The early-morning climb to the summit of Cerro Chirripó, Costa Rica’s highest mountain (3820 m), is a refreshing trek after the relative comforts often encountered in Costa Rica.
The hike takes you through magnificent cloudforest draped in mosses and ephiphytes before entering a scorched area of páramo grasslands with incredible views to the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines on clear days. The wildlife – birdlife in particularly – is incredible and, even if you don’t see it, you will certainly hear it. The trek itself is not difficult but it can be a bit tiring for novices.
From the refugio inside the park, you can also explore the nearby Crestones, a volcanic outcrop that has been etched on to the minds of every Costa Rican, and the creatively named Sabana de los Leones and Valle de los Conejos. There are useful orientation maps on www.sangerardocostarica.com.
The cold (it’s often frosty in the morning) may be a bit of a shock after other regions of Costa Rica, but you can rent blankets and sleeping bags from the refugio; gas cookers are also available for hire. In addition to the high camp there is a shelter about halfway up. It’s about four hours’ walk from San Gerardo and three hours’ walk on to Refugios Base Crestones. You’ll want to plan for at least two nights on the scenic, beautiful mountain, although you can do it with only one night if you’re tight for time, rising very early to summit on the second day in time to go all day down in one trek. While nights can be a bit chilly, daytime temperatures tend to be quite warm.
For a general update on San Gerardo and climbing Chirripó, visit www.sangerardocostarica.com.