OverviewWhat comes to mind when you think of Central America and Costa Rica? Perpetually hot weather, steaming jungles full of lush vegetation, beaches, etc.? Did high mountains, glacier carved peaks, alpine valleys, glacier carved pinnacles made of solid granite, excellent opportunities for rock climbing, and year round freezing weather happen to come to mind? That's just what Cordillera Talamanca and the mountains around Chirripó Grande have to offer
The lower slopes of the mountains are rich in wildlife and are covered with rainforest. The highest slopes are covered with what is known as the Paramo and are similar in vegetation and appearance to the Paramo in the Andes.
Chirripó Grande is by far the most popular climb in the Cordillera Talamanca, because it is the highest peak in Costa Rica. It is one of the most popular summits in the country.
The Cordillera Talamanca is very unusual for Central America because it consist of folded, rather than volcanic mountains. These mountains are made of various metamorphic and granite rocks.
Getting ThereThe first destination will be the large town of San Isidro de el General located to the west of the peak and national park. To reach San Isidro from San Jose, take one of the hourly (seven days a week) buses to San Isidro from the bus terminal at Calle Central and Avenida 22. It's a three hour ride.
From San Isidro, you must take another bus to San Gerardo de Rivas. The bus takes two hours and leaves at 5 AM and 1 PM each day. Get off the bus at the Parque National Chirripó ranger station.
The buses from San Jose to San Isidro del General depart from the Empresa Tracopa terminal. It could be useful to purchase the tickets in advance, especially if you are traveling on a weekend. Unlike many other buses, the Empresa Tracopa bus has reserved seating and does not accept additional passengers when it is full.
In addition to the bus, you can also travel from San Isidro to San Gerardo and back via taxi for about 14000 colones. (High-clearance 4WD taxis are available and probably preferable.) This is more expensive than the bus, but might be a useful option if you arrive in San Isidro after the last bus, or want to return to San Isidro at a non-standard hour. The taxi is considerably faster than the bus.
The bus stops at the ranger station. The Parque Nacional Chirripó ranger station is immediately before the junction with the road to Herradura. The junction, in turn, is immediately before the bridge over the Río Blanco. From the ranger station it is a short walk to the town center of San Gerardo, and about 2 km to the Hotel Urán and the main trailhead.
Tigerlily suggest staying at the following hotel:
I can strongly recommend staying at a hostel called Casa Mariposa, located just 20 feet from the start of the trail head. The owners are INCREDIBLE, you will get a solid night of sleep and be treated to meeting people from all around the world.
There are other places to stay as well.
Routes OverviewAlthough a nice trail system exist, cross country travel on the lower slopes without a trail is difficult or impossible. The thick rainforest makes off-trail exploration impractical in most of the mountain range. It is better to stick to the trails.
There are quite a few ways to reach this area, including the trail/route over Cerro Uran, but by far most people begin in San Gerardo de Rivas. This is the only route I am familiar with, so if you are familiar with other routes, please post them.
Please see the detailed Route Page. It has much for detail than the breif overview below.
The first day is a long one. It is recommended that you arrange permits the day before in order to get an early start the next morning. At the very latest, a 6 AM (earlier is better) start is recommended. It's about 2 kms from the ranger station to the trailhead.
The first day to the Base Crestones (hut) is 14.5 kms with 2200 meters elevation gain and on a well marked trail.
After spending the night in the hut, follow the trail posted for Cerro Chirripo which is well marked at junctions. There are other peaks in the area to climb as well so it is recommended that you spend another night at the Base Crestones in order to climb some of the other peaks on day two. See some of the other mountain pages for more details:
On the same hike you can also head to other seldom visited peaks such as Cerro Uran, Loma Larga, or Cerro Laguna or even hike across Cerro Uran to Rio Blanco and easily spend five days doing so.
See the Route Page for the Fila Uran route. The information is brief, but you must take a guide anyway so detailed route information is not needed.
Red TapeYou must get a permit from the ranger station to reserve the hut at the Base Crestones and also to enter the park. Although the hut is seldom booked to capacity, it is on occasion (usually around Easter), so you can make advanced reservations.
This contact information is current as of July 2010 and was provided by SP member Lakenyon):
Telf. (506) 27 42 50 83
Fax. (506) 27 42 50 85
You can reserve your permit by providing them with your passport number. Use Spanish if at all possible, since the ranger might not speak English. Arrive at the ranger station before 16:00 on the day before your hike to pick up your permit. The ranger will provide you with a permit that you'll need to show to the staff at Base Crestones.
At most times of the year however, you can simply get a walk in permit.
Park fees (as of 2004) are $15 for the first day and $10 for each additional day plus $10 for each night in the hut.
Tigerlilly adds the following update for those climbing the peak during Holy Week:
Be prepared to sleep in a tent outside the office that is in charge of handing out the tickets. It is like trying to get into a rock concert. There will only be 2-5 tickets available per day and we saw people camping out waiting to get them. (This was during the week of April 10th-April 21st..Easter Holy Week & Spring Break).
When To ClimbDecember through March is the driest season, and the best time to climb the peak. February and March are the driest month of all and have the best weather, but December and January are greener since those months are just after the rainy season. The national park is closed to all travel in May.
The lower part of the trail can be very hot. The summit area can be very cold and wet year round. Freezing temperatures are common at the Base Crestones hut. That location holds the record lowest temperature ever recorded in Central America at -9C (16F)!
SP member Lakenyon provided the information below concerning climbing during the wet season:
In the rainy season, the most common pattern in Chirripó is dry (and possibly clear) weather in the morning, clouding up and leading to heavy rain in the afternoon and/or early evening. It is quite feasible to hike Cerro Chirripó in the rainy season, but you should expect torrential rain in the afternoons. Slow and moderate-paced hikers should start early enough to reach Base Crestones before noon or shortly thereafter. Strong hikers who would ordinarily day hike the 40 km round trip might reconsider their plans and stay at Base Crestones so they can enjoy the peak in the early morning, when the weather is likely to be better. Or they should start extremely early. Not only is the summit beautiful at sunrise, but this is probably your best chance to have clear weather.
CampingNo camping is allowed along the standard route. Everyone must stay at the Base Crestones hut at 3393 meters. The hut sleeps 60 and is comfortable, but is not heated (no fires are allowed in the park), so it is usually cold in the mornings and evenings. Blankets can be rented for $1 per night, but everyone should take a sleeping bag. As of July 2010, stoves are no longer available to rent in the hut.
Showers are available, but are freezing cold!
SP member Lakenyon provided the updated information below from his July 2010 climb:
If you plan to stay at the hut but do not plan to bring your own sleeping bag to Costa Rica, you can rent one in San Gerardo de Rivas. However, information about which places rent sleeping bags can be unreliable. The Hotel Roca y Dura informed us via email that they rented sleeping bags, but they did not have any when we arrived. Several people said the visitor center (not the same place as the ranger station) rented sleeping bags, but the staff at the visitors center said no. The Hotel Urán does rent sleeping bags, although not particularly good ones. Most people will find them quite adequate, but those susceptible to cold, or those who are still wet from being out in the rain, might find them insufficient.
In addition to sleeping bags, Hotel Urán rents stoves and fuel cannisters, and also has a small food store. There is another small food store across from the soccer field, adjacent to the Hotel Roca y Dura.
The staff at Base Crestones did have a few extra sleeping bags for emergencies, but it would be very unwise to rely on them. They also had some blankets which they loaned free of charge to those who seemed particularly cold or miserable, but in general they were quite reluctant to do so. It is best to bring all the sleeping bags or blankets that you need yourself and not count on obtaining anything at the hut.
Camping is allowed Cerro Uran on the Fila Uran route.
Mountain ConditionsThe official website for the National Park is below:
National Park Website
There are apparently no useful weather links for the mountain itself.
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