours and spent the rest of the afternoon resting and trying to stay warm.

After getting plenty of sleep Sunday night, we left the lodge around 4:30 am to start the last 6 kilometers to the summit. It was a really good day for climbing to the summit; it wasn't too cold (around 40 F) and it wasn't windy. We reached the summit (3820 m or about 12,500 feet) in about two hours and we only saw one other group who was on their way back down.

We spent some time at the summit taking pictures and enjoying the amazing view before starting the 20 kilometer hike back to San Gerardo. The hike back down was enjoyable until the last 7 kilometers or so. At that point, the sun was feeling quite strong and so was the pain radiating from my knees. Regardless, we made it back safe and sound and even found energy to walk 2 more kilometers to catch the bus instead of taking a cab.

So, it's off to the beach this weekend and back in the states next Tuesday. See you soon!

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