Hiking Cerro Chirripo: To the Top & Back in 1 Day – 2018

Hiking Cerro Chirripo top & back 1 day

Hiking Cerro Chirripo to the peak and back in one day is a daunting task. The arduous trek definitely requires one to be in good shape, however most of the battle is mental, not physical. At the end of my journey I had hiked 25 miles (40-km), climbing 7,218 feet (2,000 meters) in around 16 straight hours.

The idea of hiking Cerro Chirripo in one day did not appeal to me whatsoever. In fact, the thought of hiking one of the tallest mountains in Central America in one day didn’t sound like a fun at all. However, due to my tendency to procrastinate, I was left with only one day passes being available.

Find out more information about how to register and what you will need to hike Cerro Chirripo.

Hiking Cerro Chirripo at Night: Starting at 10 PM

I began hiking Cerro Chirripo with a friend the night before at 10 PM. All of the locals insisted that we leave in the night, in order to get the best view at the summit right after sunrise. Additionally, leaving late in the night would give us ample time for the return hike back down the mountain.

Hiking Cerro Chirripo night hikeHiking Cerro Chirripo at night is truly an otherworldly experience. Once you pass through the entrance, it feels as though you have crossed into a different world. A solitary, jungle world all to yourself, free from the noisy streets and commotion of civilization. There is an eerie stillness, an uncanny placidity. The lack of sensory stimuli leaves one with an uneasy calm.

Without any sensory distractions, you feel hyper aware and sensitive. Every minuscule noise you would normally overlook is now magnified. In the distance you hear leaves rustling and twigs snapping, and your imagination starts running wild. Your primitive, survival instincts kick in, and adrenaline starts pumping through your veins. Waves of fear come over you as you  consider what ominous creature lurks in the darkness. You begin creating news headlines in your head like, “American tourist mauled by mountain lion during climb up Chirripo”.

But as you continue to climb your nerves begin to settle, and you start appreciating the majesty of the mountain in the night. You make your way through the darkness with only a flashlight’s radius of view. There is something extremely meditative and therapeutic about only being able to look at the next step in front of you. You are forced to climb completely in the moment, solely focused on your next few steps, not the colossal mountain you are attempting to climb.

While you are hiking Cerro Chirripo, you reach a break in the densely forested area. The sky is finally exposed, revealing the stellar magnificence of the firmament. With absolutely no light pollution, it is almost as if you can see every single star in the galaxy. I felt as if I was peering up at a painting, the very handy work of God himself. Every single star meticulously plotted on a black canvas, as if our creator was calling out to us through his masterpiece. At one point I had to fight back tears, because of the sheer majesty and glory of the constellations.

Hiking Cerro Chirripo: Daybreak Offers New Perspectives

Hiking Cerro Chirripo daybreak
As we continued hiking around hour 8 or 9, we began to sense that dawn was about to break. Even before the subtle hue of light began to break out across the sky, there was a palpable sense of a new day. It almost felt as though the new day was about to bring energy and a new perspective on the hike. I started to feel revitalized, reinvigorated, and ready for the hardest portion of the hike.

As more light flowed over the mountains, the dense fog began to slowly break. When the sun finally peered over the mountains, it was about 5:00 AM. About 7 hours into the hike, I was overcome with a feeling of euphoria. Sleep deprived with little to no concept of time at this point, it was hard to gauge reality. The scene became surreal as I stood in awe of the light reflecting off the water vapor in the air, illuminating the mist all around me.

Hiking Cerro Chirripo sun rise
While I could have stared at this magnificent scene for ages, I still had about 2 hours of 4 KM of hiking left. And this final stretch would prove to be more strenuous than the former 15 KM combined.

Hiking Cerro Chirripo: The Final Stretch

Hiking Cerro Chirripo - the peak
The final 4 KM of the hike proved to be the toughest. Nearly step by step you could feel the air getting thinner. Being at around 6,500 feet, breathing became another obstacle in addition to my full body ache. I imagined this is what it felt like to have asthma. Diligently I worked on each next breath, trying to retain any oxygen I could.

Each step I took came with doubts and questions. I began to have an internal dialogue with myself, an internal struggle. What was the point of this? Am I even going to make it to the top? “Maybe this isn’t possible in one day”, I began to tell myself. However these doubts immediately dissipated once I saw the peak.

As I hiked near the final summit, my walking stick became a crutch which I relied heavily on. It almost became an extension of my body, picking up the slack that my legs could no longer withstand. As I gazed upon the final climb of the mountain, I felt immense relief and joy. I could finally see the end, the climax of the whole hike.

The final climb proved to be the most arduous of the entire hike. This was no longer a hike, but literally a climb. I began to climb with both hands and feet, with every ounce of energy I had left. Wheezing from the lack of oxygen, I slowly climbed up the final peak.

Every single step became a struggle, mainly due to lack of oxygen. Breathing became nearly impossible, and my muscles began to tense and lock up. But I was so close now that all of these ailments became background noise. I was determined to finish what I started, even if it took hours.

Hiking Cerro Chirripo: The Summit

Hiking Cerro Chirripo - the summit sign
When I took my last step to the actual summit I was overwhelmed with gratitude and accomplishment. However this was somewhat short lived when I remembered that I had to climb down immediately after. But I had done it, I had made it to the top of one of the tallest mountains in Central America.

Hiking Cerro Chirripo - summit
This journey was truly a test of physicality and endurance, but also will and determination. I use the word “journey” specifically because it truly was that. Hiking for nearly 16 hours straight, by the end it felt as if I had made a pilgrimage.

Find out more information about Chirripó National Park.


Originally from Chicago, now traveling around the world while working remotely as a web designer / developer. A Christian trying to be a shining light in a dark world.


  • Mike April 11, 2018 at 11:59 am Reply

    Love it!

    • travel His world April 12, 2018 at 7:25 pm Reply

      Thanks dood!

  • John cicero April 12, 2018 at 8:37 pm Reply

    What a great adventure Eric! It was well written and expressed the emotion of the hike.

  • Debbie Olsen March 28, 2019 at 4:35 am Reply

    I really enjoyed this article. What an adventure! It was so well written that I felt like I was there with you bear crawling up to the summit. Thanks for sharing.

    • travel His world March 28, 2019 at 2:56 pm Reply

      Thank you so much for the kind feedback Debbie!

Leave a Comment