Day 12-15: Climbing Cerro Ena

by - August 01, 2009

Hiking in the clouds on the ascent of Cerro Ena

Day 12: Saturday 1st August 2009

We had to get up for 4 o'clock in order to catch the 5.30 bus from San Jose to San Isidro de General.  This journey was 3 hours long and was uncomfortable as the stupid woman in front of me had put her seat all the way against my legs.  Once in San Isidro we tried to do some administration - buying tickets and also trying to book a hostel to keep our bags in.  This latter task was fruitless unfortunately and at the time it looked like we would be carrying all our bags around the mountain.  We had a bit of time to look around the town - doing things like buying snacks and fishing equipment and then sitting around the bus terminal waiting for the bus.  We were clearly the centre of the town’s attention and as a result had a lot of local people coming up and staring at us.  The bus eventually arrived and it was clear that there was not enough room.  As a result we had to stand with our heavy rucksacks.  Ben was standing in the position where he got probed by the door every time anybody needed to get on.  

After a hot and cramped 90 minute journey we arived at the town of San Jeronimo.  This was a typical unspoiled location and we were met by the local guide Randall, who is trying to kick start a tourist industry in the area.  He took our bags in his jeep and we walked up to his house where we were able to sort out and thankfully drop off some kit.  From there we walked up to another local person’s house which was half an hour up the mountainside.  The owner had a trout pond and we were able to eat a local dish of battered trout (which we caught ourselves) with beans etc.  He also allowed us to sleep in the upstairs of his house on the floor which was a bit tight but fundamentally free.  We had an early night.

Day 13: Sunday 2nd August 2009

Had to get up at about 4.30am in order to get to the start of the hike at 5.  There were two possible places that we could stop for the night - one half way up the mountain at around 2000 metres (1200 was the base level) or the other which was 200 metres below the summit at 3000 metres.  Randall our guide told us that the last World Challenge group had reached the mid point at 12 o'clock.  We made it at 9 o'clock in what he described as a ‘record time’.  At this point we felt it was too early to even contemplate having lunch, so carried on up the mountainside - we were able to fill our drink bottles in streams and brooks along the way (with a lot of iodine solution in).  The walk was very impressive view-wise - it was not long before we were above the cloud line, and we had spectacular views of the surrounding valleys and mountains.  It was also impressive to know that we were the only people on the mountain.

We had lunch at a point about 70% up the mountain.  The obscure meal plans organized by the food group meant that we had peanut and peanut butter wraps - one of the worst meals ever frankly.  The walk got tougher as we continued as the air thinned and the path got steeper and wetter.  At about 4pm we arrived at the camp beneath the summit, consisting of a little shack with a sink in.  We lay our sleeping bags out on the floor at 4.30pm and none of us, except the cooks (who made pasta with sauce) got out until the next morning.  I slept really badly as it was cold, draughty and uncomfortable.  On top of this a lot of us, including me, had come down with altitude-induced flu.  Not nice.

Day 14: Monday 3rd August 2009

The original plan had been to get up and go the extra 200m (vertically) to the summit to watch the sun rise over the Caribbean.  Unfortunately it was cloudy so we stayed in bed until about 8am.  Breakfast consisted of powdered milk and cereal.  After this, most of us (bar Needers, Rob and Daniel) went to the summit anyway.  This section of the walk was very different to the rainforest based previous section, with murky swamps taking over.  It took about half an hour to get to the top and once there we took some photos of the team and carved 'WC09 HBS’ into the pole at the summit.  The views were not great, but sporadically better than we had expected.

We descended back to the summit camp for a lunch that had been prepared for us by those who didn’t make it to the top.  Lunch consisted of tuna wraps and peanut butter (argh) sandwiches.  The camp was broken at about 12am and we began the major descent from 3000m to around 2000m where the halfway camp was.  This walk took longer than we expected as it had been raining and there were plenty of fresh holes and puddles.  We eventually got down at 5ish and set up our tents for the first time under some tarpaulins.  There was a shelter where we were able to cook and we had a pretty good meal of rice and the dreaded bean feast.  The evening entertainment was decidedly minimalist as the guides had decided we needed our earliest start of the whole trip in the morning - a painful 3.30am, so after washing up in a nearby stream we went to bed in our tents.  Ours was pitched on a slope with me at the top, so I spent the whole night trying not to roll onto Daniel.

Day 15: Tuesday 4th August 2009

Waking up at 3.30am, at 2000 metres above sea level, in a tent, is as painful as it comes.  This was proven by Sam going mental at his tent mates with the immortal phrase “fuck this shit”, much to everybody’s amusement. My tent managed to get ready in 40 minutes, but we didn’t leave until 5am as not everybody is as pro as us.  The walk actually began in the dark which was interesting with two fully laden horses walking behind us.  I personally found this section of the walk, from the mid point to the base camp, to be the worst part.  Not only was it the general wet/cloudy/sticky situation we had come to love, but my altitude flu was causing my nose to positively spray snot over my face and upper torso.  This was a better fate that other people however, who were spraying another bodily fluid over large sections of undergrowth at regular intervals.  Not nice.

We had our breakfast on a tree on the way down and reached the bottom at 10am.  We got a lift back to Randall’s house where we re-arranged our kit and bought some of his homegrown coffee.  Our bus to the next stage of our journey (the agricultural project) was at 1pm so we had some food in town before leaving.  The journey was fairly brief and we were collected from the bus stop by Donald, the farm owner.  I was the fifth man in a four man car so was rammed in the boot of his jeep with my face against the glass for the 3km journey, amusingly.  Once at the farm (a lovely wooden building) we had a talk with Donald before going to our rooms to sort ourselves out.  Dinner was cooked for us and was the best meal so far.  Afterwards we had a powerpoint presentation about the farm before an early night.

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