where heaven meets earth - Cerro Chirripó, Costa Rica

Saturday, July 25, 2015

One of my fondest travel memories to date is climbing Cerro Chirripó - the highest peak in Costa Rica.

After lying on a beach and drinking Malibu spiked cocktails for more than a week my lethargic body was looking for a challenge, and there was none better than climbing to an elevation of 3,820 metres with a chance to reach out and touch the clouds as a reward for reaching the top.

It's a long 19.5 kilometre walk from the start of Cerro Chirripó's trail to its summit, and like most smart people who tackle the peak we split the hike over two days. Day One was long. We hiked 15 kilometres to Base Crestones, where we finally lay our tired bodies to rest overnight in anticipation of the early summit climb ahead of us the next day...

Climbing to the summit of Cerro Chirripo, Costa Rica by moonlight

We began Day Two at 3:30am the next morning. Bleary eyed, we roused our stiff bodies from warm sleeping bags to began the last 5km and 400m elevation of our Cerro Chirripó mission by moon and torch light.

In the darkness we tripped over rocks, picked our way through prickly scrub and whispered words of encouragement to each other as we pushed ourselves to reach the summit in time for sunrise. The last 200 metres or so were the most challenging when the rocky slope rose dramatically ahead of us and I found myself climbing on all fours...

Posing at the summit of Cerro Chirripo, Costa Rica

At last we reached the top only to be greeted by cloud - lots of it! We hung around for about twenty minutes, shaking in our boots (it was windy and freezing!) as the clouds turned a light shade of pink in hope that they might break and give us the view we had been looking forward to.

No luck. We were too cold to hang around so sadly started our descent...

... and then fifteen minutes later, and halfway down the rock face we heard shouts from above. The clouds had parted and the sun was out! So we hurriedly retraced our steps and scrambled back up the rock face...

View from the summit of Cerro Chirripo, Costa Rica

There have been few moments as memorable in my life as standing at the top of the world, where heaven meets earth and seeing the sun break over the lands below.

From the summit of Cerro Chirripó on clear days you across the entire width of Costa Rica, coast to coast - from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea.

And then it was time to retrace our steps again, but this time all they way back to the very beginning of the 19.5 kilometre trail, through cloud forest, ferns, valleys and earth, past colourful lizards and other such creatures to the soft bed awaiting us at our hostel for the night...

Colourful lizard on the hike up Cerro Chirripó

Adios Cerro Chirripó, I'll never forget you.

Climbing Cerro Chirripó, Costa Rica

Have I convinced you that climbing  Cerro Chirripó is your next adventure? Here's what you need to know:
  • To climb Cerro Chirripó you need to obtain a permit from the National Park office in San Gerardo de Rivas, a few kilometres from the start of the trail
  • The amenities at Base Crestones are basic, so make sure you have a warm sleeping bag, cooking equipment and enough food to last you the two days of hiking
  • At the start of the trail sits Hostel Casa Mariposa - one of the best places I've ever stayed during my travels. Make sure you book one of their soft beds for the nights on each side of your hike
  • And if you need more info on getting in and out, buying park permits and what to expect when hiking check out this very thorough wikitravel page.

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  1. Good thing you weren't further downhill when those clouds disappeared !! Imagine that you would have missed such a magical moment... It's not that one gets to Costa Rica every weekend...

  2. Such adventure heaven! These are the memories you treasure forever!

    1. Now I just need another 'travel' adventure to look forward to :)