Petit Piton St Lucia: Hiking the Infamous Peak.

I sleepily open one eye and reach for my phone on the bedside table. 5:47 am. My body clock is five hours ahead of the local time in St Lucia. I can hear Kyra lightly snoring beside me, so I step out of bed slowly, trying not to wake her up. I walk downstairs and make myself a cup of coffee and wander out into the balcony to watch as the sun rises lazily, pouring colour and life into the landscape in front of me.

As dawn breaks, the town of Soufriere slowly comes to life with birdsong and wind whistling through the trees. Grey clouds linger ominously over the thickly forested mountains, and there is a distinctive smell in the air that tells me it rained heavily through the night. I watch the sky with particular attentiveness this morning. I’ll be climbing Petit Piton in a few hours, and although it’s not the taller of the two infamous peaks of St Lucia, it’s the one that requires serious climbing experience, which I don’t have. Drops of rain fall lightly onto the balcony floor in front of me. Climbing today seems hardly possible.

Before I know it, I’m sitting at the back of a jeep, Kyra to my right, on the way to maybe the most reckless decision we have made throughout our long friendship, and there’s been a few. At least the rain has stopped. Our leading guide introduces himself as ‘Walking Tree’, a name given to him because he often makes the climb twice a day and ‘wherever the trees go, I go’ he says proudly. He stresses the importance of following his instructions and reassures us that we’ll be fine.

The climb starts right away. A few meters in, and you’re already deep into the rainforest, zigzagging up through the trees, a deep verdant green covering everything in sight. It doesn’t take long before my chest is moving up and down forcibly in attempts to grasp some; fuck.

A quarter of the way up, there is a gap between the trees. I’ve been so focused on the climb and not falling to my death that I hadn’t realised how high up we had gotten; it’s an immaculate view, enough to motivate you to keep going.

Halfway up. The rain starts. The mountain is formed of boulders held together by tree roots, which I grasp on to in an attempt to help pull my body weight up. It’s a continuous hard rocky climb. I’m drenched in sweat, and the bottom half of my body is covered in mud; I’ve slipped a few times.

The second half of the climb is a complete scramble. There are points where I’m literally on my hands and knees trying to navigate myself up the steep slope. I try not to look down. If I miss my footing on the damp rocks that surround me, it’s a long, long way to the ground. I now understand why the Gros Piton hike is much more heavily promoted. Walking Tree looks down at us, smirking, ‘another minute and we’re there,’ he says with a tone of surprise; he didn’t think we would make it.

The view at the top is everything you could hope for. The ocean stretches out infinitely, coloured houses cluster into small villages, and the close-up view of the Gros Piton is breathtaking. Out of nowhere, the heavy rainfall starts. We laugh. I look out, heavy rain slamming down on my body and pure adrenaline rushing through me. I haven’t felt this alive in a while.

Stay curious

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