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Published on June 17th, 2016 | by admin

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A walk in the clouds: Costa Rica’s highest climb can now be booked online

BY THOMAS ENDERLI

Summiting Cerro Chirripó – Costa Rica’s tallest peak – is a national rite of passage. The mountain beckons serious adventurers and rambling newbies alike, rewarding all with majestic vistas of verdant, foggy valleys and distant peaks illuminated by the sun’s slanting rays. This may be the tropics, but the crisp mountain air tends to make people forget it.

The 3,820-meter (12,533-foot) mountain is located in the southern part of the country within Parque Nacional Chirripó, which borders the much larger Parque Nacional La Amistad. On the grueling 19.6-kilometer (12.18-mile) trail, hikers navigate steep switchbacks and ascend into the thinning air. They are serenaded by wild birds as they push onward among wisps of cloud and – if local lore is to be believed – protective mountain spirits called nímbulos.

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While climbing Chirripó might not be for everyone, the National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) recently made it more accessible. Starting in May 2016, those interested in scaling Chirripó and reveling in the alpine-like environment can book the trip online via a new reservation system. Online reservations can now be madeup to six months in advance for a maximum of four people. Visitors to the park usually finish the initial 14.5 kilometers to the albergue, or bunkhouse, on the first day, before summiting Chirripó or other nearby peaks on day two. The bunkhouse sleeps only 52 people per night, and guests can stay a maximum of three nights.

For Chirripó veterans, some things have changed. The albergue no long offers public cooking facilities, but park staff members prepare delicious meals instead. The sleeping arrangements are now full-service, and visitors can expect sheets, warm blankets and pillows. The changes save visitors from schlepping up their own food and sleeping bags, but the experience still feels rustic enough, mainly because the showers remain invigoratingly cold.

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To make a reservation, visit www.sinac.go.cr. Click the icon labeled “reservas” and follow the instructions. Note: Demand, like this mountain, is sky high.


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