So what’s all this hype about climbing the highest peak in the Caribbean and exactly where is it? Well, it’s called Pico Duarte and located in the Dominican Republic. The peak is over 3,000 meters high and provides a challenging climb with a beautiful payoff.
We started at the base with the sunrise. Starting the day bright and early is a must. It rains almost daily on the mountain and you don’t want to get stuck climbing way up there while it’s pouring rain.
The first hours of the hike are pretty simple. The path only has a slight incline and the scenery is beautiful. There are streams, as well as rivers, constantly crossing the path and you are fresh. Fresh legs, fresh mindset, one hundred percent fresh. That will all quickly change though.
Once you pass the first part of the hike the landscape changes considerably, and so does the level of the hike. From the base to the top we must have changed landscapes four to five times and the hike only gets harder. Put into perspective it’s like doing stair masters at the gym, walking up and down stairs, for about six hours on loose terrain.
Any climber knows that a six hour hike up steep and loose terrain is taxing on the body. Especially for people who are amateur hikers.
About five hours into our hike we notice that we’re surrounded by fog, only it’s not fog, we were actually in a cloud! Yup, that high up feeling is a cloud. Maybe that high up feeling is due to the elevation difference between where we were and where we’re going. Regardless, we both agreed that the fog was a hassle.
We spent about five hours in the fog, waiting for the sun (which didn’t show up) to come out. Needless to say, we weren’t ready for a summit that early in the morning.
That said, we knew that we would make it to the summit, we just didn’t know when. We planned on going to the high point on the ridge that we had passed the previous day. We were all set with our packs, some gear and our French Montana backpacks. Off to the high point of the ridge we went.
It was a beautiful day, mid-80’s, perfect hiking weather. Not too hot and no rain in sight. Best of all, there were very few other hikers on the ridge. We quickly and safely made it to the top of the ridge.
Once we were on the top we looked down over the rim and saw that we were surrounded by mountains. If we had chosen a lower elevation the views would have been maybe better, but we were already too high. Being on the high point of the ridge also made it way easier to see the snow white peaks in the distance. We were going to try to find the nearest road to the base of the peak and then make a plan of descent.
Something else that I really enjoyed was that when we came down from the mountain, near the high point of the ridge, we went back to the trail head and collected a lot of trash. We thought that we would throw it in the designated trash cans, but they weren’t even close so we just went and picked up more trash as we went down the trail.
While throwing the garbage, I was talking to a young French girl about the best route down. She said that the best way down was to descend a ridge, but then go to the left and then pearl route down the snow. I then bought her a beer.
We sat on the high point of the ridge and let the bottles fall into the pool. We then walked down the high point of the ridge and set up our tent near the stream. The French girl slept the whole night next to the warm stream in my tent, I lay on the cold ground in my flannel pajamas. The next morning I woke up and was surprised to see the broken glass lying near the stream in the fresh snow. How could we have forgotten to put it in the other trash can. We drank some water and went to the top of the ridge.
We tried to take a picture, but it was so over exposed in the wind and rain that we didn’t get a good shot. After we lowered our camp to the ground we started gathering fire wood off the ground. Frank wasn’t having any. He said that he had not found any wood in the brush. I had the suckers out and was just about ready to pitch my tent.
And then there was Frank, hunched over with his head in the snow like a spooked cat. Ibeejumped over and offered him a hand. He brushed snow off his neck and entered the tent. I drank a few beers that night.
The next morning we bothered to explore a little more and found that the snow wasn’t hidden that much.