I had an early start today, up at 6:00am to prepare for the day with a hot shower, shave and a hearty breakfast from the hotel buffet. Whenever I can walk to a place I do (sometimes this can drive friends and loved ones nuts but I enjoy it in most weather), and today I walked 1.5miles through the city to the car rental company I hired a 4×4 vehicle from. Costa Rican roads are no joke outside of the cities and when experienced people tell you to get a 4×4 listen to them.

My guide Marcos and I talked by WhatsApp (that’s useful to use abroad too. Saves costs for texts) last night to get clear on the day’s objectives. Today’s objectives, trek up Pico Blanco and get to the summit and back having learned as much about and from the opportunity as possible.Also I wanted to be healthy and injury free at the end of the day to recover and be ready to go again for the next day. For a day hike like this I typically go by this gear list and today was no exception.

Day Pack to carry the things listed below.

Water bottle: Use something you can reuse for the rest of your life. If it has a loop in it that will help too, for securing on the outside of your pack, if you like things dangling off. Carry at least 2-4 liters of fluids to hydrate yourself with. 

Map: Carry a paper map inside a clear plastic bag of the route premarked with important landmarks, water and bath room stations, transportation, trail heads and rest stops. Ideally an elevationmap  will be in your pocket too.

Charged Mobile Phone: For most day trips, make sure it is fully charged, you might be within mobile reception too.

Rain Jacket: No matter what the weather looks like out of your apartment windows use a rain jacket. 

And no in no particular order…

Personal First Aid Kit: In this I would include any personal medication, sun block, chap stick and insect repellent, if necessary.

Personal essentials: tissue, tin foil, baggies to put your poop in and wet wipes. Practice no trace principles.

Packed lunch: High-energy and nutritious are the key words. The supermarkets and health stores and even outdoors shops are packed with this stuff now. Do not be afraid to be traditional with a banana, chocolate and granola bars.

Camera: Make sure it is charged. If you’re a technical photographer you might also bring a video camera – like a GoPro or something like it. It’s up to you but make sure it’s protected you won’t be happy if it falls and breaks or gets soaked from rain.

Recording device: maybe your phone can double up as your note book. Pen and paper can be a useful back up. 

Head and hand wear: bearing in mind you only have a day pack you can carry these on you. Temperatures might change and you’ll want your extremities protected.

On your body: layers of clothing to manage your body temperature and long pants that can take a rain shower. Carry spare socks with you during the hike, definitely have a change of socks at the end of the hike.

Footwear: wear waterproof footwear to hike with and have a second pair to change into at the end of the hike. Bring a boot bag or a trash liner to put your hiking footwear in. The time of year might be mushy and possibly muddy in places.

Hiking poles: although not always used for a day hike if you have them bring them along.

Change of clothes: bring a change of clothes in case you are wet or uncomfortable at the end of the hike. You will want to be warm, dry and comfortable on the way home. Store your clothes in your vehicle.

Sense of humor: mandatory requirement

Important Details:

Have important telephone numbers programmed in your phone and a paper list handy too.

I found over preparation very useful.

No matter what I kind of hiking or climbing I am doing attention to detail and making decisions that keep me and others safe and enjoying ourselves are the most important things I can do on a mountain hike excursion. Careful with a steady pace does me good when I am hiking.

Summiting Pico Blanco

Marcos and I met up at the car rental and got ourselves a must have on your list of items for hiking and climbing in Costa Rica which is a 4×4 with a high wheel arch because the off road driving here is no joke and guaranteed to make you cling to the handles in the car. I recommend sea sickness medication, the tender bellied might need it quickly.  It took us about 50 minutes to pass through San Jose’s heavy traffic. I thought I had it hard to navigate traffic in Chicago but it’s nothing compared to what goes on here. You need hand signals, an accurate GPS and a prayer now and again as motorcycles zip in and out between cars and plenty of deep breathing.

Marcos recently hiked Pico Blanco and found it tough.I sensed from my research it would be challenging but today’s hike exceeded my expectations. We started off at about 10:20am to summit Pico Blanco the weather was bright and warm. As we climbed it seemed about every hundred meters of gained altitude there was a new micro climate, new terrain, change in humidity and temperature. We hiked through regular forest rock, dry rocks, soft mud and rainforest conditions close to the summit. It was a tough climb, and in some places very steep requiring careful footing a bit scrabbling, good balance with a back pack on and use of hands and feet to navigate some of the obstacles. I am glad I trained for this excursion because I felt good all day long. Thanks to Marcos knowing his stuff and making sure we went on a regular brief break about every 30-40 minutes we got to the top hot, wet and very satisfied. We spent a nice long lunch watching the mist encircle the mountain from both directions and passing the time with stories.

Coming down I needed good footing too, full body action and good breathing technique. The path down was difficult in places because it was steep and tricky because tree roots ran across the floor. I had to make sure my toes were not caught under roots and branches. I was glad I had good and proper hiking boots for this excursion I definitely needed them and I am glad I did not scrimp on buying them. I had to use rocks, branches and tree trunks to help me get down and keep myself from moving down too fast because the terrain underfoot might have turned my ankle or worse.

We returned at about 3:50pm after summiting to our vehicle.It took us another hour to get into town through traffic and park the car. We debriefed the day over a beverage and burger and planned for tomorrow’s excursion. It was an amazing day and a good test for inclusion into the program. I learned a lot and look forward to the next few days to see what I can learn from those experiences too.