Ascent of Mount Sage on 2009-02-06

Climber: Gabriel Couët

Date:Friday, February 6, 2009
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Boat
Peak:Mount Sage
    Location:British Virgin Islands
    Elevation:520 m / 1709 ft

Ascent Trip Report

This ascent was made while on a one week vacation on a charter sailboat with my parents and brother. I set out in that week with the firm intention to climb as many British Virgin Island summits I could. Of the six or seven islands we anchored at, I managed 4 summits, with the two most important ones (Virgin Gorda and Tortola) bagged.

Of course, overall altitudes are fairly low, with Mount Sage standing at 521 meters, the highest point in all of the Virgin Islands, US and British alike.

I prepared my Tortola hike on the last night of our trip, looking over the nautical charts we used for sailing combined with a rough road map of the island. I was perplexed at the distances; The scales on the nautical charts gave me about 6km one way to the summit, but the road maps gave something closer to 4km. I was short in time because we would have to take the ferry for St. Thomas in the USVI at 10:30am in order to catch our planes back to Canada, so I set my alarm for 5:15am. All my gear was ready and I was sleeping in the ship's cockpit, so taking off would be done in seconds.

I got up , put on my hiking boots, and headed out of the harbour at about 5:30. The sun wasn't up and the town was quiet, except for a couple chickens and a few locals waiting for cabs. I quickly found Joe's Hill Road (although the street sign actually only read "Joes" from missing more than half of it) which leads up from Road Town to Ridge Road, a country road following the crest of the island. The roads are decent on Tortola, the asphalt being of very good quality and very abrasive, and I was powering up the empty road.

Further up, things got a bit messier. Through the twists and turns, I wasn't sure if I was following the right direction or taking wrong turns from the lack of signs and precise maps. I seemed to be going in the right directions from visuals though and kept going until I joined Ridge Road. There was a clear road sign there and I quickened the pace as the sun was coming up. I needed to be back down at the harbour no later than 9:30am and it was already a little past 6:15.

From here, the road got flatter, rolling about at around 300 meters of altitude and following the island features. Passing by both luxurious villas with classy cars parked in front and decrepit homes with goats and chickens running freely about, I was witnessing some of the local paradoxes. Poor islands infested with rich tourists.

I eventually got to the Mount Sage National Park and the trailhead. It was about 6:45 at that point so I hurriedly looked at the trailhead map and kept going. The trail system is quite weird, trails having numbers on the map but not being referenced by those numbers, rather by names when you get inside the park. I had to guess my way through the short hike in very enjoyable forest scenery until I hit what looked like the summit. There was a small cairn with a wooden cross, but I was unable to locate any summit benchmark. I looked for it a few minutes, even taking down the cairn and looking underneath (I built it back afterwards) but I never found anything. It definitely looked like the summit though and the limited area of the park just narrows any other options to nil.

I took the side-trail back down, and the hike back to town was uneventful. As I was entering the harbour, I ran in my father returning some papers to the desk. Looking at my watch, it was 8:20am. All in all, it was a quick dash in and out of the island highlands.

It is a very enjoyable and easy road hike, and it was my second sea-to-summit experience, following shortly after the scaling of Jost Van Dyke, a smaller island just to the northwest with an interesting and rough geography, the peak sitting at an altitude of 321 meters.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:520 m / 1709 ft
    Elevation Loss:520 m / 1709 ft
    Distance:14.8 km / 9.2 mi
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail
    Weather:Hot, Calm, Partly Cloudy
Usual Caribbean temperature
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:520 m / 1709 ft
    Distance:7.8 km / 4.9 mi
    Route:Road up to the National Park
    Trailhead:Road Harbour  0 m / 0 ft
    Time Up:1 Hours 40 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:520 m / 1709 ft
    Distance:7 km / 4.4 mi
    Route:Road down to the harbour
    Trailhead:Road Harbour  0 m / 0 ft
    Time Down:1 Hours 10 Minutes

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