Hardly a week goes by without some of our guests at Calabash Cove asking ?have you done it??
Gone SCUBA diving?
Been to the Gros Islet Friday night street party?
Walked the rain forest birdwatching?
Flown through the tree tops zip lining?
No, none of the above. It was always the same question. Have you climbed the Pitons?
The time had come to put myself in a position to say: yes of course.
So here I was slipping quietly into my hiking clothes arranged neatly to the side of the bedroom, trying not to wake my wife at the ungodly hour of 5.30 am on a Saturday morning.
After all, the good European I was, there was no way I would be late for the 6.00 am rendezvous with the other climbers.? So here I was sitting at the mall waiting for my friends and the bus to arrive 40 minutes late. As we boarded the very comfortable 26 seater “Coaster”, the driver mumbled something like?..was only told this morning I am going to Soufriere.? As we were at different stages of awareness it did not phase most of us. After all, had the bus been on time, some of my friends would have missed it. Island time, mooohn.
For the scenic drive to the base of the Gros Piton snacks and power bars were passed around for what I imagine was our resolve to conquer the mountain, while some slept to catch up on the lost sleep from Friday night.
Then, we were there and after paying our fee for our climb guide, we assembled in front of a miniature model Piton for a briefing of what lay ahead of us. In addition to being allocated a guide we were implored to take at least 2 bottles of water each with us.
In single file we headed out on the trail, initially flat over large boulders before we reached the real bottom of the mountain and had a first close up look at the steep incline ahead of us. Eventually small groups of 4 or 5 people established themselves as we all settled into our own pace. After all this was not a race. Initially the stops were far apart and we made good progress to the first spectacular lookout facing the south coast of Saint Lucia. It was a breath-taking taste of what was yet to come.
After about 45 minutes we reached what was identified as the half way point, and for the first time we were treated to a spectacular view of ‘Petit Piton’ across the blue Caribbean Sea.? There was time to pass around a few snacks and sweets and allow all to catch up and get the group together again. Some of our more mature companions announced that this would be as far as they would go and they made themselves comfortable as the remainder of the group headed on up the steep path to the top of Gros Piton.
Over the next hour our steps seemed to get taller every few yards, the boulders larger and larger and the trail steeper and steeper. This also meant the stops became more and more frequent. By now it was a question of who will make it and who will just chill in the shade under one of the spectacular canopy or head back to base?
The group morale was good and we felt we were now only minutes from the top. Every turn promised to reveal the peak, only to show another step in the steep trail.
And then, all of a sudden the trees became small shrubs and the terrain opened up where there were no more trees, just blue sky with cotton wool clouds. The ground flattened out and we were there? at the peak. So stunning was the experience of making it to the top with the amazing view, that the weight of our back packs was no longer noticeable. We waited for the 19 out of 26 climbers that had started to summit. The group was all smiles, everybody was reaching for his smart phone to take pictures and no, there was no signal. So the world had to wait for the good news that we had made it. It took only seconds for more food to come out and be shared. One of our French friends had carried a most delicious chocolate cake to the top while others shared candies, nuts, fresh and dried fruits.
Reluctantly. it was time to head back down. While the climb had taken the greater part of 2 hours, the descent was much quicker and completed in half the time. All I seem to remember is how wobbly I felt in my legs. The bottom could not come soon enough, not so much because we wanted the experience to be over, but more with the excitement of looking forward to telling those waiting at the resort all about it.? We were elated when we gathered on the beautiful grassy patch to stretch our legs and gaze at the clouds we seemed to have been so much closer to just a short hour ago.
It was to be a day never to be forgotten. A red-letter day. A bucket-list day !
And guess what? When now asked, have you done it? The answer is yes of course, are you going to do it too? Let me persuade you, because, boy, is it worth the effort.