Hiking Chirripó peak is for many Costa Rica’s most challenging eco-activity. Meaning the land of eternal waters in the indigenous Cabecar dialect, Chirripó National Park receives up to 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) of rain annually and is best visited during the dry season between December and April. The towering mountain range is just a few minutes from San Isidro de General within the National Park of the same name and the La Amistad International Park. Climbing the peak, which is 12,533 feet (3,820 meters) above sea level, is usually done over three days and rustic lodging and meals, are provided at the base of the summit.
Reservations and a guide are required to make the climb. Rightfully so as some unlucky hikers have been lost within its massive 508.5 km2 of wilderness over the years. Don’t be discouraged if you prefer to go it alone, local guides provide a wealth of knowledge and experience to the challenge – and sometimes some much-needed humor. It’s guaranteed you’ll be much wiser regarding the local flora and fauna, and even Costa Rican culture and idioms, once the trek is done.
Be prepared to encounter a whole handful of weather conditions during the climb, including rain, high winds, frost, and even some warmer temperatures. Wear layers that can be easily removed and bring along a waterproof poncho, which will provide added warmth in addition to keeping you dry. The hike is long, approximately 9 miles (15 km) from base to summit and rises about 10,000 feet in elevation (3,000 meters). Porters can be hired to carry up your heavier gear like sleeping bags, toiletries, and extra clothing (this is common) and can be arranged ahead of time when making your reservation.
A cornucopia of ecosystems and habitats
Due to the drastic rise in altitude, you’ll pass through a variety of ecosystems and habitats, each with its own collection of trees, plants, and animals. Among the more exotic species are six types of wild cats, Baird’s Tapir, Dantas, tepezcuintle, spider monkeys, and a massive assortment of bird species.
There is more than one trail option for hiking Chirripó: San Gerardo and San Jeronimo. The latter is less frequented but just as stunning. In the end, it’s more a matter of choice for hikers if they want the experience to be more social than visual. Make sure to do your homework when choosing the right ascent and make sure to reserve the lodge in addition to the entrance fee and guide services.
For those of you not ready to take on the peak just yet, the park has several trails that are not only shorter and less challenging but just as fascinating.