Climbing the highest volcano/mountain in Panama...

Volcan Travel Blog

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Beginning of the climb

So today I did something stupid(yet again)….very stupid…..I decided that me and Torunn should take a little hike….a little hike up on the highest mountain in Panama, Volcan Barru. A 40 km walk, most of it uphill, no less then 2000 meter horizontally up to 3450 meters above sea level.
It sounded easy enough from my dear Lonely Planet , and I figured it was the obvious thing to do while in Boquete…how wrong I would be proven to be….

We got up really early, grabbed some breakfast and took a taxi up towards Volcan Barru. The taxi dropped us of around 9.00 in the morning, and we sat out merrily towards the Volcan Barru national park. It was about 45 minutes uphill walk on a stony dirt road until we even reached the gate of the national park.

On the way up....
We were supposed to pay 5$ , but the park ranger said he could`nt change a 20$ , so we had to give him all of it to get in ! S.C.A.M !!

At least we were in the park now , but we were following the same stony dirt road upwards, an unrelenting road that never stops climbing. Even more annoyingly is the complete lack of scenery along the trail. The first part was just one farm after the other with people on their knees picking potatoes, and with barbed wire on both sides of the trail. After an hour walk on the trail there was even a field of sheep…what kind of national park lets farmers have their sheep pastures there!?

I had to choose between going up this trail and going the Quezetal(a bird) trail , which is the prettiest trail in Panama with lots of wildlife according to Lonely Planet I chose the Volcano trail because it was right next to the other one, and then we would see loads of wildlife and get to climb a volcano on the same trip !

There was no wildlife on our trail , none what-so-ever.

most exiting bird we saw
We walked for 11 hours almost without any pause, and the most interesting mammal I saw was a domestic sheep. The most interesting bird we stumbled upon was a lost chicken.

The walk was one of the hardest I have ever tried, 14,5 km from the entrance of steep uphill dirt road. 1 km felt like 5km on a normal straight distance. 1/3 of the way up Torunn already started to hallucinate , and I wasn’t feeling to spiffy myself. So since the trail was absolutely disappointing ( a muddy uphill road without any views or any wildlife isn’t as cosy as it sounds..) I suggested we cut our losses short and head back down, but Torunn surprised me with an eagerness to keep going towards the very very distant top of the mountain. What a girl who would put up with someone who drags her along on a insane trip, and she even suggests to complete it !

So we kept putting one leg in front of the other, ever so exhausted we were…and after 5 hours of pushing our limits we finally reached the top , hooray !
Of course it just started raining as we were approaching the top so the amazing views of the valley and of the pacific and the Caribbean were completely unavailable to us.

met a panama army guy
We ran for shelter under a concrete building with some large TV-towers, and there we were at 3450 meters ,cold , wet and muscles aching …

Suddenly a door swung open at the concrete house and a Panamanian military with a big machine gun came out. A bit scary maybe , but he was a really nice guy who invited us into his musty little concrete home where he was watching some American action on a TV(the whole trail up the mountain was followed by electrical wires for electricity). We even got to sign the mountain guest book, and as it were the last tourist on the top was more then a week ago ! And as I was looking through the guest books I saw that there were weeks between every tourist who had made their way up here ! And here I thought that this was the thing to do while in Boquete…guess not.

me in front of crater
.we didn’t meet a single soul walking this trail for the 11 hours we were walking. There was however a jeep with Panamanians passing us (totally crazy to drive on that horrible road)

After taking some pictures of the crater we started the walk back down. It wasn’t a piece of cake like I was hoping it would be, as walking downwards for 4 hours can mess you up in a whole new way then the walk upwards did. and it certainly did`nt add to the fun that the rain was pouring down for the duration of the 4 hours the walk down took us.. In the end we reached the entrance with the darkness of night approaching way too fast. Our legs were hurting , our heads were tired and our stomach longing for a decent meal, but we were still a good walk from anything remotely like civilisation.

me in the wet zone

We kept walking on a really annoying dirtrroad that was going up and down in great valleys. The road was surrounded by trees ,and this caused it to be completely pitch black. In my desperation I was actually using the light of my digital camera as a flashlight lighting up the trail. We passed some locals in the darkness…I can just imagine what they thought about these 2 crazy tourists walking with the light of a camera!
Finally we reached a paved road , and knocked on the first door we found as we desperately needed someone to call us a taxi to get back to Boquete(we were still far up on the mountain)After 40 km walk, and over 2000 meter straight up we were complete train wrecks when we got back.

The moral of this story is : Please by god , do not climb Volcan Barru if you go to Boquete ! It is a totally insane thing to do, even if you are a trained athlete who think you can manage it ! The road up there is truly boring , not scenic, no wildlife , and most likely it’ll be clouded on the top.

Start of the nightmare
Don`t listen to Lonely Planet , don`t go there. Chill out in Boquete , visit a coffe plantation, visit the hot springs, do some white water rafting, walk the Quezetal trail, but by all means don`t climb this crazy mountain.

Stigen says:
No problem, glad I could save you the worthless trip up Mount Barru !
Posted on: Feb 04, 2012
matthew says:
That's good to know. I'm just about to leave for Boquete and was just deciding which trek to do. Quetzal trail it is. Thanks for blogging this. Been a lot of help
Posted on: Feb 01, 2012
Stigen says:
Yes, I do regret not having taken the Quetzal trail instead...next time !
Posted on: Nov 03, 2009
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Beginning of the climb
Beginning of the climb
On the way up....
On the way up....
most exiting bird we saw
most exiting bird we saw
met a panama army guy
met a panama army guy
me in front of crater
me in front of crater
me in the wet zone
me in the wet zone
Start of the nightmare
Start of the nightmare
People driving on the baD TRACK
People driving on the baD TRACK
MIST TREE
MIST TREE
cLOUD FORREST
cLOUD FORREST
most exiting mammals we saw
most exiting mammals we saw
lord of the rings kind of setting …
lord of the rings kind of setting…
forrest road to mountain
forrest road to mountain
the wild forrest
the wild forrest
the crater number one..
the crater number one..
crazy dude...
crazy dude...
weird flower
weird flower
NICE FLOWER
NICE FLOWER
the road to the top
the road to the top
on the top !
on the top !
exhaused on the top
exhaused on the top
towers on the top
towers on the top
Torunn above crater
Torunn above crater
Me on the last steps to highest po…
Me on the last steps to highest p…
crater view
crater view
wet dirt road (not cosy)
wet dirt road (not cosy)
weird insect
weird insect
Volcan Sights & Attractions review
Don`t do it...
Don`t go there ! it is`nt fun, exiting, or anything else. You won`t see any amazing animals, or birds. You won`t be happy with the scenery, and you ce… read entire review
Volcan
photo by: Stigen