Ascent to Mount Liamuiga-The crater rim on 2010-02-11
|Others in Party:||Alain Couët|
|Date:||Thursday, February 11, 2010|
|Ascent Type:||Unsuccessful - Turned Back|
| Motorized Transport to Trailhead:||Taxicab|
|Point Reached:||Mount Liamuiga - The crater rim|
| Location:||Saint Kitts and Nevis|
| Elevation:||829 m / 2723 ft|
| Remaining Elevation:||327 m / 1070 ft (34% left to go)|
Ascent Trip ReportOn wednesday morning, we arrived in St. Kitts. We decided to anchor our chartered sailboat in a remote anchorage on the southeastern part of the island, far from the crowds, at White House Bay. We called for a taxi over VHF to pick us up at the small dock in the bottom of the bay, which proved to be extremely complicated because of the huge cruise ship docked in Basseterre for the day. Cabs were in high demand and they'd have to drive all the way down and out of town for a lenghty fare. They weren't hot at the idea of answering us...
This proved to be the first of the signs that life on St. Kitts can become quite complicated when it involves tourism. Everything revolves around services, and the local taxi drivers battle fiercely for their runs. They will try to fix everything up for you so they get a cut on every visit you make. In the end though, when you keep your loyalties with one driver, you will end up saving a bit of money as he'll round up his fees after you provide him with a sustained payment over time.
As we wandered in Basseterre, we were getting sollicited from every corner for tours and arrangements. We clumsily settled a driver to pick us up at first light next morning for a hike 'up to the summit'. All the reviews I read of the usual hike prior to my trip spoke of 'on top of the mountain', 'the summit', etc. so I assumed the trail led to the actual peak. We would be shown next day it isn't so.
On the next day, we woke up at 5:30am. Our taxi driver was going to meet us on the dock at 6:00am and bring us all the way across the island to the village of St. Paul, near where the trail starts. We would meet our guide there and the proceed to the trailhead. After about an hour, we were on foot, going up a bush road. And suddenly, the sugarcane fields gave way for the rain forest. It was now around 7:30am and we were on the trail. At first it rolled a bit and started going uphill gently. The trail was definitely well used and maintained, easy to walk. We only had a couple kilometers to go, but over 2000 feet to ascend, so it would definitely get steeper soon. The mountain being a stratovolcano, it gradually became steeper. The trail would then get crossed by huge banyan tree roots, sign of great trail erosion, probably due to the high traffic. Our guide was in great shape, but I was able to follow him without any effort. My father was a little bit less in shape so we took regular breaks for him to take his breath back, but overall, I thought we were going at a steady and quite fast pace.
Soon enough, the going got harder. The trail became a scramble over the loose stone blocks being eroded slowly off the mountain. It was a truly amazing hike going up a deep valley with occasional peeks outside of the high canopy. After just over an hour and fifteen minutes, I could see the sun through the treeline. Not 5 minutes later, we were at the rim of the crater. We were still in the trees, so I could not see the summit, but the rim was a very narrow and jagged ridge. Our guide told us we were very close to the summit now, and I started to doubt we were ever going to actually get there. Only a few meters later, we were perched at the base of a small pinnacle. We were as high as the trail went. From where we were, we could see the entire rim. We we on the northwestern side, which is considerably lower than the southeastern side. I could now see the summit pinnacle. It is a rare occurrence as the summit has the tendency to herd clouds passing by. It was now sitting in an empty sky, and I could see why there was likely no trail leading there.
The crater raised quite steeply towards a huge pinnacle feature that was vertical on the three sides visible. Navigating the forested rim, which looked extremely jagged, was probably not advisable. We would see quite soon that 20 meter drops were almost invisible because of the tree cover as we moved a bit further to get another view of the crater. I thought that if anyone wanted to get to the summit, he would have to do it from the southern slopes and ascend the pinnacle by either sides of the rim as close as possible.
When asked, our guide told me that no one ever goes there and that he knew of no trail that lead up. This will have to be researched further. We didn't eat, but we drank a lot before heading down. It was quite easy going down, and we crossed two groups making the ascent with other guides. When we reached the fields, we saw one of the guides' open-cab truck parked there. We kept walking down the fields right into St. Paul, where we stopped at a small store/buvette. Local slang is incomprehensible even with my usual good ear for accents. The TV was tuned in on the Maury Show, which I then watched to pass the time until our cab driver arrived.
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