When we were looking at things to do in St Lucia, we discovered that you could climb the iconic ‘pitons’ – the Petit Piton was apparently difficult and only for the experienced climber (involving ropes etc) but the 2619ft high Gros Piton (from the reviews I’d read) seemed doable. Now I’d like to point out that up until recently, I rarely went to the gym. I did manage to lose over a stone in the couple of months leading up to our wedding a year ago, but after a house move (and the loss of the free gym in our old complex), a job in food PR and this blog, things had gone rather to pot. Still, ‘how hard could it be?!’ I said to myself…
We were picked up early at 6.45am to try and beat the heat, with a private transfer to the piton. Our hotel (Boucan by Hotel Chocolat, which I’ve written about here) provided us with water, sandwiches and fresh fruit. On arrival at the piton we were met by our guide called Charles who was quite a bit older and had apparently been part of building the track up the piton many many years ago! We were certainly getting one of the most experienced climbers and apparently he would sometimes do the trek up the piton up to three times a day!
The walk started through a quaint residential area at the base of the piton where there were lots of dogs (and some adorable puppies I could quite easily have smuggled home). Everything was breezy. Then we walked through what felt like a sculptured Japanese garden – it was very picturesque and well maintained. Even more breezy…
Then we started to climb over some rocks and up some man made stairs. No big deal. But just a little further on, I was to get a glimpse into what was in store, having to climb up and over rocks that were almost taller than me.
What was nice about the ascent was that it was divided into ‘quarters’, with a wooden bench at each quarter. I needed this for my own sanity to know how far we’d gone – apparently quite a lot of people get half way and then decide that’s enough. But I’m stubborn and there was no way I was going to say that I’d climbed half the Gros Piton at St Lucia – it had to be the whole thing, even if it killed me!
We stopped at each quarter for water and fruit and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t bloody hard work. Being fairly short (well, shorter than Tim at least), there were some steps that he could more easily step up where I would have to climb (note that he took all of these photos on his phone – I needed both hands free!). It also started to rain at one point, which blurred my vision and made things a bit slippier.
Charles was actually a dream – he just held back behind us, clearing the paths of leaves and branches for anyone following us and for the way back down. He was there if we needed him but there was no pressure. If we’d had some Mr Motivator-esque guide, I think I might have pushed him off the edge. Or jumped!
We eventually reached the summit – I was hoping there would be some flat ground on the top to relax for a few minutes but instead it was rather wobbly rocks and in fear of tumbling over the top, we took in the huge view fairly quickly before beginning the descent.
It took us about 2 hours to get to the top and I hadn’t really thought about getting back down (yes, I’m an idiot!) – the climb up was so incredibly steep that I suddenly got very nervous about how I would be able to climb back down. To make matters worse, it absolutely poured down with rain on the descent and everything became a lot more slippy than before. But we soon got into our stride and found methods of getting down rocks and branches. We were the first people to climb the piton that morning so it was easy to feel quite smug passing people who were still on their way up. But we obviously gave them moral support and told them the view would be worth it!
The descent almost took longer than the ascent simply because you had to be more careful. It was a lot easier physically than the ascent, but more strategic and I really didn’t want to injure myself. It was at this point that I suddenly realised our travel insurance was probably still in my maiden name rather than my married name and if I fell and broke my leg, would they insure me?! The things that go through your mind in situations like that!
We eventually made it down to the bottom, after about 4 hours and 15 minutes, and had a well deserved Piton Beer before being picked up and privately transferred back to the hotel (fortunately with towels, as we were very wet and muddy!)
All I’ll say is, if I can do it, anyone can do it (within reason!) I’m not completely unfit but I did it without any training or working out beforehand, so it’s definitely doable if you have the willpower. And if you enjoy activities like this and do them regularly, you’ll absolutely love it! It’s one to remember, that’s for sure!