The night before our hike up Mt. Chirripo, we spend an agreeable evening in a restaurant outside Rivas, Costa Rica. After enjoying some good conversation with the restaurant owner, we bed down in Mango right before it starts to pour outside. The next morning we rise early and begin the drive to the trailhead of Mt. Chirripo, Costa Rica’s highest mountain at 12,534 ft. Mt. Chirripo also bears the distinction of being the second tallest mountain in Central America, after Guatemala’s Mt. Tajumulco (13,845 ft). Ana and I previously climbed Mt. Tajumulco in July of this year. For the writeup and pictures from that hike click here.
About 2 km outside of the town of San Gerardo and 1 km from the trailhead, the road towards Mt. Chirripo becomes too steep for poor Mango to handle. We back her down the mountain and park her safely away from the trailhead in a hotel parking lot. We pack quickly and then spend the next 7 hours hiking the 17 km (9.6 miles) and 6500 feet from where we left Mango. The elevation changes from 4500 feet at the trailhead to 11,000 ft. at the Crestones Base Camp, our stop for the night. It is a difficult climb and we are very tired but happy when we climb over the last ridge and see the Crestones Base Camp a few hundred yards away.
We spend the night at the Crestones Base Camp which is pretty comfortable considering it is located at 11,000 feet and 10 miles up a long and arduous trail. The building is pretty big, with an area to cook and summer-camp style dorm rooms sharing 4 beds each. In all there are beds for over 50 people to stay at the base camp. There are nice bathrooms with running water and cold showers. Solar panels are mounted on the roof and provide enough electricity to power lights from 6 to 8 in the evening. There are also two computers with internet in the lobby, and a Wi-fi transmitter in the eating area. We found no one who lugged a laptop 6500 feet up the mountain to take advantage of the free Wi-fi. Other than us, there are several other groups there. Everyone is bundled up like the Michelin Tire Man in whatever warm clothing they brought up from the lower elevations. We hang out with Amelie and Constance who are two French girls from Paris, also travelling around Costa Rica for a few weeks. Amelie works at the French embassy in San Jose and Constance is her friend, visiting for several weeks.
The next day we awake at 0430 and start a very early morning hike up the remaining 1500 feet and 5 km to the summit at 12,532 ft. It takes us about 2 ½ hours. We are rewarded with a wind-swept yet beautiful early morning view of much of southern Cost Rica. If we squint hard enough we can actually see both the Pacific and Caribbean Oceans. After enjoying the views from the highest point in Costa Rica for about half an hour, we descend 1 ½ hours to base camp where we shed some pack weight by eating the tuna and crackers we brought with us. From the base camp, it is a further 14.5 km knee-jarring descent over 6500 vertical feet back to the car. This descent section takes us about 4 ½ hours. We spend the night in Mango parked in a resident of San Gerado’s front lawn. Amelie and Constance camp out with us and we volunteer to give them a ride the next morning down to Playa Dominical on the Pacific coast.
Click here for the Climbing Mt. Chirripo Photo Gallery