Climbing Gros Piton in St. Lucia

Climbing Gros Piton in St. Lucia

A guided trek up Gros Piton is a physically challenging and spiritually rewarding experience By: Mark Rogers
<p>Only basic hiking gear is needed when exploring Gros Piton, the taller of the two mountains. // © 2014 Saint Lucia Tourism Board</p><p>Feature...

Only basic hiking gear is needed when exploring Gros Piton, the taller of the two mountains. // © 2014 Saint Lucia Tourism Board

Feature image (above): St. Lucia’s volcanic twin peaks were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. // © 2014 Thinkstock

The Details

Saint Lucia Tourism Board

The twin peaks of the Pitons are the signature images associated with St. Lucia. Who can say how many people have been inspired to travel to the island after seeing the peaks’ arresting beauty in a photo or video clip? In 2004, the volcanic mountains were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Gros Piton, the higher of the two peaks, soars 2,619 feet above sea level. Petit Piton, 2,461 feet high, is the steeper of the two. While many travelers will be content to gaze at the Pitons from a distance, there will be others who wish for an up-close and personal experience. Only Gros Piton is legal for visitors to climb as it is considered the less dangerous of the two.

The mountains are located on the southwest side of St. Lucia. For the ultimate Piton experience, suggest your clients book accommodations in the Soufriere district. They’ll have a choice of ultra-luxurious digs such as Anse Chastanet Resort or the Ladera resort, both of which offer breathtaking views of the Pitons. There are also less expensive small hotels and guesthouses in the region, as well as in the seaside town of Soufriere.

It isn’t necessary for your clients to arrange accommodations near the Pitons. They can also opt for organized tours that depart from a variety of points throughout the island. These tours typically include roundtrip bus transportation, all entrance fees, a guide and refreshments on the bus.

History of the Pitons
Mountains throughout the Caribbean often served as sanctuaries for runaway slaves, and this is the case with the Pitons of St. Lucia. In the 18th century, runaway slaves were drawn to the Pitons, knowing they would be relatively safe from being captured and hauled back to the plantations.  

The village of Fond Gens Libre, which is situated at the base of Gros Piton, is the central point where independent climbers can hire a guide for the journey. The town also played a part in the St. Lucia slave rebellion of 1748. Many of the mountain guides are descended from the original runaway slaves who took refuge in the Pitons. Note that it is a legal requirement for climbers to be accompanied by a guide.

Your clients won’t need fancy mountain climbing gear for the ascent, but a few basic pieces of equipment are in order. Advise your clients to leave the flip-flops back in the hotel room and instead, lace up some hiking boots or sturdy athletic shoes. A walking stick can be a real plus when the going gets muddy, when crossing a stream, or when needing a bit of an assist to stay balanced. Other items to pack include sunblock and water. 

Fitness Required
This is a one-day experience that demands modest fitness ability at the very least. The steep hike to the summit can take anywhere between three to six hours, with some of it along a crude stairway of volcanic stones. To enjoy the time at the summit, it’s advised to get an early start. There will be other times when the going will be so steep, climbers may find themselves grabbing onto saplings to pull themselves up.  

The plus side is the marvelous sea views at points along the ascent, including glimpses of the island of Martinique. At the top, it will also be possible to view the island of St. Vincent, 20 miles to the south of St. Lucia.

If travelers have their hearts set on a Gros Piton climb, they shouldn’t schedule their trip to St. Lucia during hurricane season, which typically runs June through November. September and October are the peak months for hurricane activity.