Ascent of Cerro Chirripó on 2016-12-26

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Adrian Rayner
Date:Monday, December 26, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Cerro Chirripó
    Location:Costa Rica
    Elevation:12530 ft / 3819 m

Ascent Trip Report

A fairly tough day hike, 16 hours 39km round trip, 2500m ascent. Reserve permit booked online (credit card payment) but booking Crestones Lodge mountain hut seemed difficult hence day hike option. 1 night at Crestones should be a nicer experience with other nearby peaks available, but it's pretty basic dorm accommodation with blankets but no sheets... Summit N9.48412° W83.48864° (GPS).

The day before, after our Irazu and Buena Vista ascents, we called in at San Gerardo ranger station located just before bridge over Rio Blanco (opens 0830-1600) to pick up our pre purchased permits. Website says you have to book Crestones Lodge hut accommodation within 10 days else permit will be cancelled. In practice Crestones don't communicate very promptly - and permits aren't cancelled. Hopefully the system will become clearer.

We stayed 2 nights at Casa Mariposa, a wonderful little hotel at the trailhead, just above the slightly more upmarket Hotel Uran which has a bar and restaurant. Last short section of road is steep and a little rough but doable in Toyota Yaris with care. Mariposa is comfortable with friendly helpful staff. Special thanks to proprietor Jill who helped us navigate the evolving Chirripo booking system.

Started hiking at 0240. Trailhead well marked on R 50m above Mariposa. Can be pretty muddy although our ascent wasn't bad as had been no rain the previous day. Some muddy sections due to mules servicing Crestones Lodge, but there is almost always a hiking trail to one side and it's possible with care to keep feet dry. Fine rain forest with impressively large trees. Chirripo NP reserve entrance at 4km, unmanned, a small manned hut at 7.5 km but no checkpoint. This is halfway to Crestones.

There are kilometre markers but the altitudes stated are sometimes highly inaccurate. In time the trees thin out and views open up. A few descents mostly small but one c50m, then final steep ascent and gently down to Crestones Lodge. Not a checkpoint as such; you are supposed to go in and register (and there is apparently a 9am cutoff time for continuing to the summit, which we were just inside). I had foolishly left my permit in the car so we walked straight past.

Above Crestones, gentler hike in a wide valley with nice cascades down to R. Chirripo itself is hidden by its rugged SE top but we get intermittent views of other impressive rocky peaks as clouds come and go.

We reach a picnic table with Chirripo trail clearly marked to L, trail obvious all the way to summit. We bypass the rugged SE summit which I had thought of climbing, but it's a substantial diversion and it starts raining, so we stick to main trail passing L of it, reach a cold rain and windswept saddle and keep L up the increasingly steep rocky ridge with some rudimentary concrete steps and easy scrambling (not exposed) just below summit. HP is a rock outcrop with some concrete and metal remains which may have been a triangulation pillar, and a summit sign where we take obligatory rainy photos.

We summit with a young runner from the USA who got up from the trailhead in 4h55 and looks set to break the record which he says is currently 9hrs20. We're up in a more leisurely 8h40, at a fairly steady pace.

We carefully scramble back down, the rain stops and clouds clear away - unlucky timing on our part. We spend an hour at Crestones for a meal and belatedly register our hike. Then back down the trail. Last 2 hours in rain, not too bad as we're protected by the forest canopy. Last hour in the dark with the trail slippery in places due to the rain. 500m from the end is a R turn, very well signposted, which leads back to the trailhead. 16 hrs round trip with 7h20 descent of which 1hr spent in the Crestones.

Quick shower and a much needed meal and beer at the Uran. Rain continues heavy overnight, sunny in the morning for our longish drive to Liberia.

We make a scenic detour S of San Jose for El Cedral: it involves 10km of mostly unpaved road, quite rough in places; we make it into the Finca El Cedral with some careful driving, but 500m below the summit, our Yaris is already struggling for traction and we're out of time so abandon the attempt. So for this summit, bear in mind possible private land issues, and the need for 4wd - or be prepared to walk a few km of unpaved road. And the summit probably requires a bush whack from the comms installation.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:8592 ft / 2617 m
    Extra Gain:328 ft / 99 m
    Round-Trip Distance:24.2 mi / 39 km
    Trailhead:Casa Mariposa, San Gerardo  4594 ft / 1400 m
    Grade/Class:YDS 1
    Quality:4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble
    Weather:Raining, Cold, Windy, Low Clouds
Wind & rain at summit; last 2 hours descent wet
Ascent Statistics
    Time:8 Hours 40 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time:6 Hours 20 Minutes

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