Gros Piton: an introduction to Lucian peaks

Gros Piton-our goal

 My first trip to the St. Lucia, I heard about the Pitons, two acclaimed peaks on the island.  Having gotten accustomed to hiking in the Czech Republic, my curiosity was piqued; however, logistics and the interest of my companions didn’t align.  I didn’t expect to be back in St. Lucia a year-and-a-half later, but here I am.  I’ve been staying with some very gracious hosts, Chris and Gale, people I’d met my first time here.  I sent a message ahead asking if it would be possible for Chris to lead me on a trip, and today the trip came to fruition.

I got a knock on my door before the clock had stuck 4.  After some ginger tea for me, coffee for Chris, and cocoa tea for Yoshabelle, we got into the car.  A few minutes later Ava joined us, and we wound through the dark roads towards the pitons.  Shadows of palm trees were barely discernible.  Along the way we saw a “Bridge Damaged” sign, which Chris guffawed at.  A few hundred meters revealed that the sign should have read “Bridge Absent”  or “Bridge washed away by the Christmas flood.”  So, Chris veered off, down, and then through the river with his car.  We backed up a rocky road in the dark, the black sky just tainted with blue and all around loomed palm and banana trees.  We’d need light before we started the journey.  

Trails in St. Lucia require tour guides--even though Chris had climbed Gros Piton five times before.  (This is partially to maintain the cost of maintaining the trail.)   Shane joined us and then we were en route to the trail head, which looked like this . . . (see right).  So, with faint light and our tour guide, we set off at 6:20 AM>

The path consisted of rocks, stones, pebbles, and more rocks, and sometimes boulders.  Each step required careful foot-placement on the various-sized and positioned rocks.  The concentration required disallowed me from enjoying the glimpses of ocean that appeared in my periphery, but soon we arrived to our first viewpoint, which Yoshabelle and Ava were especially eager to see (or perhaps they were eager for the accompanying bench).

We continued on, the trail getting steeper and steeper and consisting of more rocks.  Chris was full of encouraging words, but Shabelle and Ava continued in their playful banter, which mostly delineated the impossibility of our trek.  Dauntless Chris led, with myself and Shabelle close behind, but Ava began to drift, and Shane continued behind her. Soon the distance between Shabelle and Ava increased, so the first three of us continued on.  At the halfway point we were rewarded by some nice views.

Then it was back into the forest.  The nearer we got to the top, the more wild the foliage became.  Tropical trees abounded, and the floor was wet, likely from the morning's rainfall.  By this time, my hair was damp from the exertion, causing Shabelle to say "you look like you just took a shower."  We rested at the 3/4 point, which consisted of a bench in front of a massive mango tree.


The terrain continued to gain in complexity and the surrounding splendor of unabashed green made it even harder to concentrate.  Yet concentration was quite necessary, especially as paths looked like the following:

 Moreover, my feet began to occasionally slip on the slanted rocks, causing concerned interjections from Shabelle.  Though Shabelle was obviously fatigued--more likely from inexperience than from any lack of fitness--Chris continued to share his smile and encouraging words, promising that the view would make it all worth it.  I think it did.
Chris already relaxing at the top, 8:09 AM

Prominently featured here is the Petite Piton . . . perhaps my next Lucian peak?

Having savoured the view for just a handful of minutes, we turned back into the tropical cover and to the other side of the Piton in order to see the view of the other side of the island.

Meanwhile, our stalwart tour guide Shane had been sitting and chatting with Ava at the halfway point, enjoying the view of Petite Piton (not a bad way to spend the morning, I'd say). Chris, Shabelle, and I began our descent down to join them.  I never can decide whether up or down is more difficult, but if climbing up boulders was difficult, stepping safely down was even moreso.  Before even the 1/4 mark of our descent, I could feel the muscles in my legs shaking from the exertion of carefully balancing each step.

It was nice to finally reunite with the rest of the group at the halfway point.  At that point we also began encountering other hikers.  It was about 9:30, and the sun was hot when directly upon us.  I was thankful for Chris' wisdom in setting off early.  Moreover, as we got into the last quarter of our journey, it started raining.  I can't imagine what the slick rocks would be like to climb.
Chris, Ava, myself (note the sweat), and Yoshabelle

By the time we'd finished, Chris had declared me a trooper and seemed to have confidence in my attempting another trek.  Hopefully I'll see another trail before I return to the Czech Republic.  Apparently he's short climbing partners, so all you hiking-loving Czechs, start talking and agree when you'll fly down to St. Lucia to join Chris on some hikes on the Pitons, Mount Gimie or a nice long walk through the rainforest.


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