san gerardo, costa rica
A how-to guide for hiking the highest peak in Costa Rica.
There are three ways to hike up Chirripó . . .
1 register for a day-pass
2 register for multiple days and overnight at the Crestones Base Camp
3 sneak in at night for the one-shot wonder physical challenge of a sunrise summit
To reserve your dates, you can register online up to six months in advance. However, not all of us know where we will be in six months, or even thirty days. If you feel opportunistic, I recommend the thrill of option three. There are many other online guides for options one or two, this is not one of them.
elevation: 3 820m (12 533 ft)
length: 18-20km (ish) to summit
18:00 pack your lightest weight daypack
water bottle, food (oatmeal, fresh fruit, dried fruit, snack bars), layers, headlamp
don't forget to pack your sense of adventure (I prefer to fold mine)
take photos while your eyes are still open, nap (weather permitting)
take a moment to acknowledge your accomplishment
By ‘sneaking in’ at night you’ll have to bypass rangers at base camp. It was highly motivating to know I had to ascend past base camp early enough to go undetected. I cannot imagine how frustrated I would have been if I was sent back down the mountain some 14-16 kilometers in.
You will 100% need a headlamp. I would advise having hiking shoes, an extra pair of socks, hiking sticks, etc. I own none of these. My Nike Flyknit Free Runs without socks pulled through. Take a water break at every kilometer marking. Every other kilometer I ate a few pieces of papaya. I saved the food that would require more digestive energy for the descent.
I layered up with an Under Armor second skin t-shirt, my favourite XL men's plaid shirt buttoned all the way up, and my Dad's old Marmot water-resistant windbreaker. The oversized jacket offered shelter from the elements and the hood helped me to retain additional heat. It easily protected me from the mist and occasional rain. The material of the t-shirt wicked away sweat and my plaid was drenched by the end of the hike. I wore some simple compression leggings to support my legs, prepare for some highly irritated patellar tendons!
Chirripó was the most significant physical challenge I have experienced. I chose not to take seated breaks until I was on my way down. I also took off my pack as little as possible. It was a lightly packed 11L, but there was still a postural strain from looking down the entire time to assure footing while navigating roots and mud. It was all a mind game to keep placing one foot in front of the other while maintaining pace.
The summit was quite cold and windy. My iPhone froze after only taking a few photos. (For those in Canada I am sure some of you have experienced the inevitable winter iPhone freeze.) I was quite loopy from sleep deprivation on the descent. Not only was this an all-nighter but I accumulated a deficit from the prior nights as well. There are certainly steps you can take to adequately prepare your body and mind If you have the advantage of scheduling for an overnight hike.