Chirripó is the highest peak in Costa Rica and for those looking for a little adventure away from the beach, cloud forests and jungles, Cerro Chirripó is the place to go.
Here's a panoramic view.
It is not for the faint of heart and certainly not for those who do not enjoy a good hike. The Costa Rican national park system along with Banco Nacional de Costa Rica has set up this hiking trail to meet the requirements of the avid hiker, while providing rest points using recycled plastic, covered benches at intervals on the trail.
Drinking water is not a problem and unless you have a very weak stomach, you won't find fresher, clearer, more drinkable water than on the mountain at the designated watering holes (taps).
Without carrying a pack, a reasonably fit person should be able to hike to the basecamp between 5-8 hours and you can pay porters to bring your sleeping bag, extra clothing, etc., to the basecamp. If you are carrying a pack, prepare for a slightly longer hike depending on your fitness level.
Once at the basecamp, the Chirripó peak is another 2.5 hours of hiking, so most people stay at least one night at the basecamp and hike to the peak the next morning -- the more adventurous leaving between 2-3am to reach the peak for sunrise (using suitable headlamps or flashlights to illuminate the way in the dark).
Be prepared. This is not an easy stroll of a hike and if you are not certain about your ability, choose to stay two nights at the base camp to give you plenty of time to hike around the higher elevations. There a multiple trails that reach multiple peaks - much to explore at around 3400 meters elevation (11,000 feet). If you have just come from a beautiful Costa Rican beach or rainforest, you will find the elevation not only really chilly, but be sure to take deep breaths. Elevation sickness does not appear to be common, but it can certainly occur. Sadly, Costa Rica doesn't have coca leaves to chew on like in the Andes.
Some tips and photos:
- Stay at Casa Mariposa if you can, after purchasing tickets from the park ranger office for the next day. See more tips from the experts at Casa Mariposa here.
- You can rent gear from Casa Mariposa and others, but if you're in the market for purchasing gear, check out these great stores before you leave San Jose: Centro Aventura and Outdoor Gear.
- Do not take an overpriced tour. You may have money to burn, but hiking is for explorers and the trails are well marked and there is little need for a guide. Bring a GPS over paying someone an exorbitant amount to carry your gear so that you can stroll up the mountain. You can pay to have your gear hauled up, but the trails can be explored on your own or in a group without the need for a tour company charging you to "guide" you on well documented and marked trails.
- Read the experiences of other hikers on TripAdvisor.