This will be my last blog post. I had a great semester in Costa Rica and it was wonderful having the opportunity to share it through this blog. In this post I am going to focus on the last trip I took this semester which involved climbing mount Chirripo, the tallest mountain in Costa Rica and the tallest point between Colombia and Guatemala. We took pictures at each kilometer marker of the trail and I will use that to help show our progress. I would like to warn you: This is a long post.
Here I am, in our really cool hostel, relaxing before our pre mountain-climbing preparation hike.
We hiked to the “puente cubierto”. It sounded like a majestic place. It was not.
Here we are walking through the flower garden. As you can see I’m pretty emotional. The beauty of the flowers is overwhelming.
A totally candid shot of me lost in thought.
The highlight of our pre-mountain hike was Taylor going to great lengths to procure a delicious looking wild orange while I cheered him on. And Sarah stood there and gave no indication that this was a bad idea. Remember that. He fought through thorny trees.
And ventured dangerously close to the territory of the thin, climbing, Costa Rican mountain cow.
Back at the hostel we sat down to enjoy our hard-earned orange. We were quite pleased that Sarah decided it was an important enough moment to capture on camera.
And this is the moment when we realized that this type of wild orange tastes as bitter as a lemon. And that Sarah knew this and allowed Taylor to fight off several thin, climbing, Costa Rican mountain cows to get it. Well played Sarah. Well played.
I am going to go through day one of our ascent using the kilometer markers on the trail and the time that we reached each one. We got up at about 5 am and prepared to set out.
6:32 am. Km: 1 After one kilometer Taylor and Sarah look happy and fresh and I look drunk. So things are pretty normal.
Taylor and I showing how we feel about the lame English translation of a Spanish motivational quote along the trail.
6:55 am. Km: 2 Everybody happy, sleeping bag successfully tied to pack (props to Taylor), and walking stick glove on.
7:19 am. Km: 3 No problems. We’re standing for the picture because we’re full of energy.
7:44 am. Km: 4 We’re setting a good pace, and the mountain doesn’t seem that steep. This is going to be easy. We’re confident bordering on arrogant. That rarely goes well for me.
8:15 am. Km: 5 And we’ve reached the first really steep kilometer. Sarah and Taylor have smiles that are just a little too close to grimaces. They pretty much tried to smile for every picture. I wanted to give an accurate portrayal of how I was feeling so I tried not to smile just for the sake of smiling. Consequently, I’m looking incredulously at the camera thinking that if there are many more kilometers like this one we’re in trouble.
8:44 am. Km: 6 We rebounded a bit as a group, although I’m clearly still thinking about kilometer 5. Also we’re getting pretty muddy and we had a bit of trouble with the bugs since we were hiking through a sort of mountain rainforest area.
9:02 am. Km: 7 The sun has kind of come out, Taylor and I have settled in to the climbing routine and feel pretty good, and Sarah seems to be taking a quick power nap.
9:51 am. Km: 8 The long break in time is because we reached the “refugio” and sat down for lunch. And by lunch I mean peanut butter and crackers. We feel refreshed, the weather is holding up, and everyone has on their climbing gloves. We’re really coming into our own.
10:22 am. Km: 9 Ah Barbas de Viejo. I look appropriately shocked. Kilometer 9 made 5 look like child’s play. The phrase “that was tough, but it was no kilometer 9” now has meaning that no one outside of our group really understands. Kind of like an inside joke except instead of referring to something funny it refers to something painful.
11:04 am. Km. 10 Then came the rains. A bit difficult to get used to but we broke out the rain coats and were feeling fine by the kilometer marker. We were burning through our supply of crackers and peanut butter.
11:35 am. Km: 11 We have climbed out of the rainforest and into a more traditional, rockier, mountain climate. We’re up over 3,000 meters in elevation and the summit is only 3,820 meters so we don’t have much more climbing to do. Keep that number in mind. The summit is at 3,820 meters. Not 3,760. We are feeling good and I look borderline cocky again so you know we’re screwed.
We snap a quick picture of a mountain peak that we think could be the summit or at least something close. How naive.
12:02 pm. Km: 12 We’re feeling fantastic. We thought that we’d have problems at the higher elevations but we haven’t so far. We’re so excited that we barely pay any attention to the elevation sign and the fact that we spent most of the kilometer walking downhill.
12:35 pm. Km: 13 We have not yet paid for the drop in elevation. We’re going back up hill but only gradually.
1:10 pm. Km: 14 And now we have paid. Kilometer 14 rivaled 9. It was not quite as consistently steep but it was at a higher elevation and we were not mentally prepared for it. As you can see though, we had gotten used to the whole climbing thing. We had just faced a very difficult kilometer and we look alright. I don’t look shaken to my core. Taylor and Sarah are using the kilometer marker to support themselves though and I didn’t even make it up there to sit with them. I’ve just keeled over in front.
Base Camp! Which was really cold. And all of our clothes were wet. So we hung them up and I immediately got in my sleeping bag and took a nap.
Unfortunately, the pictures that we took early the next day on Taylor’s camera did not come out. So I’ll just have to tell you what happened. First of all, Sarah and I realized that we forgot to bring our tickets that authorized us to stay in the base camp. Basically we hiked 15 kilometers up a mountain just to reach a building where they would totally have been within their rights to tell us to walk back down. Fortunately they weren’t terrible human beings and they just took down our passport numbers and let us stay there. I think they were pretty confident that no one is stupid enough to hike that far without buying a ticket. People are just stupid enough to forget the ticket at the bottom. Also, we would have died if we tried to walk down the same day. The base camp was freezing and literally everyone there was better prepared than we were. Some of them were part of a program that had its own personal chef and others had brought all sorts of good food. We ate crackers and peanut butter, plain oatmeal (with a little bit of butter that we found lying around), and pasta. We went to sleep early and got up before 2am with the idea that we would reach the summit in time to see the sunrise. That did not pan out. Problem number one was that it was raining. Problem two was that we failed to read the trail signs and climbed the wrong peak. These two problems created problem three, which was that we had allowed ourselves two hours of climbing to reach the summit. We climbed the wrong peak, which only took one hour, and then shivered in the rain for about and hour and fifteen minutes before it got bright enough for us to see that we were not in fact at the summit of the mountain.
So we climbed back down to base camp. After a brief discussion about common sense, glory, and pride, we decided to climb to the summit. We picked up our Swedish friend Patrick who we had met at the hostel and will from now on be referred to as P-dawg, and started up the appropriate peak. We walked much faster than we wanted to because we were in danger of missing our bus back to Heredia, which left in the afternoon. P-dawg had no such commitment and as a result our pace left him a bit miffed. I think that he now believes that Americans just like to run everywhere. The top of the mountain was very steep, rocky, and it was hard to catch our breath due to the reduced amount of oxygen in the air. We powered through and reached the summit just before 8:30 am. After getting up at 1:45 and climbing the wrong peak. As Taylor would say, we were pretty “salty” at first, but reaching the summit was an incredible feeling. P-dawg wasn’t sufficiently excited so we made him stand on the highest rock on the summit so that he was the tallest point in the country of Costa Rica. We each took turns being the tallest point and then I wrote Happy Thanksgiving in the summit log book. It was awesome. Here we are at the summit sign.
I’m pointing to the altitude kind of sheepishly, in honor of the fact that three hours earlier, after a difficult climb, we reached Cerro Terbi, a nice peak 60 meters lower that was not in fact the summit.
After this, we climbed down. I won’t describe the descent, other than to say my knees did not handle it well and I couldn’t really walk for a couple of days. Despite the difficulties it was a great way to end an awesome semester. I had a lot of fun, traveled to many incredible places, and made some really good friends. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed blogging about my experiences while in Costa Rica. Thanks for reading.