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Ascent of Pico Duarte on 2015-01-21

Climber: Nick Goumas

Date:Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Pico Duarte
    Location:Dominican Republic
    Elevation:10164 ft / 3097 m

Ascent Trip Report

We flew into Santo Domingo on Jan 17th and took a $40 cab ride to the Island Life International Backpackers Hostel in the city. Apparently this is one of the only airports that has no public transportation available.

The next day from Santo Domingo we took the bus to Jarabacoa, using Caribe tours: caribetours.com.do It was about 2.5hrs and the bus was practically empty on the way.

We had previously contacted the Jarabacoa Mountain Hostel to stay the night before the hike, we ended spending two. http://www.jarabacoahostel.com/ The hostel is owned by an American women and her Dominican husband. Shoot them an email and they'll help you out.

The hostel owners suggested a guide for us that lived in the area, David. He was a 19 year old kid who was starting his own guide service. I think he may have been a porter or a helper with other groups previously. He didn't speak English but we got by with our phrasebook and cell phones.

The night before our trip David came to our room to discuss the next days plan. Originally I was operating on the understanding that the guide was for our group of three. My buddy, my brother and me. When David arrived he told us another guy had been added to the group. Also he asked us not to discuss the price with the recently added member because he was being charged more. I kinda feel like we were the ones being charged more but whatever, $200 wasn't bad in retrospect. We were told to meet him in the morning at 6:30am for breakfast, then the taxi to the actual trail head.

The next day we met at 6:30am, and also met the THREE other people added to the group. One dutchman who had also climbed and hiked peaks in the Pyrenees and the Alps, and two other tourists. I wasn't too thrilled about the +50 year old Spaniard and the twenty something year old Canadian girl.

We set out at maybe 7:30? Everything is on "Island Time" so be prepared to be frustrated with timetables and schedules. Especially if you're from New England.

The taxi we took had one less seat than people. It also had to stop to fuel up with propane... Pretty common there I guess. They made us all get out of the van in case it blew up. Not sure how necessary it was but ok.

At the trail head in La Cienega we started hiking at probably 9:30 after they strapped our gear to a bunch of mules. Hiking up was pretty uneventful. You just have to watch out for mules coming down the mountain while you're going up. They're the dumbest animals I've ever seen, they will walk right over you.

On the way way up there are a bunch of stops, some with water. The signs all claim the water is clean and drinkable. Believe what you want while you're standing in a mixture of donkey piss and crap and filling your water bottle.

Whenever we stopped David would get out some small snacks and juice to get us some calories. Peanut butter and jelly was amazing after about 10 miles in. Every time we stopped and he pulled something out for us to eat I felt better about the $200 we agreed to pay.

We reached the camp fairly late, maybe 7:30 at La Comparticion. There are some buildings there to cook and sleep in. David and his assistand/porter/donkey wrangler cooked us a really good dinner. Rice and beans with fried eggs, and I think fried kielbasa. Again I felt better about the cost. We had previously read reports the sleeping building was infested with rats so we chose to just setup a tent. This was probably best because as we were getting to sleep the building was filled with people snoring.

We got up at 4:30am, had a quick breakfast, sat by the fire for a bit and then headed out. The hike from the camp to the summit was under two hours. We were able to get up just as the sun was coming up, incredible views and scenery. At the summit David whipped out a bottle of red wine and clear rum. Only the Dutchman was interested in the rum, but the remaining six of us finished the wine pretty quickly. After we were finished at the top we started the trudge downhill.

We stopped at the Valle de Lilis which is between the camp and the summit, (probably 20min under the summit) where we waited for our 50 something year old Spaniard. After approximately half an hour of waiting for him to appear, we sent the guide up after him, then waited a bit more and my brother and I went up after those two. Apparently he had gone off trail and decided to simply go back to the summit because he couldn't get his bearings. I was extremely happy he wasn't hurt and had only got turned around. This ordeal added a bit of time to our decent but no one was hurt.

Getting back to the camp they had prepared us another meal, maybe kielbasa and boiled potatoes with some other snacks. We ate quick, got our tent broken down and put our heavy stuff on the mules. We cruised down and got off the mountain by about 7pm if I can remember correctly.

Conditions on the trail:

Sections of the trial were extremely muddy. Like possibly a foot deep of thick, viscous, clay-ish, red mud. I was happy I was wearing proper boots with angle support. There were also a couple sections that were pretty rocky, but it didn't seem as bad as other trip reports made it seem. I read somewhere they "de-rock" the trail every five years, maybe we got lucky with the rock schedule...

In each group there are a couple mules kept just for riding. The Spaniard and the Canadian utilized the mules more and more as the hike went on. It's good that it's available in case someone is hurt or exhausted.

All in all it was a pretty amazing time. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who likes traveling to poor countries where they don't speak the local language. You'll definitely have an interesting time.







Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Distance and elevation table for Pico Duarte (2015-01-20). Photo by Nick Goumas.
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:6522 ft / 1987 m
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Open Country
    Gear Used:
Guide, Animal/Pet, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:6522 ft / 1987 m
    Start Trailhead:3642 ft / 1110 m
Descent Statistics



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