Thursday, May 3, 2012

Unrooted Forests

This past weekend, Henley, another Peace Corps Volunteer, and I headed over to Cerro Chirripó the highest peak in Costa Rica for a little fun run. Like most good adventures this one had plenty of early rising. I got up nice and early on Friday morning to catch the 4:30 bus out of town and then the 5:30 to San José and was able to secure one of the remaining two seats on the 7:30 to San Isidro de General.

Once I got to San Isidro, I walked to the center plaza to hangout and get in touch with Henley. That is where the only negative part of the trip happened. As I was digging the phone out of my bag, I set our camera on the park bench, found the phone, and dealt with the sunscreen that had exploded in my bag. Unfortunately, in dealing with the sunscreen, I forgot about the camera and left it on the park bench and didn't realize it was gone until hours later. (for those of you keeping score at home, that is the second camera lost to adventuring in Costa Rica) I got a hold of Henley and we hungout at a coffee shop where Jake, another volunteer, was wrapping up an interview over Skype. We eventually headed over to the Peruvian resturant for lunch. After good food and great conversation we grabbed some foodstuffs for the hostel, said goodbye to Jake, and hopped on the bus to San Gerardo and the base of Cerro Chirripó.

In the hostel, we chatted about a plethora of things and Henley taught me how to play dominoes. Eventually the hostel filled up with two families from France and a few hikers. We made our dinners, camotes (a type of sweet potato) and garbanzo beans for me and bean burritos for Henley, and got things laid out for our run the next morning.

After a wonderful night's sleep in the cool mountain air, we got up a little after four and prepped for the big adventure. Just after five, I hit start on my watch and began the epic climb from 1520 meters (4986 ft.). At almost a mile above sea level, I was sucking wind pretty hard from the get go. The altitude, steep climbs, windy trails, and muddy conditions made the first couple of kilometers pretty difficult, but eventually we found our grooves (Henley more so than me). We hit the shelter at about fourteen and a half kilometers and 3400 m (11,154 ft.) in just over three hours. Since we weren't planning on staying in the park overnight, we hadn't bothered to register to enter the park, but it so happened that the ranger was out crushing cans, when we ran by, and he stopped us and asked for our tickets. We explained that we didn't have tickets, but would pay the entrance fee. He told us that it was $15 for extranjeros, we told him we were Peace Corps Volunteers and had paid the fee for nationals last time we were in the park, he asked for Costa Rican identification cards, we said that all we had were our Peace Corps IDs and 5mil ($10), thankfully he gave us the rate for nationals and after signing-in and getting a couple of photos taken we were back on the trail.

From the shelter it was another 5.1k (~3 miles) with about 500 meters of climbing. All but the last push, was pretty runable and we caught a couple of parties before getting to the final ascent and passed a couple more before getting to the summit. Henley was a bit ahead of me and I heard him being called Forest and posing for photos as I caught up to him a couple hundred meters from the top. We paused together for more photos with complete strangers and then pushed to the top together. We reached the top of Costa Rica in a little over four hours. We took some photos, chatted with hikers, signed the summit register, and ate some granola bars.

On the way down, we were intercepted by some more Ticos and asked where we were from, but before we could respond, the man who asked the question answered that we were extraterrestres, then he asked if we were training for the Olympics. We told him we were from the U.S. and were just out for a fun day of running. When we got to the next junction in the trail, despite feeling pretty beat and battling pounding heads from the altitude, we decided to climb Cerro Terbi which laid another 265  meters (869 ft.) above the trail head. As we were struggling up the trail, I commented to Henley that I was sure that we were suffering from altitude sickness because our decision to go higher with nasty headaches was definitely irrational. At the top we enjoyed the views, signed the summit register, and then cruised over to the Crestones, the symbol of the park. We stashed our bottles and did a little scrambling. Our aching heads were clear enough for us to not attempt the final high class 4/low class 5 slab to the very top with shaky legs and ungrippy shoes. After soaking up the views and chatting with a Polish woman and a few more Ticos, we made the descent to the shelter.

We paused at the shelter to refill bottles and then started the final fourteen and a half kilometers of our outing. The first section after leaving the shelter is actually a climb, so our descent had to wait a bit longer. We cruised along pretty well for about seven or eight kilometers, then the pounding from descending caught up with us and we slowed to a crawl. Eventually, Henley got his legs back and started moving pretty well. With about five kilometers left I started chanting "the-shu-ffle" over and over again and made myself start shuffling down the trail, I eventually overtook Henley for a bit and then we finished the last three or so kilometers together.

We ran/hiked/walked for eight hours and forty-eight minutes (we spent another hour chilling on summits and taking care of business in the shelter) and covered around 40k (~25 miles) with more than 10,000 ft of climbing (and descending).

Back in the shelter, we ate pan-bon, drank hot beverages, and washed off the grime. After a bit, the French families returned from their adventures and we talked to one of the couples for quite a while. The two men were actually mountain ultra runners and had participated in UTMB and another ultra in the Pyrenees. We eventually went in search of a box of wine to go with our bean burritos, but we came up empty handed. After super delicious burritos (hunger is the best seasoning), we called it an early night since we had another early morning on the horizon.

We got up a little after four and hiked down in the dark to the center of town to catch the 5:15 bus to San Isidro. When we got to San Isidro, we bought bus tickets to San José then headed to Henley's favorite soda where we chowed down on pinto and (platanos) maduros. We then took the 7:30 bus to San José, and I caught the 11:30 to Puerto Viejo.

As great as the running was, it was the moments that we were stopped, chatting with Ticos that I'll always remember. I loved the looks on people's faces when they saw two crazy Gringos (bothers/twins/extraterrestrials?) with beards longer than their shorts running towards them.

I am looking forward to our 50 miler in a couple of weeks and hopefully lots of running/climbing/camping trips in the Southwest.

I'll post photos as soon as Henley sends some my way.

Photos from when Tarah and I visited Chirripó last year

1 comment:

Kevin said...