St. Kitts
Mt. Liamuiga Hike

Go challenge old Mt. Misery itself.

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 Time: 5 hours to the rim and back. Length: about 1-3/4 miles each way. Difficulty: 3-4. Trailhead: Hikes usually begin at the 1,500-foot level at the point where the road ends in Belmont Estates.

This is St. Kitts' toughest hike, requiring a minimum of a half-day to reach the crater lip at 2,700 feet, as high as you can hike on the trail since Hurricane Hugo.

The volcano is almost inactive, although rumbles on occasion and belches sulfur. Once easily spoken of as Mt. Misery, Mt. Liamuiga's new name is the Carib term for "fertile isle." It's pronounced "Lee-A-mwee-ga," most easily said if one has been drinking Carib beer.   

Because of its circular route, the volcano hike takes you half-way around the island. In the rain forest here you'll see trees that tower 100 feet high, mostly virgin growth without any introduced species, such as bamboo.

You'll find gummier and mastic trees, pigeon berry and many varieties of ferns (over 120 species).

The hike is a steady 2.5 hours of moderate climbing. The first half of the hike, along a ridge, is gentle. On the second leg, which is much steeper, you have to make several ascents. Yet, at its worst, the grade is little more than a 45-degree angle. You'll find plenty of roots to grab and pull yourself up with.

At about 2,500 feet, you enter the cloud forest and encounter vegetation that spends most of its life covered in white mist: mostly dwarf trees coated with orchids and mosses. A land of perpetual moisture, the trail here can be very slippery.

However, it's over 1,000 feet higher to the summit, though you stop at the crater lip at 2,700-feet. At the peak of 3,792 feet, the growth is tropical alpine meadow.

At one time it was possible to descend to the crater floor but Hurricane Hugo destroyed most of the trees that were essential handholds to keep from falling down the steep slope.

Hugo's winds, with gusts clocked at over 200 mph, swirled into the crater and eliminated the trees on one side--the side the ascent trail happens to be on, which makes it relatively unsafe for climbing.

Trees inside the crater on the opposite wall are still in prime condition, but no trail yet exists to climb that side.

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