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The name for this ominous peak was derived from historical incidences of travellers attempting to go over the mountain on foot and being improperly prepared for the cold, rainy conditions and often paying the ultimate price. Today the mountain is easily accessible by car, and acts as a major artery of the Interamericana connecting north and south Costa Rica.
In view of the climber, Cerro de la Muerte is better known for its rather precariously located boulder field, and subsequently vast amount of high quality bouldering, Cerro de la Muerte also hosts a modest three roped climbs. Although most come here for the bouldering, there is potential to bolt more climbs on some of the higher boulders.
All three climbs are on a single massive boulder formation approximately 20 meters high. The wall is nearly vertical and provides balanced climbing.
The massive boulders at the top of the mountain are dark in colour and are very rough on hand and finger skin. Expect a lot of crimps and friction dependant holds on large rounded rocks. For the most part rock quality is good. Some cleaning may be need, and some crimps may flake off it they are hollow, however it is nothing to be deterred about.
Three easier routes ranging from 5.8 to harder 5.10, with potential for many more.
The closest location for some eats is at the Cafetería Los Chespiritos #1, which hosts a wide and fine variety of Tico roadside cuisine, from fresh blackberries to fried plantain. There are other restaurants and sodas along the highway in the direction of Cartago. Please do not leave any food wrappers or waste at the top of the mountain.
Being on the very top of the mountain, the weather at Cerro de la Muerte is hardly every bright and sunny, and never balmy. Expect some cloud cover, cooler temperatures and chance of light precipitation as weather patterns constantly change around the mountain summit. Pack warm clothes, and bring a camera. If the clouds part, the views are impeccable, especially around sunrise and sunset.
Things to Remember
Costa Rica, more often than not, is an adventure to climb. Between trekking through jungles, fending off insects, and crossing paths with tropical animals you are sure to have a great day out. Here are a few things to keep in mind when climbing in Costa Rica:
- Bring extra water. With hot and humid often in the forecast you will drink more water than you may expect.
- Pack a brush; steel is best. Many climbs can become dirty after the rainy season and if you are climbing something that is friction dependent, you may need to do some spring-cleaning.
- It gets dark early and fast. This is especially true if you are in a ravine. Pack a headlamp or plan to get out early so that you do not get stuck in the dark.
- Bring a Spanish-English dictionary, if necessary. You never know when a couple words of Spanish will get you out of a jam.
Approximate travel time: 2 hours
Exit San José on the Interamerican Highway (also called the Pan American Highway and Costa Rica Highway 2) eastbound towards Cartago. Just outside of San José you will pass a large mall with movie theater on the left side. Immediately after the mall you will come to a toll booth (the toll is approximately 100 colones).
Continue on Highway 2, passing the turnoff for Cartago, for another hour. The highway will take you up into the mountains surrounding Cartago. As you drive the curving and continuously upward sloping road, take in the great vistas of Cartago city and Irazú volcano.
On Highway 2, approximately 75km’s from San Jose, you will arrive near the top of Cerro De La Muerte where on the left hand side of the road you will find Cafetería Los Chespiritos #1 (there are three of these truck stop like cafeterias and they are numbered #1, #2 and #3 - you want #1, which is the last one as you come from Cartago). If you need a snack, here is a good place to get it. From Cafetería Los Chespiritos continue in the same direction of travel on Highway 2. If you wish to go to Providencia, you will make the next right turn onto a dirt road beside the office for the national park.
If you are climbing or bouldering at the summit of Cerro De La Muerte continue on Highway 2 for approximately 7 more minutes (about 6km) and then make a right onto the dirt road the provides access to the antenna towers. There are very few recognizable landmarks for which to identify the turnoff. Just know that if you pass a broken down blue house on the left side of the road, then you just missed the turn. If that is the case, turn around and take your first left following the ruined house. Follow the dirt road about 1.5km up to the towers and park at their base. The climbing is on the opposite side of the road as the towers and should be visible from the road on a clear day.
Approximate time: 2.5 hours
In San José make your way to the new MUSOC bus terminal (P:2222-2422 or 2223-0686) on Calle Central in between avenidas 22 and 24. It is best to buy your tickets in advance during the weekday, and make sure that you are there at least 30 minutes prior to departure. You want to buy a ticket to San Isidro which will cost approximately 3000 colones. Mention that you are disembarking the bus on Cerro de la Muerte at the Cafeteria Los Chesporitos #1. Likewise you can also say that you are getting off at Parque National Los Quetzales. It is best to ask about returning by bus in advance to determine if you are required to purchase a ticket. The bus leaves at 5:30 am, 7:30 am, 10:30 am, 11:30 am, 1:30 pm, 2:30 pm, 4:30 pm, and 5:00 pm.
Once you are off the the bus you will need to continue 6km in the same direction (away from San José), until you reach the unmarked radio tower access road on the right side of the highway. There is no easy way to identify this turn- off, however if you come across a broken down blueish-green house on the left side of the road, you have gone too far and need to go back approximately 50m. Follow the access road up to the radio towers and the boulder field. The climbing is on the opposite side of the road as the towers and should be visible from the road on a clear day.
Respect the land owners. They are kind enough to let you use their property for your enjoyment.
Respect other climbers. Climbing is a community sport where the only opponent is the cruel crux that sends you airborne.
Respect the environment. Above all, respect the environment. The plants, the earth and the rock itself were here long before you came into existence and will continue to exist long after you are gone. Sustain its survival by treating it properly.
Pick up trash, even if it is not your own. Take at least one piece out on every trip.
Do not kill flora or fauna, no matter how small or large.
Live and climb as though you are organic with your environment.
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