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Ascent of Montaña de Santa Bárbara on 2014-12-07

Climber: Denise Mclellan

Others in Party:Richard Mclellan
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Sunday, December 7, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Bus
Peak:Montaña de Santa Bárbara
    Location:Honduras
    Elevation:9003 ft / 2744 m

Ascent Trip Report

Overview:

This ascent is a straightforward day trip up and down a steep and muddy forest path ( c1100m of ascent) . The top is indistinct in thick pines, though there is a view point near the top.

We stayed at D and D brewery at Los Naranjos, on the Las Vegas/ El Mochito Road. Their excellent website has good directions and the place is highly recommended for its friendly staff, good food and craft beer. It is in the ‘jungle’ and everything is very damp and humid; nothing dries. There is secure carparking.
See: http://ddbrewery.com/

We hired a guide to ascend Santa Barbara through D and D- this is a ‘standard’ trip for them and costs L800 pp including transport and lunch. The start of the route is unmarked and it goes through private land so we thought this was a good deal; You probably could follow our GPS track and once you are on the mountain ‘proper’ it is not hard to follow the steep muddy forest path but I am not sure what the locals’ reaction would be to crossing the lower slopes without a local.

The following morning we hired, through D and D, a guide to take us onto the local lake for a bird tour which was absolutely superb. We left at 6:15 and we got back at the hotel at 10:15 am having seen 47 species of birds, with highlights being the Montezuma Oropendula, Squirrel Cuckoo and Jacuna.

This is a world ultra. Richard will upload his GPS tracks to his page.

Accessing the trailhead:

We got to D and D by bus from the huge, modern San Pedro De Sula bus station, aided by a local who approached us to practise English. San Pedro de Sula is one the largest towns in Honduras and reputed to have a high murder rate! We had been told the bus station was a dangerous place, but it seemed fine to us, though clearly one always needs to be sensible in busy transport hubs. We went with the company Empresa Tima on the El Mochito bus. Tickets were L 80 each ( C£2.75) for the two hour journey. D and D appears well known and the bus driver assumed we were going there! We had the GPS coordinates of D and D, but the driver stopped for us by a sign saying D and D and we simply walked 300m up a track to reach D and D, notable for its brewery equipment!

Detailed route description:

We departed at 0745 with our guide, who came to the hotel to collect us. Contrary to expectations we went by bus. He explained in Spanish that buses were less frequent on Sundays. We had to wait 30 mins for the ‘El Mochito’ bus, a continuation of the bus journey we had arrived on the previous day. The sun was already hot; as usual it was humid. The bus arrived at 08.15 and we got off at 08.30 at a junction to the right on a small col at 1066m with an orange concrete bus shelter on the right and small sign saying ‘Cendral 6k) ( just before the settlement of Las Vegas). It became cloudier and cooler as we waited for a second bus to take us up the hill. This minibus arrived at 09:10 and went up the gravel track, our ruck sacks on its roof. It climbed steeply, passing several villages and coffee plants. We got off as directed at 1576m at 09:33 at an indistinct col by the house of our guide, where he picked up lunches. Our guide was wearing plastic crocs, jeans, t shirt, cotton hoody and woolly hat.

We set off again at 09:45, turning left, then right across the road on an unmarked track between growing coffee and sugar cane. Intensely flavoured wild strawberries grew. We forked left around a coffee bush field and crossed a small stream. There were many tracks with footprints as we continued but our guide did not hesitate as we traversed and ascended variously. Lower down the trees were less diverse and more temperate but as we ascended the undergrowth became denser, darker green and more cloud- forest like.

At 10 am we reached a viewpoint area with cabana, children’s playground and views down to Lake Yojoa ( with fishfarms). It was overcast and felt cooler.
We continued from the plantation tracks into the forest proper, with many muddy path junctions and minor stream crossings and ascended steeply up into denser forest before the path became more obvious with few options. We passed a huge hollow trunk and had to thrash round a fallen tree .

At 11:55 we emerged onto a small shoulder with small clearing and view where we had lunch- cold rice, cooked vegetables and fried chicken and an orange. We were quite damp from drips and wet undergrowth and felt cool so we put on fleece and hat over tee shirt and windproof and long trousers. We were now 400m from the summit per our GPS. In hindsight, I think most stop here and are happy they have reached the summit.

We persuaded our guide to continue after 15 mins rest and followed the level ridge along a definite path which then ascended steeply, requiring frequent crossings of logs and hauling up on tree roots. The path went round ( not up) some steep limestone cliffs (route noted for descent) until at 13:00 we reached a large tree clump and the path appeared to end. The guide said this was the top. There was no mark or sign and both GPS said 2711m, c 100 m out in distance and 30m out in height. We decided , to our guide’s consternation, to look around a bit to check it really was the high point . This involved thrashing through thick , wet undergrowth, balancing on and climbing up branches, all very slow and awkward. Our guide reminded us the last bus down was at 4 pm. He was relieved when we decided a small clearing created by a fallen tree was our likely high point! The GPS height readings had settled but were still 30 m lower than anticipated ( 2708m our reading: 2744m official), but there was obviously nothing 30m higher around. So at 13:45 we took a summit photo of each other, dripping wet, by a pine tree.

We regained the path using our GPS tracks at 14:15- the guide had become anxious as he had become confused going round in circles. Once back on the track he set off down a tremendous pace and we followed, slithering and hanging on to roots and branches where ever we could, retracing our steps. Our guide was impressively sure -footed, despite his crocs, and stayed clean while we got muddy. We all warmed up fast.

At 4 pm we re- entered the plantation part of the route, marked by barbed wire fences, and were met by our guide’s father- not sure if this was a rescue party or not! He spoke some English and said that we had definitely reached the top, although most tourists do not. He thought we had been unlucky not to have seen the rare Quetzal bird en route.

We reached the road at 16:35 and we waited to hitch a lift with the father- we had missed the last bus. After 30 mins a friendly crowded pick-up came along and a space was found for us in the back. We reached the main road after 20 minutes, with the father, and waited for a bus but none came. We heard him ring D and D who said they would send a vehicle for us, but an empty tuk tuk passed and offered us L30 each for the 10 minute trip back, which we took, arriving at D and D again at 1750. We hung our muddy damp clothes out to dry optimistically and enjoyed a shower then a beer by the hot fire. It felt cool at 20 degrees centigrade.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles, Guide
    Weather:Drizzle, Pleasant, Calm, Partly Cloudy
humid, overcast
Ascent Statistics
    Start Trailhead:col by guide's house 1576m  
    Time:4 Hours 0 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    End Trailhead:Col by guide house at 1576m  
    Time:2 Hours 30 Minutes



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