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The combination of cool weather, pristine natural environment and abundance of big walls and solid rock make Chirripo a climber’s dream playground. If only development of the area was allowed rather than prohibited by the national parks administration, climbers would flock to this Grade A area. This being said, there are two climbs in the park, both of which give a taste of what is yet to come.
Big, hundreds of meter high walls occupy the mountain in various locations. Someone just needs to climb it, and sort out the access issues.
Chirripo hosts a massive potential for expansion in traditional, sport and multi pitch climbing. However due to red tape and bureaucratic apprehension climbing in the national park has been forbidden. Thankfully this minor setback did not stop an ambitious few that were ahead of their time and fully comprehended the great potential that Chirripo offers. Only two routes were able to go up, but these have inspired many to view Chirripo as having the promise to be Costa Rica’s premier climbing destination, if only its development will be permitted.
Expect huge variety of bolds and climbing styles. Cracks, jugs, crimps, pinches and everything inbetween.
The two current routes on Chirripo provide a warm up at 5.8 and then a bit of a challenge at 5.10b, but the potential for almost every grade is everywhere on the moutainside.
All food that you plan to eat on the mountain must be taken in and out with you. Make sure you do not leave behind any garbage, and please do not take any natural elements from the park. If in doubt, check with park authorities.
Chirripo National Park
All activities on Chirripo, including climbing, are within the jurisdiction of Chirripo National Park. Because the peak of Chirripo is extremely popular (being the tallest) in Costa Rica and preserving the ecological wealth of the park is imperative, the park administration permits a limited number of visitors into the park each day. Therefore reservations are essential and come at a price. The best thing to do is to call the park administration at 771-5116, and if possible, months prior to your visit. The park is a good size at 508.49 km2, and therefore guides are highly recommended by the park administration.
When climbing and hiking at Chirripo you should take into consideration the altitude. At 3820m above sea level, the peak of Chirripo is the highest in Costa Rica and affects athletic performance. Ensure to keep hydrated and well fed so to minimize the effects of the altitude. Remember that minor altitude sickness can occur as low as 2200 meters. Also prepare for much cooler temperatures as you scale the mountatin. Night time temperatures often dip close to or below freezing. If you lose control of body temperature due to cold, or if the altitude makes you feel faint, weak, out of breath, noxious, or ill, descend to a lower altitude and seek medical attention.
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 time: 3.5-4.5 hours
Out of San José take the Interamericana Highway east towards Cartago. Just outside of Cartago City, the highway will turn south, continue on the highway towards San Isidro de El General. Once in San Isidro de El General, take the road north east to San Gerardo de Rivas. This is the town from where you will launch your expedition. From San José to the park is approximately 165km. The time it takes to cover this distance can depend on many uncontrollable factors such as weather, traffic, and road conditions. Plan accordingly.
Approximate time: 4-5.5 hours
In order to get to Chirripo Naitonal Park you must first take a bus to San Isidro. An hourly bus departs just outside of the Coca Cola terminal in San José from 5am until 5pm and should take about 3 hours and cost no more than $10.
Once you arrive to San Isidro, then take another bus to San Gerardo de Rivas from the San Isidro terminal. This bus leaves the terminal twice daily at 5am or 2pm and costs no more than $2. In San Gerado de Rivas, either taxi or walk to the entrance of the park just outside of town.
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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