Excitement. Tiredness. Astonishment. Those words describe my journey to Chirripó. Climbing the highest mountain in Costa Rica, with an altitude of 3,820 meters, is something I longed for my entire life, and I can dare to affirm it is in every Costa Rican’s adventurous soul.
Los Crestone seen from far away
The Chirripó National Park is located in the Talamanca Mountain Range and covers part of the provinces of San José, Cartago and Limón. It has a surface area of 50,150 hectares and it is part of La Amistad Biosphere Reserve, which was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983. The word Chirripó has an indigenous origin meaning land of eternal waters, making reference to the numerous lagoons and rivers found in the area.
Lago Chirripó, the highest lake in Central America
The hike covers 14 kilometers between San Gerardo de Rivas (1,400m above sea level) and the El Páramo Environment Center (3,400m above sea level), where the visitor’s shelter is found. The ascent of 2,000 meters usually takes an average of 7-9 hours, but it could take more depending on the physical condition of the hiker and the pace maintained.
As hikers start their journey and continue through it, they find an incredible variety in nature: pastures, coffee plantations, oak forests, the alpine rain páramo, valleys, rock formations and glacial lakes. The flora found in the park include mosses, mushrooms, lichens and ferns, among others; examples of the fauna seen are birds, lizards, mammals such as rabbits, peccaries and even coyotes.
Arriving to the shelter
There are seven ecologically and geologically important areas of great landscape beauty: Cerro Chirripó, Los Crestones, Valle de los Conejos, Sabana de los Leones, Valle de las Morrenas, Cerro Ventisqueros and Valle de los Lagos.
Los Crestones are marvelous rock formations which are the National Park’s symbol and which was a sacred place for indigenous people.
The Cerro Chirripó is the fourth highest mountain of Central America and the world’s highest between two oceans. Half of the territory of Costa Rica can be seen from its summit in one glance, and on clear days, it is possible to see the Pacific and the Caribbean coasts as well as the Turrialba, Irazu and Poas Volcanoes.
Los Crestones, the National Park’s symbol
Walking the endless steep trails while gasping for breath, or freezing at the summit of Cerro Chirripó and while sleeping at the shelter represent a real physical and mental challenge. However, no words can describe the feeling of satisfaction, pride, happiness and peace that is experienced while climbing this mountain, especially when reaching the top.
The shelter seen from Los Crestones
The landscape this National Park offers is simply extraordinary; every single detail can take your breath away: tall trees touching the sky, a perfect colorful mushroom, dewdrops in plants and flowers, the profound silence around you… There is positive energy all around this place; there is magic. Many times during my journey, I wished I could contemplate the amazing landscape of nature forever.
It is pretty easy to feel how immense the planet is and how small the human being is when observing around. It is pretty easy to become enchanted by this wonderful place while exploring your own spirit. Undertaking the intense adventure of climbing the highest peak in Costa Rica is a once in a lifetime experience that will definitely change your life forever. Wanna know what it feels like? Don’t wait any longer…Chirripó awaits you!
About the authorNuria