Nov 25

Pico Duarte

by in Dominican Republic

It was Saturday afternoon when we arrived in La Cienega, a small pueblo an hours drive outside of Jarabacoa. The plan, was to get aquanted with the area, and come back around 4am to climb Pico Duarte and return back to La Cienega all in the same day. Right away we ran into a problem. They, the guards with big guns, will not allow you to begin your hike in the dark. So our only alternative is to start this afternoon by 4pm, and hike 4km to the first camp which is called Los Tablones.

The other issue was finding a guide. Luckly, we had a contact. “Mon”. Mon is the head of the guides. So we asked around and finally found Mon. Mon recommended us a guy named “Ziro”. We needed a guide who could do this hike in one day, and Ziro was our man. The price was 600 pesos per day with a 3 day minimum. So even if you hike the mountain in 1 day, it will cost you 1800 pesos for your guide! Ouch! We were not expecting that. But what were we supposed to do? 1800 pesos for the guide, and another 150 pesos per person for entrance into the park.

It was now almost 4pm so we needed to start hiking and get to Las Tablones before night fall. Lucky for us, Mon was able to round up a couple of sleeping bags for us to sleep in for Los Tablones. Ziro, was going to show up at 3am and we would start our main ascent then.

The hike to Las Tablones is an easy one. Literally 4km and 45 minutes later we were there. We may have ascended a 100-200 feet, but the hike itself was easy. We met a couple other people from New York as Las Tablones that were going up the next day also. After not much of a dinner, we went to sleep early. We had a long day a head of us, and had to wake up early.

Since we slept on concrete, we did not get much sleep and 3am came by to fast! Ziro was waking us up, and we were on our way. We literally went from a dead sleep to hiking within 10 minutes. No time for breakfast or any food. We just started the hike. About 1km into our walk, there was a stream which we were told was the last water till we made it to Aquitas Fritas about 12km away. We drank some water, then filed up as much as we could carry. For me, that was 24 ounces.

For the next 6 hours and 50 minutes we assended to 8900 feet on a trail that was barely fit for a goat. With 20-30% inclines on sand, mud, and loose rocks, coupled with hiking in the dark, and no food, it was almost a certain recipe for disaster. Despite a small bout of leg cramps, minimal dehydration, and fighting low blood sugar, we made it.

Along the way we stopped at Aguita Fria to replentish our water supply. Aguita Fria is little more than a trickle of a spring. The water is full of alge, and your kitchen faucet produces more water. But hey, water is water. And this water was like gold once you get there.

From Aguita Fria to La Compartición is another 4km. After the gruling ascend between Las Tablones and Aquita Fria, this was almost easy. I say almost because the trail is downhill, but full of switchbacks and very loose rocks. Footing is very shakey, especially since you are tired from the previous ascent.

Once at La Compartición we rested about 1/2 hour before our final assent to Pico Duarte. There was no water at La Compartición when we were there. Lucky, there is a small spring not to far away. But it is a little hike to get there. And of course, it’s downhill. So you have to hike back up, after you get your water.

From La Compartición to Pico Duarte is 4km and almost 2000 vertical feet! After about 2km into the hike, I developed servere tendonitis in my left knee. I could no longer walk. So our guide Ziro, and my friend Thomas, continued without me. I rested for a good half hour and my knee was still in a lot of pain. I tried to walk, but couldn’t. So with a couple of sticks and shoestrings, I splinted my knee and headed back towards La Compartición.

Thomas and Ziro made the ascent and arrived back at La Compartición at 2pm. They would no longer allow us to continue back to La Cienega today. So we had to spend the night. Of course, this would be fun. We had no sleeping bag, and had not prepared enough food to spend the night on top of the mountain. Lucky for us, the other couple from New York was spending the night at La Compartición and were going to make the ascent the next day. They had extra food and we had the best rice and corn beef hash ever!

That night, we again lucked out. The couple from New York paid good money for this “all inclusive” trip and were able to sleep inside by a fireplace. We joined them. I slept on the wooden floor, while Thomas “rented” a mattress for 200 pesos. I think the mattrass was more psychological than anything. Because it was about an inch and a half thick, and I doubt kept him any warmer than me. It got down to about 3C that night and the fire kept us alive. We would sleep for 15 minutes or a half and hour, then wake up cold. Get more wood, stoke the fire, and fall asleep again for another 15-30 minutes.

Finally 4am arrived and we were on our way back down the mountain. For me, the trip downt the mountain was probably worse than the trip up. This was because I had two walking sticks for balance and my knee was still in a splint. It was not fun, but we made it. About 30 hours after we left, we arrived back in La Cienega were we started the day before.

Hiking Pico Duarte is not fun. It’s painful and you should ride a mule if you decide to do it. But, I now own the distiction of saying I hiked the highest mountain in the Caribbean. Even if I did fall short 2km from the top.


As a side note:
There was some excitement in La Cienega while we were gone. In small pueblo’s like this, domestic violence is all to common. Some guy decided he wanted to kill his wife for whatever reason. So he stabs her. She falls to the ground and lies there bleeding. He must have been drunk or something. Because feeling a sense of accomplishment of killing his wife, he sits down at the table and decides to have a drink. Unfortunately, the cup he picked up was full of brake fluid. In the end, he died from drinking the break fluid and his wife lived.


4 Responses to “Pico Duarte”

  1. From Josue Collado:

    Hi! I don’t know what to think of your “negative” adventure to Pico Duarte. I’ve been there 3 times. The first time was in the summer of 1978 (I was 23 with stamina!). Three of us got lost trying to reach San Juan De La Maguana on the other side of La Pelona (see trail to Sabaneta) after we came down from Pico Duarte. Our mistake? we contracted a guide and paid him to take us to the trail to San Juan only. We had food but ran out of water the same day. We decided to follow Yaque del Sur River hoping to find people. After 2 nights lost we found water at about 3am and we decided the next morning to turn back. We were very lucky to find the trail. For my second trip many years later I made the mistake to invite my sister and her kids and my cousin and his overweight wife ( the guide said she could ride the mule!) and on top of that the guide didn’t cover our clothing during a persistent rain and we didn’t have rain gear. We slept wet and cold and the next day nobody wanted to go to the top of Pico Duarte. For my last trip in November of 2012 I went alone with two guides and a mule. This time I took the longest trail to Pico Duarte from Mata Grande in San Jose De Las Matas. It was amazing. Bao valley, La Pelona, Pico Duarte, Alto de la Rosa and on the 6th day we reached San Juan De La Maguana! My next trip will be this December from Las Lagunas, *Padre Las Casas, Azua) to Los Tablones, Manabao, La Cienega). We hope to do it in 5 days. This is not a popular trail but I’m sure we’re going to have fun and the photos will tell the story. These days I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail in Maine to get in shape and I’ll be ready for December. If you want to see my photo galleries the link is click on the Cordillera Central Gallery and the other galleries (first section of the AT is interesting! and I’ll publish the other two sections this week-end). Thank you for sharing your story that made me remember my “adventure” 🙂

    Posted on 08. Oct, 2013 at 12:20 am #
  2. From ken:

    Josue, hiking Pico Duarte, up and back in one day is not fun. There is no way anyone would enjoy it. Overall, I’m glad I did it. Sounds to me like you had some pretty trying and memorable experiences yourself. I like the story of your overweight cousin. LOL Some people should definitely not hike Pico Duarte. And I guess you should be in reasonable shape before you do it.

    Posted on 08. Oct, 2013 at 9:52 am #
  3. From Lila:

    Hi Ken,
    Sounds like an interesting adventure. Thanks for sharing. I live in Haiti and am planning on heading over to do this hike. Would you be able to tell me if it is 600 pesos per person per day. Or 600 for a group? Also, it sounds like you were able to show up and hire a guide to take you out the next day? I would also like to do the same thing. Do you think it will be easy to find one? We speak Spanish and have all of our own gear, so it seems pointless to contract with a tour group. That being said, we have a limited amount of time.


    Posted on 01. Nov, 2015 at 2:02 pm #
  4. From admin:

    Just keep in mind that I wrote this article almost 7 years ago. But at that time, it was 600 pesos total. I doubt the price has doubled since since then. It wasn’t too hard to show up, find a guide, and leave the next day for Pico Duarte. Speaking Spanish of course helps a lot. I agree with you that contracting with a tour group would be pointless as well as expensive. When I went, I meet people who paid 20 times more that I did just because the went with a tour group. In addition to the 600 pesos, you will have to purchase food. There are colmados that will sell you rice, beans, pollo, whatever you need at good prices. Good luck on your adventure!!!

    Posted on 05. Nov, 2015 at 9:43 am #

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