Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hiking Pico Duarte

The day after returning from the campo we began another incredible adventure. For three days, we were to climb Pico Duarte, the tallest mountain in the Caribbean. We bought all of our food and climbed in the taxi at 4:15 AM. We drove two hours to the base and met three genuine men that we would be spending the next few days with. They packed up all of the gear onto horses and mules and we began our first 10-hour day! 
It was very step trail and definitely harder than expected. We had no idea what was coming for us! About 6 hours into our climb the skies darkened and clouds moved in fast. Within minutes the rain began to drizzle and all of the sudden it was pounding down on us. Then it began to hail - hail the size of large pebbles that battered our heads and left welts and bruises on our bare legs. The mountain began to flood and our path became a little - but powerful - stream. We were completely soaked through; our boots full of water and our legs and toes going numb. Amongst all the chaos and torrential storm, I ironically found peace. 
We picked up our climbing pace and I kept ahead and to myself, allowing my mind and body to embrace the storm’s energy and chill. I think my peace came from the realization that I couldn’t do anything to improve the situation and it wasn’t worth fretting about. The only option was to continue forward to our base that we anticipated was just a few hours ahead. (Little did we know we still had about four hours coming.)
Slowly the hail stopped but the rain didn’t let up for a few more hours. Later, we come to find out that a hurricane had just hit the Dominican Republic; hence the torrential hail and rain. The thing we didn’t understand about our trip to the actually mountain of Pico Duarte was that we weren’t only summiting one mountain - we were continuously ascending and descending mountains, each a hike of their own. We had to venture through the mountain range to actually reach the famous peak.
We eventually reached the actual base of the peak around 5 PM and were welcomed by our already arrived horses and soaked sleeping bags and clothing. We put on what was relatively driest and stood by the fire bringing back up our body temperatures. We held up all of our sleeping bags and clothing in front of the fire for the next few hours and our patient guides cooked us a warm and filling meal. They casually smirked at how unprepared and inexperienced we were. Still, I conversed with them in my recently improved Spanish the rest of the night and began developing friendships. We set a fire in our little cabin and all squeezed close on our cold wood floor, shivering in our still damp sleeping bags.
The rest of the trip was much more enjoyable for we peaked the next day. We were high above the clouds and could see the miles of mountains we had climbed through. We came back down to our base and had a much more restful night. The second night was a lot less cold for our sleeping bags and clothing had dried that day. We still slept all in a row and Steph and I zipped our sleeping bags together in order to increase the body heat! It was very successful!

The following day we began our descent around 6 AM and made it down to our starting point around 3 PM. Thankfully, our faithful friend and taxi driver, Big Luis was there ready to take us home. Overall it was a very successful journey of severe body odor, torrential storms, wet clothing and a never-ending mountain range.

Delaney Effeldt, Comunidad 18 

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