Sunday, May 19

Petit Piton: The Climb

We did it!  We climbed Petit Piton!  All 2600+ feet!  We dared to climb a volcano that many native St. Lucian people haven’t climbed, let alone thought about climbing.  There was definitely a level of respect that came from climbing one of the pitons.  Let me just say that our friends Bob, Christine, Gene and Kat climbed BOTH pitons!  Now that is truly bragging rights.  We opted out of the climbs the first time around because we’d have to leave the girls for a really long time in a relatively new part of the island, at anchor, alone.  However, since they demonstrated their resourcefulness so well the day we spent 10 hours going to Fort de France in Martinique, we decided they could handle it.  But I am getting ahead of myself....

When we met up with Bob and Christine in Martinique, we knew we had to go back to St. Lucia for our autopilot and they were also heading down island, and wouldn’t it be great if we hiked Petit Piton!  The seed had been planted.  We finished out our week in Martinique and together sailed to Soufriere and picked up a park-mooring ball between Gros and Petit Piton.  The magnificent beauty of these volcanoes rising so steep from the deepest bay in the Caribbean is awe-inspiring.  Looking straight up the side of Petit Piton from the waters surface, it didn’t seem possible. 

Christine wanted to hire the same guide, Exbert (yes, that is spelled correctly and is his name), that they used on their previous climb.  So, she went to his home and made arrangements to take the 4 of us to the top.  Exbert’s father mentioned that all of his children and grandchildren have hiked Petit Piton and that kids are very agile and are often the best leaders.  Armed with that information, Kate decided she wanted to blaze the trail.   Maggie and Liv opted to stay on the boat.  We awoke at the crack of dawn on Monday morning, after Easter, and picked up Bob and Christine at their boat.  Maggie dropped us off at the Sugar Beach Resort dinghy dock.

We met Exbert at the trail head and wasted no time getting started.  It was 7:30 am on a clear day, cooled by the lack of sun that hadn’t risen over the mountains yet.  As we walked through the thick trees and brush on the meandering trail, I couldn’t help thinking what a great day it was going to be and how much I loved hiking.   Soon after I had those nostalgic thoughts, we were traversing over our first of many boulders, scrambling straight up the side of the volcano.  A little while later we encountered our first rope, a guiding line to help us along the narrow trail just wide enough for one person at a time.  To one side, there was sheer rock and brush straight up and on the other side was a cliff that would lead to a certain death.  As we climbed higher and higher, the trail became increasingly damp from the night rain.  The trees were losing their leaves and there was a crispness in the air that was reminiscent of a beautiful fall day in the California Mountains.  I really felt like I was somewhere other than the middle of the Caribbean.  We stopped to gaze between the trees to see the town of Soufriere getting smaller and smaller as we climbed higher. 

 Kate and Exbert climbing with ease

 Rest stop in the morning shade

 A very steep trail

Kate's lizard friend

Soufriere looking smaller already

Exbert was an amazing guide in that he was very kind to Kate, made sure she knew where to put her hands and feet as she navigated over the big boulders.  He also informed us when we were one quarter, one half or three quarters of the way there.  Just after we were half way, we came up the ‘shoulder’ of the volcano.  We veered off the main trail to enjoy the vista from the shoulder.  WOW!  How amazingly small everything looked and the Caribbean Sea went out as far as the eye could see.  We relished the rest stop before continuing to the most challenging part of the hike.  I was eager to reach the ‘ropes’ in which we had been told and warned about by Bob and Christine.  

 The first set of ropes.  It took pure upper body strength to pull ourselves up the steep rocks.  

Christine squeezes through the "rabbit hole"

Once we had made it up the multiple ropes and through the rabbit hole, which was literally a hole made by the rocks and the only way to continue was to squeeze through, we were almost to the top.  We had new found energy and almost raced to the top.  Once at the top, one by one, we took in the view and said "WOW".  It was an invigorating hike and it was time for a well deserved rest.  The tippy top was surprisingly flat with a grassy area, like someone had planted it there for our enjoyment.  

A little dirty but we made it!

 Looking at Soufriere

 Looking at our boats anchored below.  Ours are the little ones close to shore.  Gros Piton is in the distance.

Walking back to Sugar Beach Resort.  It was an unwelcome climb up and over.

At the base of the mountain there was a little house that sold arts and crafts, beer and a chance to sit in the mineral springs.  Our legs were tired aching and a cold drink was in order.  Craig and Bob sipped on a brew while Christine and I talked to the very friendly ladies selling homemade candied coconut.  I was inspired to make my own, which I did later.

1 comment:

  1. We climbed the Gros Piton last week and were curious about how difficult the Petit Piton was compared to it. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and pictures!