The Essential Guide To Hiking The St. Lucia Piton Mountains
Almost every tourist brochure, postcard or souvenir T-shirt of St. Lucia features a picture of the Pitons, the two volcanic plugs that tower over Soufrière Bay in the southwest of this Caribbean island.
The two mountains even appear on the country’s national flag. Climbing to the top of either one is one of the essential excursions in St. Lucia for active travelers and sports lovers.
The larger of the two Pitons is Gros Piton, with a height of just under 2,530 feet. One would think that at 2,437 feet, the smaller Petit Piton would be an easier climb but it’s actually more strenuous because of its steepness.
While it’s entirely possible to climb either of these mountains simply by hiking up and without the use of special mountaineering equipment, you’ll find yourself using your hands quite often and you shouldn’t underestimate the challenge. You’ll need some skill, a lot of stamina and a good guide to make it safely to the top and back down. St. Lucia native and Pitons expert Janus Gyan offers the following advice:
Don’t attempt the climb if you’re not in tip-top shape. It’s an intense physical exercise that requires stamina, strength, balance and agility. If you can, train before your trip to St. Lucia by climbing hills and mountains in your area. Alternatively, work out regularly and train the right muscles by becoming best friends with the stair climber at your local gym. Start slowly and gradually build up the speed, length of time and intensity of the exercise. Also vary your exercises so that you can improve all the skills you’ll need. Get a medical check-up and your doctor’s all-clear before you attempt any strenuous climbing.
Get your supplies and the right clothing ready:
Sturdy hiking boots or shoes are essential. They should have a non-skid tread and provide good ankle support, so boots are preferable to sneakers. Don’t wear a brand-new pair if you want to avoid painful blisters. Instead, wear them regularly for at least a few weeks before the climb so that they’re sufficiently worn in.
Be sure to wear comfortable and lightweight clothing. Pockets will come in very handy since you’ll need to keep your hands free.
A water bottle with sufficient water will keep you hydrated.
Have some basic first aid supplies such as plasters or bandages handy. Keep it compact, though, so it will fit in your pockets.
If you prefer, you can bring a small, light backpack for carrying your supplies and maybe a light, energy-giving snack. Don’t forget the sunscreen!
N.B - THIS STEP IS FOR PERSONS INTERESTED IN PETIT PITON
If you want to climb Petit Piton, you’ll need permission from St. Lucia’s Forest and Lands Department. Contact them at tel. 1-758-450-2231 when you arrive in the country. Once you have their permission, check the weather forecast and only attempt the climb on a clear day. If it rained, wait at least six hours before you set out to ensure that the ground will be sufficiently dry. If it’s too wet, the trail will be slippery and dangerous. You need a qualified guide to go with you, so contact the Pitons Tour Guide Association at tel. 1-758-459-9748.
The hike will probably last a full day, depending on your level of skill and on factors like the weather. Set out early so that you’ll have sufficient time for the climb before nightfall. During the climb, do exactly what your guide tells you to. Remember that he or she knows the trail much better than you do. Stay focused and watch how and where you place your feet and hands. You might be tempted to grip the vines that grow all over the mountain – don’t. They’re covered in thorns and it’s not for nothing that the locals call them the Devil’s Walking Stick. Once you get to the top, enjoy the view, relax and make sure you’re fully rested before starting the descent. This is very important because to get safely down such a steep mountain, you need to keep your wits about you.
In the past, Petit Piton wasn’t open to hikers and because of the possible dangers, you still need the St. Lucia Forest and Lands Department’s permission. Unless you’re one hundred per cent sure that you have the climbing skills necessary to tackle Petit Piton, it’s safer, easier and just as rewarding to climb Gros Piton instead. In fact, even if you are ready for Petit Piton, climbing Gros Piton first is a good way to test your skills and level of fitness as well as to get used to local conditions, such as the extreme humidity. If you decide to climb both peaks, be sure to leave at least a full day in between so that your body will be sufficiently rested.
About Janus Gyan
St. Lucia born and bred, Janus Gyan is the CEO of Islander Group, a group of companies specializing in providing excellent travel and tourism services. From St. Lucia tour packages to island transport, the group has become local industry leaders. Janus is renowned for his passion not only for St. Lucia but also for providing visitors to the island with an unforgettable experience at affordable prices.
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