How To Hike Cerro Chirripo, Costa Rica – 2018

How to climb Cerro Chirripo Costa Rica

Hiking Cerro Chirripo is no easy feat by any means…especially if you have do it in one day. Because I registered so late in the height of Costa Rica’s tourism season, my only option was to hike to the peak and back in one day due to park pass availability. I would highly advise climbers to plan their trip to Chirripo a few months in advance in order to have the option of buying the multiple day pass.

Cerro Chirripo Hike Details

Chirripó is the tallest mountain in Costa Rica, with a whopping height of 12,533 feet, or 3,820 meters, above sea level. The trail is a total of 12.4-miles (20-km) to the peak with a 7,218 feet (2,000 meters) climb. The path begins in the little town of San Gerardo de Rivas, Costa Rica.

I climbed up to the summit and back down in one day. The total trip was around 14 hours. It took me 7 hours to get to the Base Camp, and another 2 hours after that to the summit. If you are doing the hike in one day I HIGHLY recommend leaving at night. I started hiking at 10PM at night, got to the Base Camp at 5AM, and the summit at 7AM. If you are hiking it all in one day you really need to leave at night to give you enough time to come down. Plus the night hike portion was amazing!

Cerro Chirripo Hiking Options: 1 or 2 Day Passes

If you are planning on climbing Cerro Chirripo, you have one of two options. The national park offers a 1 & 2 day passes to climb the mountain.

How to Register to Climb Cerro Chirripo

In order to hike Cerro Chirripo, you need to register online with the National System of Conservation Areas (or SINAC). On this website, you can create a profile, check availability, and reserve your tickets. Once you get to the website, you have to:

  1. Hover over “Procedures and Consultations” and select “Online Reservations SICORE
  2. Create a user for yourself in order to log in
  3. Once logged in, hover over “Buy” in the navigation and select “Online Reservation
  4. Click the “Availability” button with the eye icon to check their openings
  5. Select “Parque Nacional Chirripó” from Wildlife Area
  6. Select your entry sector, in my case “Sector San Gerardo
  7. Select your desired (and available) dates (You will need your ID or passport information to complete the purchase.)

After you have reserved your tickets, there is one last step. The day before you hike, you must stop by the Oficina Guardaparques in Rivas to pick up your wristband. You will need to bring your ID or passport as well as your reservation number to the office. Below is the Office’s information and hours:

Address: Ruta 242 San Gerardo, San José, Pérez Zeledón, Costa Rica

Hours:

Friday 9:30AM–6PM
Saturday 9:30AM–6PM
Sunday 9:30AM–6PM
Monday 9:30AM–6PM
Tuesday 9:30AM–6PM
Wednesday 9:30AM–6PM
Thursday 9:30AM–6PM

Phone: +506 905-244-7747

And that’s it! Once you pick up your wristbands you are ready to start your hike up the mountain!

What Supplies & Materials to Bring:

For such a strenuous hike, you definitely want to come prepared. It is important to bring the right supplies and materials to help you with the hike. Below are some items I recommend bringing:

  • A flashlight just in case you will be hiking at night
  • A CamelBak / Hydration Pack or a large water bottle (IMPORTANT: You only need to bring 1 water bottle because there are 2 hydration stations before you reach the base camp. If you bring more water bottles it will be unnecessary weight.)
  • Gatorade or fruit juice: After a while, just drinking water doesn’t do it for you. You need something sweet with sugar to give you an extra boost of energy.
  • Candy: Yes it sounds strange to bring candy on a hike but I highly recommend it. Candy can give you a quick energy boost when you are feeling drained.
  • Sun screen
  • Cool clothes: For hiking during the day, make sure you have clothes that won’t be too hot when the sun is out. I recommend a t-shirt, shorts, and a hat for the sun
  • Warm clothes: A warm hat, gloves, windbreaker
  • Recommended: A walking stick. This made a world of difference for me during my hike by taking a lot of the strain off of my legs.
  • Music! Music is obviously not required but can give you some extra motivation when you are feeling weary!

Cerro Chirripo, The Hike:

The hike up to the top of Cerro Chirripo has two main parts: there is a 14 KM hike to the Base Camp, and then an additional 5 KM climb to the summit. If you reserve a 2 day pass, the Base Camp at KM 14 is where you eat and stay over night in the dormitories. If you only have a 1 day pass, the base camp is a good place to stop and rest for a short time before hiking to the summit. Regardless of if you have the 1 or 2 day pass, you can stop at the base camp to rest, eat, and use the bathroom.

Kilometers 1-7 – Coasting:

Kilometers 1 through 7 of the hike are generally “easy”. They involve not much climbing and a lot of flat ground. I recommend using this time to warm-up your legs and conserve as much energy as possible because kilometer 8 is difficult.

At the middle of kilometer 7 is an “outpost” where the first water station is. Here you can refill your water and use the restroom. Depending on what time you get there, you can also buy food and coffee it is open. I don’t recommend staying long because as you will find out, the longer rests you take the more your muscles tense up and tighten.

Kilometer 8 – The Climb:

Kilometer 8 is where the climb really gets difficult. It is important to conserve as much energy as you can during kilometers 1-7 to prepare for the rest of the hike. Kilometer 8 is a steady and steep climb with little to no flat ground.

Kilometers 9-12 – Moderate Climbing:

After kilometer 8, 9 through 12 are much easier. They still involve climbing, however there is a lot of downhill (which can be discouraging after you worked so hard to get up) and flat ground. You should also conserve energy during these kilometers because 13 and 14 are quite difficult as well.

Kilometers 13-14 – The Last Obstacle Before the Rest Stop:

Kilometers 13 and 14 may be even more difficult than 8. I say that not because of the actual climb itself, but because of your mental state. At this point you have been climbing for about 5 hours, your legs are starting to feel heavy, and you are wondering why you paid money to do this to yourself. But keep your spirits up! After these two kilometers you get to have a rest at the Base Camp!

From the Base Camp to the Peak – A True Test of Character:

If you made it this far, congratulations! You have come a long way but you are not finished yet. You have about 5 KM to reach the peak, and unfortunately the last one is the hardest. When you get to the final stretch of the hike, you are at such a high altitude that it is hard to breathe. I would imagine the feeling is comparable to having asthma. The air begins to get very thin and the hike becomes more of a climb. When you reach the peak, you have to start using both hands and feet to climb because it is so steep. This combined with the difficulty breathing can really test one’s character. But I promise you it is worth it! Just look at that view!

Cerro Chirripo Costa Rica summit view

Questions or Concerns?

If you have any additional questions or concerns please feel free to contact me. I would love to help you experience the awe and beauty that is Cerro Chirripo!

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