Ascent of Pico Duarte on 2018-04-03

Climber: Duncan Lennon

Others in Party:Jesse
Date:Tuesday, April 3, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Pico Duarte
    Location:Dominican Republic
    Elevation:10164 ft / 3097 m

Ascent Trip Report

The following is excerpted from my travel journal. Some friends and I were in the DR for a while, decompressing after an intense hurricane-cleanup volunteer trip to the Virgin Islands.

We were up a little earlier, breakfasting on mango. We worked pretty hard on Simeone to join us for Pico Duarte, especially Alan who liked her. Successful, we drove our way out of the city and up through the wide forested valley that forms a NW-SE rift through the island. A few hours later, we were in Jarabacoa, a small city framed by scenic jungly hills and larger mountains visible beyond. It felt like a perfect place; a little more temperate than the borderline hot S.D. and spread out, with room for rural places like the Jarabacoa Mountain Hostel, where we dumped some bags. Back in town, I asked at a different hostel about Duarte mountain guides, and they phoned one up and he came to meet us. Porfirio had the patience and pronunciation of someone used to working with tourists, and made us feel at ease, particularly with his quote of $130 per person for the guided climb, including food. This was exactly in line with the cheapest estimates, and far surpassed our other quote of $280 pp from the ubiquitous David. We made the deal, hit the ATM, and agreed to meet at 7:00 the next morning. That settled, we went up to Salto de Jimenoa #1, a famous waterfall that allegedly featured in Jurassic Park (we would later find out that Jurassic Park was filmed entirely in Hawaii). Really cool, surprisingly cold, uncrowded- we spent over four hours here investigating boulders, jumping off rocks, looking at these cool bees, and getting Jesse unstuck from foolish terrain traps. So, just like Glacier. Fun afternoon! Back at the hostel, we were shown our room and honestly wondered if this was the right place. It was like a $3 million luxury house, with amenities like a pot-filler over the stove and a glass and stone shower. And outdoor pizza oven, leather couches, glass and steel staircase, etc etc. But it was the right place, and $15 per night! Nicest place I've stayed, most likely.
Up early, into town to collect Porfirio, and together with the Picanto whined our way up the decent paved road to La Cienaga, the typical Duarte trailhead. It took a second to get our stuff in order, but by 9:30 our bags were on little mules, a small group of guides and muleteers had been assembled, and we had coincidentally teamed up with fellow peakbagger David Darby and his wife Terri. Up the trail we went. This was extremely muddy by reputation, but not in practice. Extremely eroded in places, however. Though jungled in, the route was pretty neat, climbing steadily as it crossed little ridges, streams, and eventually through a higher zone of thin pines. The ascent took many hours, as we stopped every few kilometers at a little shelter and snacked. Eventually we descended over 400 meters, then reclimbed a bit to reach La Compartition, the high camp of this class 1 mountain. I had expected a crumbling shack or two, but actually this was a beautiful and well-maintained historic camp, with a cook building, picnic shelter, and large empty wooden hall for sleeping in. I napped for a sec and awoke to dinner sounds- the guides had prepared a super-rich sausage soup sort of thing. Initially Porfirio had given us the option to provide our own food, which might have saved us a couple of bucks. But this way we got to experience proper Dominican mountain cooking, and it was awesome! We passed a little whiskey and dozed off pretty soundly.
Up at like 4:30, actually pretty well rested. We snacked on something and then set off as six clients and a guide on a mule. Headlamping up the mountain, I hoped to move quickly enough to catch the sunrise from the summit. This seemed like a big ask, however, as a couple of people were moving a little slowly. Characteristically, the peakbaggers among us (David and myself) were charging ahead, but we felt badly and waited a couple of times. After a good climb, we arrived at a scenic shoulder at 9600' and did actually see an amazing sunrise. There were a number of lower clouds filling different valleys, and they created this foreshortening effect wherein we appeared to be in a giant bowl of rising sun and undercast, with little lumps of mountain resting at the bottom of it. Really cool. Assembled, we struck for the summit after noting a tiny patch of frost on a log. David and I reached the top in short time, scrambling a cool little outcrop to the true summit and the famous Duarte statue. Views were excellent down into some deep and remote gorges, to a series of much lesser peaks to the south and west, and across the tops of the clouds to more clear sky positioned above tropical sea. Like Yushan, the view gave the sense of being on an island without any proof of such. I was stoked. Everyone joined and the photoshoot commenced as the sun rose higher than the trees that partially obscured one aspect. It was warmish and windless, so we reveled for about an hour. Soon the guide whistled and we began to leisurely stroll down. Back at La Compartition, we packed up our few supplies and were fed a pretty hearty brunch of chicken and rice. We knew the descent would be long, so we stretched and ate a ton. At length we began the hike, which began with the 400m reascent to a spring on a piney ridge, then back the rest of the way we had come, down severely-eroded gullies, along short ridges, and into some patchy clouds. At one point we had a view back toward the peak and could hardly distinguish it. It's a great viewpoint and hugely prominent mountain, but Duarte is not showy in a Mount Fuji sense. A long way down and we were at the car. Not exactly a slog but fairly tiring. We gave Porfirio money to tip out his boys, then drove with him back to Jarabacoa. Picking up pizza ingredients, we returned to the glorious hostel and cooked and drank for a few hours, still buzzing with excitement from the climb. A great day.
Summary Total Data
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)

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