Up The Highest Peak in the Caribbean

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 gorgeous views.

We started at the base with the sunrise. Starting the day bright and early is a must. Major airlines fly directly to the Dominican Republic from Boston and there are several options to pick up a connection to San Jorge. We decided to take a direct flight and arrive in San Juan at 6:00 pm.

We checked into the Paladar Lodge, a hotel/lodge combination. The receptionist, Mike Tolson, knew a lot about the place as he was the chef/condemned warder there for the last 5 years. We had a nice chat and then it was time for “the ride”. It seems to be a common refrain when people discuss Pico Duarte.

“Can you believe it’s over 3,000 meters in this mountain?”

“I’m not really sure I’ll be able to believe it myself.”

“As hype goes, so does reality.”

“I’m sure we’ll make it to the top.”

We made it to the top. Wow. All I can say is that the views were truly spectacular. We hung out on the hillside watching the sunset and had a well-earned beer.Mike Tolson filmed a little known documentary about his and Paula’s climb called: “The Rising”.Watch it if you get a chance. Mike also wrote a book called: “ExOrdus – The Science of Expiration” that is worth reading.

After a nice break while Mike trained his binoculars to film us, we started down. I was in the last pair of ten youngsters to successfully make it to the summit. We went really slowly with only one steady switch of buttocks. With increasing frustration, I resorted to nudging the shoulder strap of my pack until my fingers began to hurt. Mike watched me for a couple of minutes before bursting into laughter.

After a couple of kms, we reached the plateau. After picking our way through the dense forest, we finally arrived at the base of the peak. We used a stream water bottle, our small cooking stove and a hand pump to aspirate water. We were in desperate need of water. After some very uncomfortable dinner about an hour later, we made the decision to carry on and try to reach the summit in the morning. It was a hard decision to make, but we both knew that we would be back.

After about 4 hours of very uncomfortable and strenuous climbing, we reached the rocky outcrop where we had set up camp a day before. After a quick couple of photos, we hating the arduous climb, and started down.

After a very uncomfortable descent, we arrived at the forest station where we had started and decided to camp for the night. After a sleepless night’s sleep, we were awakened by urgent calls on our mobile phones. There were people everywhere! We decided to keep the contents of our backpacks and return in the morning.

Fortunately, the calls were for the rescue team, not us, and they had maps of the area. We continued down the steep mountain path and reached the road at the bottom in the morning. In the afternoon, we reached the highest point where the Signal Mountain Vultures nest. We stopped to take some photos and feed the vultures a couple of times.

Clearly a much better view of the valley we had traveled than the day before, we continued down the mountain to our camp at the base camp. It was a really great day and a great hike with the vultures!

As it goes, the scientific term for this is called mesocasis, and it is when insects or worms or flies visit your food. Seeing the vultures circling and landing on your food just before dinner, or having your dinner in a vulture’s stomach definitely puts that into perspective for you.

Glacier National Park is a wonderful place to visit and learn about, and probably the greatest adventure and outdoors destination I have ever been too. If you are full of energy and love the outdoors, you will really enjoy Glacier National Park!