The Volcán Barú is the tallest mountain/volcano in Panama peaking at 11,400 feet. Our town, Boquete is on the eastern side of it. It is possible to climb to the top and, on a clear day or at sunrise before the clouds move in, both the Pacific and the Caribbean coasts can be seen from the zenith. When our friends Gordon & Richelle said they were making the hike, I decided to join them (sans Rand since the only thing that would have motivated him to do the long, uphill climb would be a trout stream waiting for him at the top with tons of fish and that wasn't the case, alas).
We-there were 5 of us total-started walking at 1:15am with our headlamps on to guide us through the quiet dark. We thought it would take us 5 hours to get to the top. We'd arrive right around sunrise. Well....it ended up taking us 8 hours to reach our goal. The climb was very steep and very long. I'd even use the word grueling.
Upon reaching the summit we saw the Pacific coast for about 5 minutes. Then it was gone, claimed by the clouds as the Caribbean coast was even before we arrived at the top. We did some picture taking, some resting and some concurring about how sore we already were. As a group, we lamented about now having to go DOWN. The rains started to fall as we began our descent and accompanied us all the way back. The steep path going up was the same one we had to negotiate down and the rain made it extra slick. I was thankful for the coffee tree walking stick Rand made for me for the trip (he even sanded the handle) as it saved me from a twisted ankle several times.
We walked a total of 17 miles and it took us 13 hours. During the adventure, I swore I would NEVER do it again. It was TOUGH. Definitely the most physically demanding thing I've ever done. As time passes though, I think I'm in for another go 'round. How quickly the pain is forgotten!