Trip to Volcan Baru (a very cold and very wet trip). I´ll share the drier photos here, but 90% of our trip was spent soaked through and colder than I´d like to remember.
We began on Dec. 24th, getting a taxi ride up from Boquete to the entrance of the National Park. The day was misty and cool, but the three of us thought we had a good chance of a clear day: just give it time, right?
By lunchtime, we had a fairly hazy view of the valley below us. Clouds were still moving above and appearing to come down from the north, we continued on. The hike is roughly a 6 hour trip up a 13km path climbing to 11,397 ft (3474 km). It´s a fairly direct route, and in good time, we reached the summit just before sunset.
Unfortunately, by sunset the mist had already become a hard rain: a horizontally blowing rain that stung like hail. It was going to be a very cold night... We had been hoping to share cabin space with the ANAM people who maintained the posts at the summit, but apparently the Christmas holiday was well-respected, even at the volcano summit. We were knocking on all of the doors of those little white buildings you can see in the picture below (after the rainy trail view).
On Christmas morning we woke up and unrolled ourselves from the picnic table, the tarps, each other, and the sleeping bags - I was suddenly happy to be alive: my companions didn´t decide to mutiny and kill me for my sleeping bag! Sincere thanks to Rebecca and Richard.
When we walked with squelching strides back down the volcano, we had a good turn of luck and caught a minibus to take us back to Boquete. I admit that the return trip was a bit miserable, but I think the most miserable of us all was little Dante, Rebecca´s dog. He was barely a year old and he was already suffering the extremes that life in Panama could offer him!
The next day, when we woke up in the warm confines of our hostel, we were greeted by a glorious view of the volcano. Hardly a cloud in the sky, we could see the treeline we had crossed, the domes we had slid down in the dark, and the white ANAM stations that denied us entry. The view reinforced my desire to return, I´ll get back up there and be able to point to the two oceans... one day.
So, when can we go again?
Suggestions for the next trip? Yes, wait until the dry season has actually started. If we had planned to hike just a week or two later, our odds would have been better for a dry time. The trouble is, though, that we ¨should have¨ just waited to hike on the 26th instead of the 24th and then, also, our rain problem would not have existed. So let that be a lesson! It´s still near-impossible to plan around the weather.