St. Lucia Hiking
The Pitons Afoot!

Some things are better appreciated from afar. . .

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Time: 3-6 hours to the top of Gros Piton; about 2 to the top of Petit Piton although hiking is discouraged there. Length: 2,619 feet, straight up. Difficulty: 3-4 because the sides are sheer near the top.

Trailhead: You'll need a guide. Call the Soufriere Regional Development Council (758/459-5500). Cost: about US$40-US$50 per person.

Although the climb up Gros Piton definitely is a worthwhile effort, you'll probably appreciate the piton's beauty more from a distance than when you're actually walking on it. One approach is by boat from Soufriere; and it is impressive to see that mountain from the sea...a steep half-mile which is your route to the top.

A guide is recommended because it is possible to become disoriented. On the ascent, you first come to a Brigand camp, named for the slaves Robespierre freed in the new Republic created after the French Revolution.

The Brigands realized that when St. Lucia reverted back to English rule, their short-lived freedom would be ended. They banded together as "l'armee dans les bois" and instituted a reign of terror on the island.   

About halfway to the top you'll notice significant changes in the vegetation. All four vegetation types, from dry coastal forest to elfin woodland or cloud forest, exist on Gros Piton, making it a wonderful natural laboratory.

On top, you should be revived and exhilarated by the cool, damp atmosphere, where clouds condense into droplets of water.

The natural hardwood forest at the top of Gros Piton is home to several species of rare birds, possibly including the Semper's warbler. The warbler hasn't been seen since the 1970s, and may be extinct.

No one is supposed to climb Petit Piton because of the erosion following a fire. However, that doesn't necessarily stop the local guides from volunteering to take you up.

It's your decision, but remember several people have fallen off, due to the unstable soil conditions. In some places you have to scale sheer rock and entrust your safety to old ropes of dubious quality.

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