Caribbean · St. Lucia

Climbing Gros Piton in St. Lucia…Never Again. Never.

Steve and visit the Caribbean a lot.  Living in Texas means it’s fairly easy for us to get from Dallas to the Caribbean in a matter of hours by flying through Miami or Puerto Rico.  There are also direct flights from Dallas to Jamaica, Turks & Caicos and I believe a few direct flights to the Bahamas.  One of our favorite islands is St. Lucia, which we visited in 2013.  I am also partial to the U.S. Virgin Islands as they have the best white sand beaches but St. Lucia has incredible natural beauty.  The signature picture of St. Lucia is of the Pitons, which are its two volcanic peaks that rise straight up from the ocean.

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Petit Piton on the left and Gros Piton on the right

During our stay, I read online that you can “hike” to the top of Gros Piton.  While Petit Piton looks taller, Gros Piton is actually the taller and larger of the two peaks. Gros Piton is 2,543 feet above sea level at the summit.  Steve loves to hike and usually does a mountain backpacking trip each year with his guy buddies so he was game for this idea.  I decided that I needed some extra adventure this trip and wanted to get in some exercise after binging on rum punch and food for the previous few days and this seemed like a great idea.Seemed.  So, we planned to do it on Thanksgiving Day and then would reward ourselves with a big dinner at Ladera’s Dasheene restaurant that evening.

We had a rental car for a few days during our trip so we drove towards Gros Piton and tried to follow the poorly marked signs to find the trail head.  Signage is not great on St. Lucia and we had to stop and ask for directions two separate times before we finally pulled into a muddy makeshift parking lot area.  I looked up to the top of Gros Piton from the trail head and was beginning to wonder if this was such a good idea.

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View from the trail head – yes, we planned to climb to the very top of that mountain looming in front of us

You are not permitted to climb Gros Piton on your own so we were assigned a guide who I think was 16 years old , named Ghavrie.  He didn’t say much but he did tell us that he does this climb two, sometimes three times a day, which is unbelievable to me.  They have a model of the mountain and explain the climb up, showing the 1/2 way rest stop, the 3/4 way rest stop and the summit.  We started the hike and were told this was the “easiest” part of the hike.  This easy part had us climbing up and down (mostly up) over massive boulders. We suffered through the stifling humidity for almost an hour and reached the half way point before almost collapsing.

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We do not smell good or look good in this picture.  Petit Piton in the background

By the half way point, we were dying.  Steve and I both jog and work out a few times every week so we are in decent shape – we’re not athletes but we’re no slouches and this was the most strenuous “hike” I have ever done.  We stopped here for 15 minutes and took a long water break while mosquitoes ate us alive.  At this point, Steve was not feeling well. He was having a tummy ache from some island food the night before and he had waaaaay underestimated how hard this climb would be (as had I).    I think the below is my favorite picture from the hike – look at Steve’s utter misery and note that our teenage guide has not even broken the slightest sweat and is completely unfazed by this.

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Steve is actually laughing at how miserable he feels while our guide is bored out of his mind

At this point, Steve bailed.  He didn’t want to continue on to what was the even harder and more vertical part of the climb.  I hem-hawed a lot about what to do next.  We were half way already, I was tired, sweaty and pretty unhappy but I wasn’t dead yet.  But, after talking to Steve and the guide, I did what any good, kind and loving wife would do – I left Steve behind to wait for me in a mosquito-infested jungle so I could finish the hike.  Sorry, babe.

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Another view from the trail

So, onwards and upwards I went with the guide.  He wasn’t kidding – that first part WAS the easy part.  It was literally vertical in spots and I had to use branches and makeshift rails built into the hillside and pull myself up using my arm strength.  It was also muddy, humid and hot.  At one point I had to stop because I couldn’t see.  I was sweating so much and there was so much sweat running down my face into my eyes that my contacts got blurred completely.  In case you couldn’t guess, I later threw away everything I wore on this hike afterwards because it was so nasty and dirty.  We ran into another group climbing and joined with them and before long we were all encouraging each other to keep going.

I should also mention that I don’t like heights and the few times I looked down and back at the trail, I almost got nauseous.  So, I just kept looking up and heading up.  Eventually, I saw a break in the trees ahead of me and after a few more climbs and pull ups, we were at the top!  Our new climbing friends took my picture at the summit and Ghavrie finally cracked a slight smile!

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Me at the summit – superwoman! Wait, where’s Steve?

The views at the top were amazing.  I could see all the way to St. Vincent and the Grenadine islands.

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I was quite proud of myself. Ghavrie the guide was less impressed.

As you can imagine, the climb down was much easier than the way up but still wasn’t exactly pleasant.  You still had to be careful to not slip and take it slow but we were down in half the time it took to get to the summit.  We picked up Steve on the way down who had found a wooden bench to lie on and had polished off three bottles of water. At the very bottom, I bought an orange and a bottle of water from a small stand and when I told the girl that I had finished the hike and Steve didn’t, she was incredulous. She thought that was about the funniest thing she had ever heard.  At this point, Steve was annoyed and ready to go home but you can be sure that I spent the rest of the vacation reminding him that only one of us had “summited” Gros Piton.

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The vendor girl laughing as we left.

So, am I glad I finished the hike?  Yes.  Would I do it again?  Hell to the no.  Seriously, if you want to do this hike, know what you are getting into and that it is VERY strenuous.  I was sore for days afterwards. I have a good story to tell but this isn’t something I would recommend unless you are in decent physical shape and a bit of glutton for punishment.The dinner at Dasheene later that night was worth every calorie but I think I fell asleep about 10 minutes after it was over because I was so exhausted!

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