Cerro Chirripó – Highest point in Costa Rica

Day 1

About 2 months ago I had coordinated with two other friends to reserve a night at the base camp. But both had to bail for different reasons. Fortunately, Alex, a friend from church jumped at the chance to join me at the last minute. I rearranged my trip up so he’d have time to pack for the journey. On Sunday we stopped by at the QERC research center in San Gerardo de Dota and then continued to San Gerardo de Rivas (right outside Pérez Zeledón) on Monday. We spent the night at Hotel Uran right at the trail head, which had some very reasonably priced bunks ($15 each). Tuesday morning we got up to eat a quick breakfast and start the hike at 5:15am. The first 7 kilometers to the first shelter were a gradual climb, but kilometers 8-9, and 13-14, were very steep and exhausting with the weight we were carrying. We hobbled into the Base Crestones shelter at 11:45am, hungry, tired, and in pain from the physical exertion of the last steep ascent and some intensifying altitude sickness. We’d gone from about 1800m to 3337 meters the first day, 5:33 moving time, 1:16 resting, at a 3.1km/h moving avg (I tracked all this information with my GPS).

After slopping together a lunch of tuna sandwiches, hot chocolate, and fruit, we watched forlornly at the other hikers who had hired porters to carry their gear in and contracted a cook to prepare them food. They had a full meal of pork chops, rice, beans, hot coffee, and a salad. Next time: hire porters and a cook. But no, for the first trek up I wouldn’t have done it differently. I’m glad we carted all our own junk in and out. The rain rolled in and soaked the terrain on and off from 11 until 3pm, during which we rested in our bunk rooms. Besides the muscle pain, I had a throbbing headache and my skin felt irritated. After a couple hours of rest in the afternoon I felt much better, but still a little hazy.

At 3pm the first day, the clouds opened up and the towering Crestones rock formations were visible from the patio in front of the shelter. The sun was low in the sky and was hitting them horizontally from the west. We talked a while with the other hikers, some of whom had ascended that morning as well, others who had already explored some of the trails. There were a lot of Europeans (from Spain, Germany, and England), a couple Costa Ricans, and us. Alex is from Honduras and I was born in the U.S., but we’ve both lived in Costa Rica for several years. Most of the Europeans seemed to be in Costa Rica on a short visit. The Costa Ricans had scheduled 3 days, which gave them enough time to explore some of the other trails and rest an extra night before descending. We had discussed the possibility of exploring some other trails, but after talking with them we decided the best option would be to just focus our time on hiking up to the peak the next morning.

After a top ramen dinner it started getting really cold, and would be an early rise, so we packed up for the next day and were in bed by 7pm.

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