It’s two forty-five in the morning and the alarm goes off, we have fifteen minutes to finish packing and be on the trail.
At 3:07am we were out of the hotel and five minutes later we got to the trail head. The last public light is now behind us. Headlamps on and trekking poles in hand, we set off. This is it! Crestones base camp is fourteen kilometers ahead.
Sunrise Above the Clouds Awaits
I heard somewhere that an adventure is not an adventure until something goes wrong. To confirm it, somewhere along the first kilometer I missed a step and hit the arch of my foot on a rock. Nothing serious I hoped, but painful nonetheless.
Four kilometers later we reach the entrance to the Cerro Chirripó National Park. And so far this has been the warm up for what’s to come and by now the first layer of clothing has come off.
When the sun came out we were starting a section of the trail called Nice Plain. Sure enough it honors its name and we appreciated a little change of terrain. The light through the green forest and the brown leaves on the trail, made it look like something out of a fairy tale.
Half way to base camp, on the seventh kilometer we reached a park ranger station that also serves as a rest area. We took a thirty minute break to eat a little breakfast and check on my foot which was hurting a little more. There was nothing swollen or purple so, nothing to worry about.
The second part of the trail began no easier than the first, within one hundred meters there was no more nice plain. We reached the Hill of Water, a two or so kilometer steep of hard white dirt and big rocks.
Its name comes from the amount of water running down during the rainy season. I guess its name is because you grasp for water every hundred steps or less.
After four kilometers of thick forest-covered trail, we came to a section called The Burns. Called like this because a fire devastated hundreds of hectares of primary forest. An estimate of two hundred years must pass for it to restore into a mature forest.
Three kilometers from base camp I can’t hide the pain in my foot any more and limp. –What happened? Why are you limping? She says. –I took a bad step on a rock, nothing too bad. We keep going for another kilometer and a half until we reach the last climb.
Repentance Hill; it boldly represents its name. If you are weak-minded and none of the previous hard climbs defeated you, this one might make you turn back. Big loose rocks and white hard dirt again are the perfect end to a six-hour nonstop climb.
The sense of accomplishment one gets from reaching the top of Repentance Hill is uncanny. Even though we hadn’t reached the summit, the hardest part is now behind. From here, the last couple hundred meters to base camp are down hill.
After a long break and a delicious carb loaded lunch, I wrapped my foot on duct tape and we set off to conquer Crestones. At 3721 meters above sea level, these massive rock formations rise like giants overlooking the valley.
I remember the stories my dad used to tell me about him and his friend climbing Crestones. These stories made such an impression on me, that I might have been waiting for this moment since I was ten.
There was not a drop of disappointment. For me, climbing these huge rock formations, even if it was an easy climb, was not only a physical experience, but also a spiritual one. We stayed on top for an hour or so and then headed back down to base camp.
At two forty-five the following morning, we were up and ready for a two and half hour hike to the summit. Armed with headlamps and trekking poles again, we set off to experience sunrise on top of the world.
Climbing the last one hundred meters to the summit is exhilarating. Walking on the narrowest trail with a huge drop at your back and the wind pushing your body against the rock face, feels amazing.
And there we were, standing on thirty or so square meters on top of the highest mountain in Costa Rica. Trying not get blown away, struggling to stay warm and watching the sun rise. It was worth every bead of sweat and any amount of pain in my duct tape wrapped foot.
Seventeen kilometers from the trail head to the summit. Each one filled with laughter, sweat and pain, each one memorable.
It was a wonderful adventure, worth living once again.