Day 78: Climbing the Cerro Cirripó (day 2)

Cerro Chirripo Travel Blog

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before sunrise
 

The alarm went off at 3 in the morning. We wanted to climb the Cerro Chirripó before dawn, so that we could see the sunrise from the top.

“I'm not going” Arnaud mumbled from the bunk above me.

“What? What do you mean? This is what we came here for!”

Turns out Arnaud had become sick at night, and he hadn't slept all night. Instead he had been rushing to the toilet every ten minutes. Not exactly the best place to get your traveller's diarrhoea!

Well, in fact it seemed more serious than just a bout of traveller's diarrhoea, and I was a bit worried. He urged me to do the climb though, as he was in fact looking forward to having the dorm to himself and get some sleep.


So I set out on my own, in pitch black darkness.

sunrise over Cerro Cirripo
The evening before I had already looked where the trail to the summit started so I knew where I was going... or at least, that is what I thought. It all looked rather different in the darkness. I bumped into some Americans who pointed me in the right direction, only to find out that this wasn't the right direction at all! I encountered some other people walking down, who told me this wasn't the Cerro Chirripó, but in fact one of the other mountains! “What? I could clearly see the summit from the base camp yesterday!”

Turns out that wasn't the highest mountain in the country I had been looking at, but the second highest.


Hey, with three peaks over 3800 metres around you, you can be forgiven mistaking the wrong one for the 3820m peak, right?

But altogether this had caused me 45 minutes delay, and I wouldn't make it to the top before sunrise.

The top of Cerro Cirripo
Instead I saw the sun rise at a point some 100 metres lower, near the Lagos de Chirripó, one of the two mountain lakes near the summit.


I dare say this spot was perhaps even better. I've seen sunrises from mountaintops before, and although it is cool to see the run rise above a sea of clouds, without any reference point to the height it can be a but surreal. From my vantage point I saw the sun rise above a mountain crest, with two peaks at either end of my eye-range. Once the sun was up, the temperature got a bit more pleasant as well.


The last bit to the top was so steep I had to clamber on hands and feet. I was somewhat glad I hadn't attempted this in the pitch darkness.

And there I was, at the top of the highest mountain of Costa Rica, feeling every bit the mountaineer and explorer.

Cerro Cirripo at dawn
.. well, maybe I had if it wasn't for the 10 or so people who had already reached the top before me.


But it was great at the top. On clear days you can see both the Pacific and the Atlantic from this point. But today wasn't a clear day, instead there was a sea of clouds basking in golden sunlight all around.


When I arrived back in the lodge Arnaud was still in bed. He was feeling somewhat better, but he couldn't wait to be back at a normal altitude again. Unfortunately there was a 16 kilometre downhill walk to do first (plus another 2 kilometres from the start of the trail to our hotel). Gheez, I'd already done about 15 today, I started to wonder if it wouldn't have been a better idea to spend two nights at the lodge instead. But that was too late now, besides Arnaud being sick, we didn't have enough food for another day either.

finallay made it to the top
So we had no choice but to start walking down.


As weird as it may sound, walking downhill is harder than uphill. Sure, downhill goes a lot faster, but your knees and ankles also take much more beating. And I think I mentioned before that my knees and ankles weren't really designed for such exercise.


To make matters worse it started to rain as well. I guess that is why it is called a rainforest...

If I am totally honest it was perhaps a little much for one day. By the time we arrived back at the hotel I had walked for more than 12 hours today, walking over 32 kilometres (26 of which were downhill), not to mention the 2500 metres of altitude difference. I was absolutely wasted. Satisfied, but wasted.

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before sunrise
before sunrise
sunrise over Cerro Cirripo
sunrise over Cerro Cirripo
The top of Cerro Cirripo
The top of Cerro Cirripo
Cerro Cirripo at dawn
Cerro Cirripo at dawn
finallay made it to the top
finallay made it to the top
sunrise over Cerro Cirripo
sunrise over Cerro Cirripo
view from the top
view from the top
the view from the top
the view from the top
Little critter encountered along t…
Little critter encountered along …
back on the way down
back on the way down
me taking the previous picture
me taking the previous picture
Somehow a trek is less fun in the …
Somehow a trek is less fun in the…
in the cloud forest
in the cloud forest
Arnaud not really enjoying himself
Arnaud not really enjoying himself
more cloud forest
more cloud forest
After wasting almost an entire fil…
After wasting almost an entire fi…
Cerro Chirripo
photo by: Biedjee