Audrey, Hannah, and I were up at 1:45 am to start the 5 kilometer hike to Cerro Chirripó: the tallest peak in Costa Rica. I once again slept horribly maybe 3 hours due to once again having nerves and anxiety.
We locked up our items in our lockers and by 2:00 am, the three of us were hiking the path in the dark with our headlamps.
I had the impression that hiking in the pitch black dark would be scary, but with two friends and a sky full of stars, I could not believe at how beautiful and wonderful hiking in the dark could be.
The first 3 kilometers were primarily flat. We did not have many issues at all. However at one point, the three of us could not figure out where the path continued. Luckily, I spotted a carin stone pile which signifies where a trail continues.
Audrey was our timekeeper and at the 2800 meter mark, she announced we were doing amazing on time and could take our time for the last stretch, which the German couple from Casa Mariposa had also said was rough.
As the day before, I fell behind Audrey and Hannah. Once again, I had to get my “better” and “stronger” mantra going in my head. The last stretch was VERY hard. At some points, each of us were climbing with our hands and feet to get to the next portion of the trail. All I have to say is thank goodness for the bamboo sticks!
I eventually came to a tall rock formation. In the dark, I thought I could see the Cerro Chirripó sign. I hollered up to Hannah and Audrey to ask if this was the end. They responded with ecstatic “yeses!” I scrambled up the rock face and when I reached the top, Audrey asked me with her phone recording how I felt to which I responded with “Holy f***ing hell, I did it.” She and Hannah both started laughing.
We were the first people to the top of Cerro Chirripó on October 20, 2019. I cannot begin to even describe to you the feeling of accomplishment our little trio felt while freezing our butts off in the wind. To celebrate, we gathered for a group hug with smiles plastered to our faces. Soon after, others began reaching the top of Cerro Chirripó as the sun began to rise. For the rest of my life, I will never forget the beauty of seeing the sun come up from the tallest point in Costa Rica.
Because the sun was behind the Cerro Chirripó sign, a gentleman by the name of Antony brought a light with him to shine on everyone to capture perfect pictures. With a lighting assistant, he took photos for everyone and said he would send them via Whatsapp. They turned out amazing!
As the sun continued to rise, the clouds became thicker and engulfed the surrounding peaks. This added to the beauty of the lakes and the view, but prevented us from seeing the Caribbean or Pacific Oceans which can be seen from Cerro Chirripó on a clear day.
At 5:45 am, we began the descent back to base camp to have our breakfast. Though I enjoyed hiking in the dark, I loved being able to see the surrounding mountains in the daylight. I could not believe I had climbed certain areas when I saw how dangerous they looked with the sun shining.
Around 7:00 am, we arrived to base camp. The three of us ate our hearty gallo pinto and eggs, grabbed some pictures with the park sign, and packed up our items to do the 14.5 kilometer trek to Casa Mariposa.
We began hiking at 8:30 am. The first 6 kilometers went by really fast and were pretty easy. Because of the elevation, the path was not muddy at all. However, when we hit kilometer 8, the trail became really muddy, wet, and the rain began to come down. The three of us put on our rain ponchos and began to do our best dodging particularly super muddy areas with big puddles in order to keep our shoes as dry as possible. Well, this was short-lived as everyone began to slip and slide and fall due to the slickness of the mud and the steepness of the path. Because of trying to keep ourselves safe, our pace was pretty slow.
Since the day happened to be Sunday, there was only one public bus from San Gerardo to San Isidro, which left at 4:00 pm and took one hour. We had to make the bus as our bus for San Jose left at 5:30 pm. The three of us were slightly worried we would not make it down the mountain in time and walk the 45 minutes to and hour into town where the bus stop was located.
Audrey (with our blessing) went on ahead of Hannah and I as both of us were taking our time. She and I had the same pace and looked out for one another. The funniest part of us hiking down together occurred when I saw her slip and fall. I decided to try a different way. However, I soon found myself with my face in the mud and nearly over the side of the cliff. Hannah, in an effort to save/help me, chucked her bamboo stick and stretched into the splits towards me. When I looked up with mud all over my face, we both burst into laughter with her saying “I just peed my pants a little.” Not even 5 minutes later, the two cooks from the base camp came JOGGING down the mountain. Both of which recognized Hannah and I. In Spanish, the one cook says how ugly the weather and path is, while the other points at my face and laughs at the fact that there is mud on it. Hilarious!
After painstakingly balancing, slipping, and sliding, Hannah and I made it to Casa Mariposa by 2:00 pm. We found Audrey and dropped off our borrowed items before walking/jogging into town on sore, muddy legs and toes. We managed to find the time to go to a hostel that stamped your passport for climbing Cerro Chirripó for 1 mil colones ($2) and hopped onto the bus at 4:00 pm. The three of us got to the second station in time for our bus to San Jose. By 9:30 pm, we were all back in our home in Heredia.
I cannot begin to tell you how sore my whole body has been since the hike. I am almost certain my baby toenails are going to fall off from simply how sore they are. However, the pain and mud was 100% worth it. I am so thankful to have shared in this experience with two wonderful friends.
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