ArrivalTuesday, 5th:Fly into San Jose. Take taxi ($25) to MUSOC bus station (I did this to buy time to make the last bus from San Isidro to San Gerardo later on). Catch direct bus to San Isidro (2600c). Arrive in San Isidro at 6:30pm. Take $3us taxi to San Gerardo bus stop. Catch last bus to San Gerardo at 6:40pm (900c). Arrive at San Gerardo at 8:00. Check into Café Dura Roca for night (This place stinks—thumbs down). Next morning walk 10 minutes down to park office—opens at 6:30am. There is no need for a prior reservation to hike IF you are coming in the rainy season and during the week. I was the only one there. Paid $65us for entrance (45) and 2 nights at the base (20). I pleaded for the ranger to let me stay 3 nights at the base since it was practically empty, but he wouldn’t budge. I was told he’s a salary-admin worker and won’t think out of his box.
Note: I recommend staying at the Casa Mariposa or El Uran Hotel, especially if you want to start early at around 4-5AM. These two places are close to the trail entrance. The Café Roca Dura is convenient because there is a store next to it and is a few steps from the bus stop, but it is a 2K hike up the road to get to the entrance.
Here’s a good site for local information on San Gerardo: http://www.sangerardocostarica.com/
Wednesday, 6th: I walked (hiked) up to Cloudbridge Reserve. (http://www.cloudbridge.org/). This entrance is right past the Chirripo Trail entrance, so it was a 2K hike up just to get there. From the Cloudbridge entrance, you hike another 1K to the main building. From the building, there are maps to guide you around. The trails are narrow foot trails but easy to hike around. 2-3 hours to do all trails. The Pacific Trail gives great views of the river and waterfalls. The Vulture Rock Trail takes you up to Cerro Skutch. This took an additional hour. The trail had not been cut in a while and is narrow. On the top, a large rock sits with a view of the valley below. I had the idea of camping a night up on top, but there is no flat area—just brush, tall grass and rock. Before you reach it, there was a large hornet’s nest nearby. I didn’t get stung, but if you’re allergic to bee stings, stay away from this top trail. The Ridge Trail Loop was one I wanted to try on the way back from Chirripo, but I didn’t. They say it cuts about 30-40 minutes off the entire Chirripo trip down. This trail intersects with the Chirripo Trail right before the 4K marker (going up) or just after the 4K marker (coming down).
Thought of hiking to the Aguas Termales. Not worth it. Took me 30 minutes uphill to get the bridge from Roca Dura Café. The 15 minute walk up the trail is where I stopped. The trail was narrow and loaded with vegetation. Since I was in poisonous snake country wearing sandals, I opted to turn around. I was later told that the “Aguas” are not hot but warm at best. . . . .
Initial HikeThursday, 7th: Started hike from Roca Dura hotel since the owner was "not available" to take me up at 400am. 2k later, I get to the trail head. I carried my own stuff with extra clothing for the peak. Boots for rainy season.
Here is a breakdown of the kilometer hike:
K1: Up, slippery clay
K2: Up, slippery clay, rocky, the mosquitoes and flies begin pestering
K3: Up, slippery clay, tree-stump steps help, muddy
K4: Up, muddy
K5: Up, slippery
K6: Levels a bit, easier walking
K7: Rest stop, water faucets, bathrooms, water faucet 150 meters after rest stop, less muddy
K8: UP, difficult
K9: Up, sunny, difficult
K10: Levels off a bit. At end of 10, the mosquitoes and flies end.
K11: Elevates, but easier walking
K12: Easier, up and down
K13: Easy, up and down. From “Mata Sin Fe” to start of K14-walk down
K14: Last water stop-pipe and stream. Load up belly. Up and up until you turn the bend to see the dorms
Arrived at dorms (Base Crestones) at 1pm. Settled, ate, asked advice on trail markings. You have to share a dorm with 2-3 others, no toilet paper, no maps, no stove, no oven, no heat, no fridge, and computer runs s-l-o-w. The place stinks for convenience. The park rangers are cold--act as if they owe you nothing. Fellow hikers are helpful, though. Went to bed early. I brought a Mountain House Flame-less Oven and meals (http://www.mtnhse.com).
Solo Sunrise SummitFriday, 8th: 1:30am: Started solo hike to peak (5K). Need a headlamp. The trail is visible but not marked like the one up. In the dark, look ahead for the trail every 10 steps or so.
K1-K2 are easy to follow, flat. Need to scramble over large rock slabs. Stay to the right. If you can’t see where the trail picks up again, stop and search. Your walk a flat area through the "conejo" area.
K3-walk slowly as trail becomes a rocky dry (or wet) stream bed.
K4 rises, a few more bolder slabs to walk over. At the end of K4, you’ll walk down and back up a saddle.
There is a small stream down below for water here before you start your accent.
K5 is up-400m. Vertical climb, need to grab for balance. Bring a pen if you want to sign the log book on top.
4:30am: Reached peak. Sun rise began (4:30-4:45am). I brought water, snacks, and 3-layers in my pack, so it took me longer to travel. If you travel light, you can reach the top in 2-2.5 hours. Put on my layers, balaclava, gloves, took video and pics. Listened to my mp3 and enjoyed the sights. No one else made the sunrise hike.
7:30am: Started back to camp, ran into first hikers at K3 at 8:30. Arrived at dorms at 9:30. For the rest of the day, ate, slept, nursed my blisters.
Note: Was told that Cerro Venisqueros is a shorter hike but much steeper. Was told the view is even better than Chirripo.
Return to San IsidroSaturday, 9th: Started down at 5am and made it down by 10am. Booked 2 nights at Casa Mariposa and nursed bad blisters. Had my laundry done ($6us/bundle). Computer use available. This place has a few girly trails on site and swimming holes to dip in. They also have a big bathtub and will run a hot bath for you for a few bucks—better than the luke-warm agua termales.
Sunday, 10th: Rested blisters. Stayed at Mariposa.
Monday, 11th: Walked down to bus stop near Café Roca Dura. First bus at 5:15 to San Isidro (900-1000c). In San Isidro, walk 3 blocks to MUSOC bus station (Cafeso buses). Can be confusing, so just ask for directions. Caught 7:20 bus to Buenos Aires (1000c).
If I returned, I would stay at the Casa Mariposa to save on that initial 2K hike. Also, I have some video clips of the sun rising, albeit the clouds. If you want a copy, e-mail me. Let me kow if you have any questions.