3 days to La Transtica Extreme – Costa Rica trail. (6 days to stage 1)
2 days back, as per my previous update, I followed my decision to finish with higher altitudes faster, and head for hotter climate.
I took the morning “jeep-boat-jeep” (with no jeeps involved) transfer to La Fortuna – with some great views along the way, including the best Arenal Volcano views I would get – landed at my hotel, dropped my bags without checking in, and before 12:00, I was on the road heading for the mountain.
So far so good, and along with the plan. Also aligned with the plan was the rain that started as soon as I stepped out of the hotel. It was a rare beautiful morning as we were headed to La Fortuna, but as per weather forecasts, it was to start raining around noon, and continue with thunderstorms throughout the rest of the day. As a french couple I met on the mountain asked me the following day – “did you see any [full] days with sunny weather since you arrived in Costa Rica?”…
I should mention here the condition of my running bag. It reached new lows the previous day in Monteverde, as the projectile-like build of Costa-Rican water pet bottles, cut big holes through the mesh of my bag’s side pockets, and dropped one by one as I was running.
The bag has been on its way to the dumpster for a while now – during my last run in the French Alps, the hydration-pack went total-lost, and all my training since was relying on 3-5 liters worth of pet bottles I was shoving into the bag, usually 2-3 bottles stretching each side pocket’s abilities to the max. This bag has been stretched too much for too many hours over too many km, and most of its parts are by now torn or with holes. The rest of it is just on the verge of getting torn apart.
Still, in my very limited shopping time before Costa Rica, I did not find a bag I thought was what I’m looking for next, and so I figured I would stick to this one until the end of La Transtica. Fingers crossed.
It’s now as close as it gets to a total loss, but I’m still hanging on (no option B).
Back to the volcano, before long the rain stopped and the sun came out. I thought this was just a temporary glitch, to be fixed in a minute, but the sun lingered on. A bit surprised by the unexpected heat and humidity – nothing like Monteverde, I checked out my Altimeter – I was at just above 200m of elevation.Nothing like Monteverde.
Before long punchy sweat was all over my eyes, I could barely keep them open to see what was ahead. As I did not have a hat with me, I stopped on the side, and turned my upper fresh shirt into a bandana.
The climb was tough. Much tougher than I was supposed to feel over a 1,000m climb, given that I am to climb 3,000m a day for the first 2 stages of the race.
As I was alternating 5 minutes of very slow climbing with 5 minutes of resting, it felt like all the confidence I built over 730km in October, just got reversed over less than 8 km here. Welcome to Costa Rica!
By the time I reached the peak, it was almost 15:00, and though I was carrying with me a headlamp, I really didn’t think I wanted to tackle the super muddy and technical decent in the dark. There was a Lagoon not too far, but the trail leading there seemed to go down somewhat, and as I had no specific information, I decided eventually to give up, and head back down.
It was a great fun hike (minus my complete exhaustion), great forest all around. Unfortunately, I saw absolutely zero of the volcano on the other side. I thought there might be a rewarding view at the top, and indeed there was something like a viewing spot there, but alas the weather was changing again during my climbing, and by the time I was up there, the “view” was a full-on white mist, and it started raining.
With the rain, the muddy trail turned at parts into a little stream, and as I was chasing the water flowing downhill, I couldn’t always see the ground I was jumping onto under the water cover.
When I arrived back to the hotel – about 5 hours and 20km after I left it – I felt my muscles heading for some serious cramping. There was only one thing to do – change of plans.
Pictures from the 2 days’ hiking
As opposed to Monteverde, and my expectations, I was getting my acclimatization exercise here, and I still had the other side of the mountain to explore and the 1,100m elevation Lagoon to checkout. Also, moving somewhere else will take another day, and will be getting frighteningly close to the race for any meaningful effort.
So I booked another hotel (the same one was fully booked), and the following morning after a huge breakfast, I repeated the exercise of bag-dropping at my new hotel and dashing out to catch the 8AM bus going west.
The bus drops you along the main road, from which it is about 2 km of dirt road to the “Parque Nacional” – 8km worth of trails under the volcano for 15$ (which I did, but due to the weather, zero visibility of the mountain), and then about 6km more to where a resort with a bunch of hiking trails start.
This time, the weather was friendlier to me – which means it was either full-on clouds or full-on cooling rain.
I took this day easy from the get-go, mainly just walking, acclimatizing (?) and enjoying the weather.
After some playing around with very well-built and maintained leisurely-eco-resort-walking type pf trails inside a great forest, I got to the climb to Cerro Chato from the other side. This one only had about 450m to get to the top again, but the technicality is pretty similar.
I got there a bit earlier this time, so I went down to the Lagoon – which turned out to be the steepest decent/ climb. The Lagoon doesn’t have any views to the volcano, but with the constant mist drifting in and out, it comes with a lot of atmosphere.
Heading back up from the Lagoon, string rains started again as I was heading down towards La Fortuna with the trail of the previous day.
That should get me somewhat acclimatized, and to complete – I am heading now to one of the beaches on the Pacific ocean (I will ne there already when I publish this with some pictures added – where I am to stay, acclimatize and rest for the next 3 days.