While staying at Fond Doux Eco Resort in St. Lucia, I wanted to do one adventurous hike. The easy choice was hiking Gros Piton. It is only a 15 minute drive from the resort. Petit Piton is steeper and requires climbing up ropes. I wanted to do a hike, so Gros Piton was the choice. Fond Doux Eco Resort set up the hike with a guide and provided transport to the trailhead.
Early morning depart hiking Gros Piton
Hiking is always easier in the morning, and this is especially true in the Caribbean. I had the taxi pick me up at 7 a.m. I was provided with a picnic basket lunch, and I brought plenty of water. Even though it was rainy season, the ground was mostly dry. While I was in St. Lucia, it only rained a few minutes at a time and never in a downpour; therefore, it was not necessary to wear waterproof hiking shoes. Brighton picked me up, and we drove down to the entrance of the trail. My guide was named Kaiser. He was from St. Lucia. I had to sign in at the park. The resort paid the guide and the entrance fees, so I had no additional payments to make, so we immediately started hiking.
Related: Staying at Fond Doux Eco Resort
Hiking volcanoes is a tough slog
When I was in Nicaragua several years ago, I hiked up Concepción Volcano on Ometepe Island. It was one of the hardest days hiking I have ever experienced. It took 5.5 hours up and 4.5 hours down. The last three hours were above the tree line and straight up in the blistering sun. Going down was just as difficult. You had to control yourself and not go too fast going down. Going down is also tough on your knees.
Gros Piton was not as daunting as Concepción. I was told the hike takes five total hours, so I figured it would be half as hard as Concepcion. Even though it was much shorter, I knew it was still going to be five hours of vigorous exercise in a hot and humid climate, so I did not take it lightly. Kaiser informed me that the whole trail up was covered by trees, so this was a relief to know that despite how hot it was, I would be protected from the sun at most points.
Hiking Gros Piton is split into four quarters
The hike is split into four quarters. At the end of each quarter is a break point with a bench to sit at for a rest. I felt this made the hike easier having the four distinct sections as each time you hit one of the stops it gave you a mental boost knowing you had just hiked one-fourth of the trail. Each quarter is not exactly the same. If my memory serves me correct, the second and third quarters were a little longer.
Hiking Gros Piton – first quarter
The first quarter started in a little rural village called Fonds Gens Libre, which translates to valley of the free. This community dates back to the 1700s and is the home of descendants of the brigand runaway slaves. One also learns and sees a little history on this hike.
The trail here was solid cement, but this did not last long. Once the trail depart the village, the trail was dirt, and the elevation of the trail dramatically rises. The rise in elevation during the first quarter was gradual but steady. Kaiser told me a little of the history of the island. Escaped slaves used to hide on the Pitons and had an elaborate scheme to warn each other when British authorities came looking for them. He also showed me a rocky cave where fugitive slaves would hide and also ambush British soldiers. The first quarter ended on a wooden platform with benches that overlooked the Caribbean Sea.
Hiking Gros Piton – second and third quarter
As one progressed up Gros Piton, the elevation became steeper and more difficult to hike. The second quarter went through a series of rock fields. I did not find these sections too difficult as there always seemed to be a flat rock to step on. Once past the rock fields, the trail started to become more steep. The trail was excellently maintained with steps and hand rails. The steeper the trail got, the more useful and necessary the handrails became. The handrails were made from trees, but they were well constructed and sturdy.
As the elevation became steeper, the steps became farther apart. This was a little problematic for me as I have short legs, so I really depended on those hand rails to pull me up the taller steps. There was only one handrail where the nail was not attached and loose. Kaiser warned me of it before I could grab it.
Slow going up the fourth quarter
By the time we hit the fourth quarter, I was drenched in sweat. My glass were dotted with beads of sweat that I could not wipe off. At first, I would periodically clean and dry my glasses with my shirt, but eventually it became too wet for this function. I would recommend wearing contacts or bringing a clean towel to wipe your glasses.
We made very slow progress up the fourth quarter as I took frequent breaks to catch my breath, but I only paused a few minutes and was back to climbing steps. Soon the end of the fourth quarter came into view. There is just one small last incline to the very top. At the top there is a clearing, which provides a beautiful view of the Caribbean and the rest of the island. We took pictures, had lunch, and headed back down.
Fourth and third quarter going down was tough
What comes up must come down. It was easier and faster going down, but third and fourth quarters were a little awkward. Those long steps had to be taken cautiously as I did not want to get out of control, nor did I want to crash down too hard as this was tough on the knees. We only ran into one group on the way up, one group at the top, and a couple groups going up as we were coming down. We encouraged the groups going up on the way down as you could tell they were fatigued.
End of the trip ice cream
At the bottom of the climb in the village, there is a small shop that sells ice cream. What a great location for a business. I cannot imagine anyone passing up ice cream and gatorade after such a vigorous hike. I said goodbye to Kaiser and found my ride back to the resort and enjoyed the pool for a couple hours before the next adventure.