Cerro Chirripó (Costa Rica) – Best mountain climbing expedition


At 3820m (12,532ft), Cerro Chirripó is the country’s highest mountain – a scraggy, rocky peak surrounded by the scrubby trees and grasslands of the paramo – yielding views of both the Caribbean and the Pacific in one 360-degree sweep.

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The hike to the summit is a mostly straight shot that does not require a guide. However, it does require a permit, which you need to secure well in advance. It’s a steep walk, gaining some 2600m (8530ft) in elevation from the trailhead in San Gerardo de Rivas. Landmarks have names like Cuesta de los Arrepentidos (Hill of the Repentants) and Monte Sin Fe (Mountain Without Faith), so that should give you an idea of the level of difficulty. It is well-maintained and easy to follow, but it is somewhat rocky and often muddy (depending on the season).

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The trail climbs through dense cloud forest, then more stunted tree growth at higher altitudes, with gorgeous mountain views all around. Normally, the first day of hiking ends after 14.5km (9 miles) at Crestones Base Camp, where hikers spend the night. (Space is limited and reservations are required; see Chirripo.org for details)

The second day starts early – very early – in order to reach the summit in time to see the sunrise – a rich reward, indeed. Most hikers complete their descent on the second day; but you can also stick around to explore the many miles of trails in the vicinity. Either way, reaching the summit is a gut-busting, heart-wrenching, awe-inspiring experience that’s bound to be a highlight of your trip.

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