Ascent of Volcán Barú on 2011-03-28

Climber: William Musser

Others in Party:Can't Find ClimberID br>and Daniel Musser <1846
Date:Monday, March 28, 2011
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Volcán Barú
    Elevation:11398 ft / 3474 m

Ascent Trip Report

Since Costa Rica would not let us climb their highpoint during spring break (permit could not be obtained) we vactioned in Panama instead. Hired a Guide from Habla Ya Spanish school to take us up. I was in pretty good shape -been training already this year and our 24 year old guide was not. Danny and I had to stop repeated times for him and he was winded. Funny too - he drank all his 2 liter water and I gave him Danny's bottle as we acsended on half of mine between the two of us. Hiking and mountaineering are not common sports yet in Panama so experienced guides with a lot of training and knowledge are not easy to find. Armando was fun, knowledgable about the local economy, plants, and animals and was fun to practice Spanish with, however this is his big hike. There are some other routes from the west side of the mountain that are more interesting to climb (not a maintenance road) but the guides do not like to use it cause people get lost.

The road is a rugged 4x4 trail that could only accomodate an ATV but not a truck or jeep (unless very high clearance). Few views on way up until about 10km out of 13. There are 3-4 calderas you see on way up and the first is interesting. Last eruption was 500 years ago but nothing grows in the bottom of any of them! Despite trees and bushes covering the hillsides and mountain tops of this "cloud forest" (not a rain forest) there are no trees or shrubs in the bottoms of any of the calderas. Fascinating that after 500 years still no ecological recruitment.

Danny and I wanted to get up fast before the cloud cover would ruin the views. We wanted to see the Atlantic and the Pacific. We figured we could be there in 4 hours or less - would have too but the guide kept stopping. He claimed it was 5-7 hours ughhhh no way!I did not want to embarrass him as he was a very nice young man but once we saw the towers and knew we were close, I ascended up the last 500 feet vertical without him and beat him by 30 minutes in the last km. Danny arrrived about 15 mintues behind me.

There is a small section of class 2 and 3 at the very top and nive views of the surrounding calderas. I wanted to downclimb to do them but Danny was feeling a bit sick and the guide wanted to do lunch. So we hiked around the peaks. The couds rolled in and out giving great views and then no views and then teasing us with no views but we were too late to see the oceans. Lunch was great.

On the way down I had extra energy and while they rested i popped up another small subpeak with a tower to release some energy and get in some more training vertical. It began to pour on us about half the way down. We passed another native guide who was taking a young California couple on a 2 day overnight climb. Again the couple had lost the guide and he finally caught up to the couple but looked exhuasted. Danny and I laughed. The Panamanians have lots of heart, a beautiful land but are far from the level of fitness and commitment to mountaineering and hking that that the North Americans and Europeans have. They will some day - it is just that ecotourism is still so young there. There are few trails anywhere in the country and the ones that are there are not mapped - mostly created by the indigineous people many of which do not speak English or Spanish. Someday when they get it all figured out - this will be a very interesting country to peakbag. I will return but research finding locals with far more care.

Weather - was sunny and cloudy on the way up and we got a rainstorm for about an hour of coming down.

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4683 ft / 1426 m
    Total Elevation Loss:4683 ft / 1426 m
    Round-Trip Distance:16.2 mi / 26 km
    Grade/Class:1+ some 2 and 3
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble
    Gear Used:
    Weather:Raining, Pleasant, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
sunny then cloudy then rain
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4283 ft / 1305 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3983 ft / 1214 m; Extra: 300 ft / 91m
    Loss on way in:300 ft / 91 m
    Distance:8.1 mi / 13 km
    Route:Maintenance Road to Towers (west)
    Start Trailhead:4x4 parking lot  7415 ft / 2260 m
    Time:4 Hours 20 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:4383 ft / 1335 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 3983 ft / 1214 m; Extra: 400 ft / 121m
    Gain on way out:400 ft / 121 m
    Distance:8.1 mi / 13 km
    Route:Maintenance Road to Towers (west)
    End Trailhead:same  7415 ft / 2260 m
    Time:3 Hours 

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