The next few weeks will feature blog posts written by our students who spent their Spring Break doing research on the islands of Curacao and St. Lucia.
This post written by Alice Bridgeman, a junior geology major.
April 19th - Gros Piton Hike
Today we conquered something incredible - St. Lucia’s Gros Piton. It’s hard to believe, really. From just about any point on the west side of the island you can see this ancient volcanic dome looming in the distance beside it’s geologic sister, Petite Piton. Both stand more than 2,400 feet above the sea level and are popular attractions for adventurers at heart.
The hike up the piton takes about 4 hours and then 2 hours down if you are a decent hiker and take reasonable breaks. You’ll definitely need to take some, considering how steep the elevation is. You’ll be using every muscle in your legs as you weave around corners and pull yourself up “impossibly steep” hillsides of boulders. Although Gros is shorter and more rounded than Petite Piton, it manages to be very difficult because of its nature. I’m talking about the steep stretches of boulders that you must climb with the full extension of your legs. When you finish one of these stretches, you’ll definitely feel heat in your muscles and need a big swig of water. I packed 2 bottles for myself and one of the professors on my trip brought a 2 liter water pouch for refills-I drank about 3 bottles worth by the end of the hike. My advice? Pack a LOT of water! You’d much rather have too much than not enough on this bear of a hike.
I collected samples from the bottom, middle, and top of this dacitic dome. The hike was incredible, and I filmed most of it on the Go Pro camera. I didn’t realize going in that the Go Pro’s battery life would not last nearly long enough to capture the entire hike. I started out strong, but when I saw my battery dwindling to the teens, I filmed much less. It would have been great to compile the
entire hike and speed it up as a YouTube video so that viewers could “Hike Gros Piton with me”.
It was an incredibly enlightening experience and tested my body more than I thought possible. It was so very worth it. As usual, life decided to surprise me on the way down this mountain. Just as we started making the climb back down, my knees started to shake and sting. As this was something that had happened to me on shorter, very steep hikes, I decided in my mind that I would push through. That goal became more and more lofty as the hike went on. The pain progressively got worse, and even though I was taking deep breaths and putting most of my weight on two hiking sticks, I was barely able to climb down some of the boulders that were over 2 ft drops. This hike really is no joke, which is why Trip Advisor and other travel websites do not recommend it for the average visitor. My injury ended up extending our hike time by two hours, as I had to move very slowly to decrease the pain in my knees. Near the bottom third of the climb, my mentor and geology professor decided to run with Plan B - it was simply taking too long and we were afraid of being stuck on the piton after sunset. In short, they piggybacked me down this grueling mountain. We made it though, because this gem of a photo was taken:
After a nice 3-hour nap on the couch in our guesthouse, I woke up to a delicious home-cooked meal made by Mary Kate. It featured some local favorites: Dasheen, sweet potato, chicken, and plantains. We cooked (and dipped!) everything in “Green Seasoning” - just something that we picked up off of the shelf in the grocery store to cook with.
Today was absolutely incredible. I know without a doubt that I will never forget this hike (and I’m sure that no one else will either!). For Day 2 in St. Lucia, it was a full day. Tomorrow we are planning to drive the perimeter of the island since everyone will be sore and need a bit of a break. I can’t wait to scout for more road outcrops and collect samples.