Jamaica Hiking
Climbing Blue Mountain Peak - Part 2

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Blue Mountain Peak Hike
Whitfield Hall

The overnight stop before starting up Blue Mountain Peak is at Whitfield Hall. This rustic building, made mostly of cedar, sleeps between 30 to 40 people in bunk and double beds; it also has a full bathroom, including a shower. A huge fireplace cuts the chill in the large communal dining area.

Kitchen facilities are available, but you must bring your own food. If you're hiking up Blue Mountain on your own, make advance reservations to ensure a place to sleep (876/927-0986). Or www.whitfieldhall.com

Sometimes the caretaker will check the sky around 10 p.m. to predict whether the peak will be cloudy or clear the next morning. The forecast is usually accurate.

After dinner is a good time to read comments in the guest book penned by previous hikers. Using a kerosene lamp (the only illumination available) you will find such thoughtful comments as "Never Again!"

My favorite by Rosalie Alexander of Kingston : "I was an ass to return after all these years, to endure the torture and pain, and the rain, the miserable ass-holes that came along. Next time I'll stay at Whitfield Hall."

Based on these comments, visitors seem to enjoy the hike more than Jamaicans do.

Most people don't hike up strange mountains in the dark, but you should start the second leg of the climb at 2 a.m. if you want to reach the summit in time to greet the sunrise.

Let the Climb Begin!

Before setting out, eat something and gulp some strong Blue Mountain coffee; the energy will be quickly needed. Good flashlights are essential because there are some sharp drop-offs and you don't want to put your foot in the wrong place.

Even Jamaicans have gotten lost in the dark, not finding their way back for several days. In daylight, the track to the peak from Whitfield Hall is clearly defined, and it's also pretty obvious during a full moon.

During the nighttime ascent, you'll have a wonderful, unpolluted view of the stars and the coastal town of Kingston, which looks as brightly lit as Los Angeles.

The first hour is the toughest, encountering a stretch called Jacob's Ladder, which you blunder into almost immediately while you're still partially asleep.

After about 10 minutes you may begin to wonder whatever possessed you to go stumbling around in the wilderness at an hour so ungodly that even the marijuana growers are still asleep.

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