Cerro Papagayo

Altitude: 2,324 meters; 7,624feet
Difference Incline: 1,688 meters; 5,538 feet
Distance: 20.8 km;  12 miles
Time: 8-10 hours round trip
Difficulty: the trek is tiring due to length itself, the only tricky part is the last 500m, which is more a combination of
trekking rock climbing

Cerro Papagayo is tucked away in the mountains of Pirque. We parked in what felt like the most random spot, but there’s a little gate that you need to cross through to get on the route. It’s all private property here, so it’s about a 4ish kilometer walk on a dusty dirt road before you veer off to the right to begin the climb. In the morning this is a nice, refreshing, flat walk, passing a couple houses, a bee farm, and strolling through the peaceful scenery. However, on the way back to the car, it’s torture and feels more like 40km. After finishing the climb all I wanted to do was get to the car, my feet were hurting, my body was tired, and there was this walk on the dirt road still in front of me. Putting it in a better perspective, I guess it makes sitting just that much more rewarding.

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Always a good idea, some people in the group had downloaded the route onto GPS prior to heading out. This came in handy more than a few times during the day, but first in helping us see where to turn off the road and head to the base of Papagayo. The first part consists of meandering through a thick forest. Between the incline, the bending over to an almost 90 degree angle to maneuver through brush or branches, and the weight of the backpack, it was a definite balance test, ha. More than a few times I was caught from a string on the backpack. I love these forest parts because they smell and look just like Wisconsin and it brings me back to the days when I would wander through the trees with my grandpa, parents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. It feels so familiar, like home.

Breaking out of the vegetation, we got to an open space to sit down and munch on some snacks. In the next part we had to horizontally cross from one side of the mountain to another, something that doesn’t look so complicated or difficult but in reality provides its challenge. Part comes from the slipperiness of crossing the mountain without a worn path and the other part is just the tiring aspect from the length and incline. We had a perfect day because it wasn’t too sunny, the cloudiness keeps a nice brisk air. Once I got to the top, we sat down and waited for the whole group to get back together.

There was about 500 meters left and we made bets for how long it would take. Most of us said something around 30-40 minutes. Little did we know the surprise that last little climb had in store for us. It was seriously more like free rock climbing. We were on the crest of the mountain, pure rocks and super steep. It was impossible to just “walk” – every step on the dusty, rocky ground induced a slide of rocks down the mountain. I had to attach my walking poles to my backpack and use my hands to adhere me to the mountain. Grasping from one rock to another, carefully testing the rocks under my feet, and using my arms to pull me up to the next step. If you look carefully on these pictures… you’ll see tiny people up at the top. It was a loooong way up.

This was my first time really with this kind of terrain and I admit at first I was quite scared. I took a moment to think rationally and get into the proper mindset, looking logically at the route ahead and plotting one by one each movement. In the end, it took 1.5-2 hours for the whole group to do that last 500 meters. It was such a relief, and little pat on the back, to get to the top. Every new experience builds familiarity with my own body and confidence with my movements, which results in better and safer climbing.

Up at the top it was sooo windy, but we found a little nook to sit down, relax, and have our lunch. It was pretty cold but we sat up there maybe 1/2 hour, enjoying the view, the company, and the work we just accomplished. Heading down the top part had its tricks, a combination of letting myself controlably slide between safe points as well as firmly grabbing the rockbed and lowering by body from one point to another. We ran into a common plant that we see on many of the mountains, but this one had a beautiful surprise, an incredible set of blue flowers. I’m not sure if this was a late bloomer or an early bloomer but, boy, was it a treat.

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By the time we got to the forest it was almost dark. The route had never had much of a real path and in the thick woods, with the addition of the darkness, it was so difficult to find which was the best way to get back to where we started. The GPS helped us stay at least move in the right direction, but we were zig-zagging our way through it, trying to see what looked familiar. We probably spent an extra hour here but finally found the dirt road. We were so happy, as we had been out 9ish hours at this point and were simply tired. I think my feet felt every heavy step of that 4km back to the car.

I got home and, although I had all the good intention to meet up with some friends and enjoy a couple beers, after a hot shower, the draw to my bed won.

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