Thursday, June 4, 2015

Cerro Chirripo climb

Cerro Chirripo Climb: (Costa Rica - Central America)
June 4 / 5 - 2015 
Elevation:- 3820 meters

When opportunity knocks, just take it. I think that's how things have happened so far. When the opportunity came to visit Costa Rica, initially was thinking of doing coastal hiking trail (had heard about it) but given the month and weather being  rainy as it was green season in Costa Rica, dropped the plan, besides didn't have those many days.

While reading something I found about "Cerro Chirripo".  It's Costa Rica's highest mountain in San Gerardo De Rivas National Park. Ranked first in most topographically isolated mountain peaks in Central America and ranked second in most topographically prominent mountain peaks of Central America. It was going to be a stretch to go all the way there and we had to think a lot about logistics. But decided to squeeze this in, given it was just two days adventure. Post Kilimanjaro this was it.

As with any adventure its best to know some locals or have some friends who like doing these kind of adventures or have some friends who know locals or see if guides are required or available.
After finishing formalities: getting permits, submitting documents and reserving the place at the base camp for one night stay we were kind of set.

Basic Guideline:
Day1: - 6500ft. or more elevation gain in 14.5 kilometers. Steep, strenuous, humid, given green season in Costa Rica all possible weather types and not to forget, its a rain forest. Finally To the base camp, one has to book a place to stay at base camp beforehand for a night stay. Pretty cold temps and with thunderstorms and rain much cooler. On the way there is one place where one can buy snacks and couple things and it also has restrooms.

Day2:- Summit climb 5.2 kilometers. Started at 3am to see sunrise at 5.15am . Very windy and much cooler at the top. Then to back to the base camp and all the way downhill to go back to hotel.

The place being far out and with limited transportation service available landed in the area the previous day. Usually in the green season and rain forest area by default it starts pouring after 4 pm. There will not be a cloud in sight early on but that time it will come out of nowhere. Hence the target for day one was to make it to the base camp well before that time. This was for the first time we were going to conquer almost 7000ft elevation gain in one day. Weather was pleasant to begin with but became more humid with lots bugs and sticky muddy walk later on. Happened to see different variety vegetation and animals: snake, birds etc. on the way up. To our luck we made it just in time before it actually started pouring. 

After reaching base camp it was pretty cold and windy out there, just ventured out in nearby area to see some things enjoyed experiences of other people and nice dinner in the mess ( we all had bunk beds to sleep into), so shared rooms with bunch other people. It was all together fun night. 

Next day morning got up pretty early dressed for weather and with headlamps on started our march towards the summit. It was comparatively short walk but in the darkness and with the elevation feels longer. Till the time daylight breaks or sunrises you don't even come to know what are you walking on. Given Costa Rica had collection of most deadly poisonous snakes was glad we didn't encounter single one in the pitch darkness. Made it to the top in time to witness sunrise, some rain clouds were coming in with high winds, just had little downpour and things cleared. Now we could see the ridgeline we walked on, various lakes, surrounding mountains. Since we were pressed with time decided to head down to the base camp. People were so nice and helpful, sharing all kinds of information ( the staff even shared their fruits the previous night). We had nice breakfast and started marching down the mountain. Went to hotel packed things, quick change of clothes and headed back.

Over all it was great experience. For Costa Rica otherwise can never forget word "Typical", it has some special meaning in Costa Rica more about some other side hikes in another blog.

Photo journey of this climb can be found here :  

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Costa Rica - Part 2

Some other things in Costa Rica would be :

Hiking in Rincon de La Vieja National  Park: It is a active volcanic area with lots of sulfur fumes, mud pools. Well after inquiring at the entrance gate with ranger, he mentioned something (not sure what) had killed horse in last couple days outside the park. Ok!! good news. Saw some other people entering inside, so did we. Amazingly silent place even though there were people in the park. One would never know they are there unless they come in front of you. Sulfur fumes were pretty strong at some places and some sections of the park were very dry like desert with iguanas roaming around. After visiting this dry part we started exploring other trails which were lush green with lots dense vegetation. While on trail to waterfall a very loud humming sound was coming from somewhere, nothing in sight but got stronger and stronger, crossed couple streams, steps, some fig variety large root trees to reach the waterfall, also did some other hikes around area.
The parks here are lot like jungles to explore.

There are many active volcanoes here and consider yourself lucky to get clear weather to see the sulfur pools and hope that not much volcanic activity is going on. Some other volcanoes were very active hence the area was quarantined, but we could do couple hikes around Poas volcano. It was covered in dense fog and just for a second it cleared to give view inside crater. The sulfur pools in these active volcanoes are huge. The hike to lakes around is nice.

Walking in the rain forest with poison frogs and other slippery creatures and actually when we went it was raining that made it the most realistic experience.

While returning back from one place, we were almost more than half way to our destination and came a river crossing ( one has to drive car through river or else have to drive back longer distance turning around). There was no one nearby to ask where to cross the river from, as it was countryside. In these situations locals are the best people to know the depth of  the river, the base of river if its muddy or rocky, undercurrents and what all things are there in the river (there are crocodiles in Costa Rica) etc. Well took a step back and decided to wait for a while till someone crosses the river. We had passed one truck driver. After some time he did come in and with loud honk told us to give side as there was room for only one vehicle at the river entrance. We saw how deep his vehicle went and just followed the path. Well given it was getting dark its always wise to turn back and take a longer route if you are not sure or can not find anyone to ask,in our case we followed because we were sure it was ok to cross.

There are lots of  wild animals : variety snakes, lizards, iguanas, monkeys of different types, crocodile, birds, sloths etc.

Hiking around these areas can be a nice experience with right knowledge and care. If you take proper precaution any adventure can be fun.

Just because I mentioned in earlier climbing post, anytime you ask "what is for breakfast?" answer is "typical" ( its the same breakfast day in and day out having beans and rice and some other things and called as 'typical' breakfast)

With less days, lots of mileage on legs, meeting some amazing people, climbing Cerro Chirripo  and getting many experiences headed back to place called home.