Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Survival Guide to Pico Duarte
Climbing Pico Duarte is an Encuentro tradition. However, a lot of planning, forethought, and speed-walking training should be completed before taking on this endeavor. Here is a list of things we wish we would have known before climbing the highest mountain in the Caribbean.
1. Communicate with your guide:
It’s important that you communicate with your guide before you leave for your trip. Make sure you know how many days you’ve signed up for and that you’re physically ready for your trip as well. Ask if you or your guide will be buying the food. Also, make sure you know your eating schedule so you know if you should pack extra snacks. (The mules carry the majority of your food, so bring some snacks in a day pack). Ask if you will be provided a good tent (with no holes/and a rainfly) as well as sleeping bags.
2. Bring A LOT of water:
The guides won’t carry water for you on the trail. There are water stops along the way, which are sourced from rivers and mountain springs. This water is fine to drink, but your guides will make it seem like there’s more than there actually are. We heard many times that the water stops were only “un poco mas arriba”, but in Dominican time, that’s probably around two hours away. Bring more than one water bottle so you don’t get dehydrated.
3. Bring plenty of warm clothes:
You may be used to the Dominican weather that you’ll encounter during the first leg of the hike, but you will be in shock the first night if you don’t bring a lot of warm clothes.
We would recommend taking warm socks, several layers of shirts and sweatshirts (tank top/dry fit shirt, long sleeve shirt, sweatshirts), a raincoat, a hat, and several layers of pants (running shorts, under amour tights, leggings, jeans, sweatpants).
4. Pack sh*t for your case of the sh*ts:
The food and mountain water does a wonder on your digestive system. Some people don’t handle this too well. You don’t want to be stuck taking your sweet time in a latrine that has a burro tied to the door keeping you company. We’d recommend pack anti-diarrheal medicine such as Imodium as a quick solution for this problem.
5. No sunrise hikes:
No matter how cool it may sound to watch the sunrise on the peak, it will most likely be cloudy. You will have to wake at 3 am, hike up the steepest part of the mountain in the dark while it’s raining, and have a near frostbite occurrence on all of your fingers and toes. Wait to hike up to the peak around lunch because the fog will be gone and you will actually get to see the view.
6. If Mount Everest is a 10 on the difficulty scale, Pico Duarte is an 8:
Okay, not really, but it is a very challenging hike. The path can be very steep and slippery at times. You go up and then immediately back down; you begin to question the point of all your effort because you made no progress in elevation. Make sure you know your physical limits and ask to ride a burro if you need one. You can also schedule the trip so you can ride burros the entire way up. Keep in mind though, by the end of the trip, you will feel and smell like you’ve been shoveling burro sh*t. The need and want to shower will be overwhelming. Additionally, unless you’ve kept up with Encuentro speed-
walking team (founded in Spring 2015, Comunidad 19), you will probably want to only sign up for the three day trip.
7. Take in the sites:
Even though every inch of your body may be in pain and all you want to do is pass out at the campsite, make sure to stop and take in the beautiful scenery. The views from the peak and along the trail are absolutely amazing. Also, bring a camera and take some time to take a lot of pictures. You will want the pictures to remember the beauty without feeling the pain.
8. Talk with fellow hikers:
Don’t hesitate to branch out and strike up a conversation with the other hiking groups and the guides. You could meet people from all over and learn a lot about life. You might be out of breath and in dire need for a rescue inhaler from the trek up, but after you recuperate, don’t be afraid to talk around the campfire.
9. Extra necessities:
Bring plenty of large trash bags to keep clothes and other things from getting soaked. Toilet paper is also a must-have as it will not be provided for you. A lot of snacks (trail mix, granola bars, fruit snacks, etc.). We’re not joking about the snacks, bring a shat-ton of snacks. Shoes to wear around the campsite to give your feet a rest from your hiking boots (P.S. wearing sturdy boots while hiking is the only way to survive Pico Duarte). Sunscreen is important even though it may be cloudy and cold at some points. Bring a flashlight/stylish headlamp in case you are forced on a sunrise hike (see #5). The light on your smartphone won’t quite cut it.
10. Go anyway:
The list above may sound discouraging, but it is only to help you have a more enjoyable trip. Climbing Pico Duarte is truly a once in a lifetime experience and you don’t want to miss the opportunity. Not everyone can say that they’ve successfully climbed the highest