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After consulting the Oracle to find out the top things to do in St. Kitts, we settled on climbing Mount Liamuiga, formerly known as Mt. Misery. For the record, now after having climbed to the top and back, we think the old name is better.

The day began with a drive along the windward side of the island in Seamoss Man’s minivan. We learned from our research that the trailhead was somewhere near Bellmont Estates and that the road from the highway to that spot is best taken with a 4×4. Everton pressed on though and drove us a little way up the rough road before he made the wise decision to punt us out, saving his vehicle’s suspension. We agreed to meet him back at the main road 5.5 hours later, saving him that part of the drive. All we knew at this point was that we had to head towards the mountain. What we didn’t realize was that we were still several miles from the beginning of the trail!

We walked along the rough road/trail, past farmers’ fields and ultimately across huge areas that had been stripped clean by heavy machinery. Apparently they’re planning on doing a “bit” of construction around there. The first person we came across on our hike surprised us by riding out of the brush on a donkey. When we asked him for directions to the trailhead, he told us to walk towards the house up on the hill. OK, that sounds easy enough, right? Not really. The house in question looked to be quite a bit more than a mile away as the crow flies, and we can’t fly.

When we finally did reach the “house” we found that we were actually in the middle of a construction zone, the structure only being partially completed. We flagged down the first car that was driving by and for the second time in an hour, asked directions as to where the trailhead was. The driver was very helpful and gave us much more specific information (Ex. Walk up the road until you see two shipping containers side by side. There will also be a pile of lumber. Walk a little farther and the road will branch off to the left, etc. etc.). We followed his advice, continuing uphill for some distance. We got a little confused at one point but ultimately made it to the general area that he was referring to. After asking a third group of guys for directions, some surveyors working by the road, we finally found the elusive trailhead. Woo hoo! Now the fun was to start.

The well-worn trail lead through the lush forest, always upward. There were huge trees all around us with roots sticking out every which way. Although the walk to the crater was tiring, it was not at all technical (when compared to some of the other climbs we have done). Considering that we left pretty early in the morning, we were surprised to come across 3 people ahead of us on the trail, sitting down, having a break. They said that we looked in better shape than them and offered for us to go ahead. By that point I was pretty tired so I wasn’t so sure that their assumption was accurate, but we pressed on, up and up.

When I checked my watch as we reached the crater’s rim, I found that it took us 1.25 hours to get from the trailhead to where we sat. It had taken us a little over an hour even to make it to the trailhead though from where Everton had dropped us off. As such, it was time for a short break so we broke out the sandwiches that we had packed for the trip.

Apparently from the point where the trail meets the crater rim, you can circle left, right or descend down into the crater, the latter considered to be a fair bit more dangerous. Guess which one we opted to do? As we began working our way down, we found that there were ropes secured to trees to assist with the descent. We commented to each other as we started down that the trail was not as bad as we had expected. In fact it was not that much more difficult than a typical Saturday Hash in Grenada. Unfortunately, it was to get worse. There were actually a couple of pretty sketchy spots including one place where I found myself at a bit of a standstill (literally, on a ledge, standing very still, afraid to move further). The only way to move further down was to trust one of the “ropes” that had been set and I didn’t feel safe placing my life in the hands of an old piece of webbing that had been sitting in the elements for God knows how long. Here is where the Boy Scout’sBe Prepared” thing comes into play. We actually brought a line of our own and preceded to rig it to a large tree. Using that for security, Rebecca and I were able to move past this crux. There were a couple of other sketchy spots as we descended further but by taking our time and being extra careful, we made it down without further issues.

The bottom of the crater was very cool. As you can see in the pics below, the majority of the surface is covered by a lake. The clouds covered the top, preventing us from being able to see the sky, or the rim of the crater. We had underestimated just how far down we would be climbing. It took us an entire hour to make it down to the bottom, regrettably only leaving us with 15 minutes to chill out before we had to start back up (we had to make it back to the road by 3:00, our scheduled pickup time). Groan! By this point my legs were really tired and I was starting to get muscle cramps.

Fortunately, the ascent out of the crater was less difficult than the descent. We retrieved our rope as we made it past the particularly steep part, ultimately making our way to the rim. As we moved upward we could hear voices coming from the top, evidently coming from other hikers. At several points we heard what sounded like large rocks crashing through the trees, we surmise either coming from some monkeys who were pissed-off at our invading their territory or from stupid tourists throwing stones down into the pit (I’d bet on the latter)! Fortunately, none came too close to us.

Back at the top, we rested only long enough to enjoy a few sips of water before we began our climb back down towards the base of the mountain. It has been our experience that it always takes us less time to go down than it does to go up and we had taken this into consideration when we were planning our schedule. I’m not sure if it was because my legs were in such bad shape or what but it took us exactly the same amount of time to go down as it did to go up. This was to be a problem. It was 2:40 PM when we made it back to the trailhead and we then only had 20 minutes to make it back to the road, several miles away. And by then I was so looking forward to a nice leisurely cool-down walk. Alas, it was not to be.

Rebecca and I set off marching, as fast as our tired legs would allow us. Did we make it back on time? Hell no! We were about 30 minutes late. Everton had given us his cellphone number and I did try to call him but unfortunately, without a local Sim card in our phone, it wouldn’t work. When we finally did arrive, in true island fashion, our driver didn’t seem at all pissed off. He simply congratulated us on our completing the hike and ferried us back to town, this time taking a scenic drive on the leeward side of the island.

Additional comments:

  1. When we tried to arrange a taxi to take us to the mountain, the first driver we spoke to was adamant that we should have a guide. Everton only took a mild crack at telling us that we needed one as we negotiated with him. The three other people we asked for directions didn’t bat an eye about our doing the climb ourselves. It seems that the only people who think you need a guide are those who are going to profit from it. For the record, I have no problem with people wishing to have a guide to perhaps point out the flora and fauna around them but don’t let anyone try to scare you by telling you that you need a guide to get to the top. Once you locate the trailhead, you can’t get lost. There is only one well-worn trail, with no forks between the base and the crater rim. By all means, support the local businesses but don’t let anyone manipulate you into spending your money unnecessarily.
  2. We had read that going down to the bottom of the crater is much more dangerous than the climb to the top. This is very true! It is probably very silly of us to do things like that, especially given that we don’t have health insurance. If you were to attempt this and fall and hurt yourself, you would be in a world of trouble. Evacuating someone from there would be seriously difficult!

23 Comments

  1. Looks like a fun adventure! I noticed the comment about not having health insurance and was wondering why you don’t have it? My hubby and I are planning for circumnavigation in about 4 years from now and are curious about what one does in the absence of health care coverage? We haven’t yet gone down the road of looking into that information and I thought I would ask you guys what you found out? Thanks and we love reading about your adventures. Bet you can’t believe it is coming up on two years this year?!

    Stu & Michelle

    • Hi guys

      We are “self-insured” which basically means that if we get hurt, we’ll pay for it out of pocket. At the time that I looked into it, I found the options for health care insurance to be more money than we were willing to pay. We’re healthy and in the absence of climbing down silly steep cliffs as described in this post, we generally take care of ourselves. We have also heard that medicine and doctor’s visits in the islands are quite cheap so paying cash isn’t that big of a deal, barring any critical health issues. We have yet to require this so can’t speak from experience. If we were older or in worse health, we might have chosen differently.

      I should point out that we do at least have boat insurance where as many others don’t have that, choosing to self insure.

      Enjoy the preparations for cruising!

  2. Little know fact: It is actually illegal in US National Parks, BLM lands, or National Forests to throw rocks from “high places” or “trundle boulders.”

    I’ve had several experiences on one particular cliff (Cannon Mountain, New Hampshire) that highlights the reasons. The summit of this wall–and it is big, over 1500 feet high and 3 miles long)–is is served by a tram, and tourists fling rocks. When you are climbing, after they picked up speed for 1000 feet or so, they’re really moving. On one occasion it was a park service employee! My climbing partner was surprised by the “firmness” in my voice. The employee hid and his supervisor apologized.

    I have also had rocks come though the trees while hiking numerous times.

    —–

    Of course, when I was a kid I did the same dumb thing.

  3. Have you guys heard of DAN? They may have insurance that fits your needs. We are divers and use it to provide evacuation in case of a medical emergency and it doesn’t have to be dive related.
    Costs us $45 a year. Check it out at diversalertnetwork.org

    • I have heard of it and if it would cover being evacuated out of a volcano crater, it would be worth it! When I looked into it originally I saw that it wasn’t going to pay to have us sent back to Canada and for that reason I dismissed it. Perhaps I should investigate it again.

  4. Ah! Just another day in the hills I see. I have to say Mike, both you and Rebecca are no doubt adding years to your lives with your level of demonstrated fitness. Good for you both!

    As you can doubt attest to, living on a sailboat is by far a much more healthy and wholesome environment than being land based. You are largely avoiding the wild masses and the contagion of illness that we all transmit to one another here on land in our populated and high density populous existence.

    While we were out sailing for our yearlong sabbatical, Christina, the girls and I did not catch so much as a cold! The daily exposure to healthy doses of Vitamin D, the rigors of sailing, constant core exercise from walking around deck and under sail, and endless hours exploring new environments on land and under water all enhanced our levels of daily fitness.

    Sure, we also carried sailboat insurance with so many of our hard-earned dollars invested in to floating real estate. We were not so much worried about our own abilities, but rather that of so many “recreational” boaters and charterers that we have encountered over the years. It still amazes me how so many of the charter yacht companies gladly accept a smile, a chunk of plastic security in the form of VISA, Mastercard or AMEX, and send some very poorly skilled people out there on $250K+ charter yachts – yikes!!

    Stay healthy and active…

    Alan
    s/v Mango Groove

    • We may be adding years by exercising but falling down in that volcano might have taken a few off!

      As for colds, you are right. Surprisingly I, and a lot of our friends all came down with a pretty bad one just recently. Rebecca avoided it, of course. I can’t remember the last time I was sick.

  5. Now that hike sounds like a great adventure !! How are the legs this morning ??

  6. Awesome! I so much wanted to go down into the crater by my girl frieind would have never of made it. Plus it was pouring rain and didn’t seem the smartest of moves at the time. Did you spot any monkey in the canopy above you? They were elusive but I managed to spot a couple. Love St. Kitts. Cheers!

    • Climbing up or down those rocks in the rain would not have been cool. It was spitting a bit when we did it and that was enough.

      As for monkeys, we didn’t see any in the rainforest but did see a pack (?) of them shortly after we got back out in the open.

  7. Glad you enjoyed hiking our volcano. None of the professional guides on the island recommend going into the crater.

    For safety reasons and to truly enjoy the volcano it is always recommended to go with a knowledgeable guide.

    • Hi Liz

      I can see why they wouldn’t recommend going into the crater. It was definitely sketchy. 🙂 I’m not sure if I mentioned this but we actually brought our own rope and had to use it on at least one occasion during the descent. I wish we had had more time to spend at the bottom to explore given the effort it took to get down there.

      While I agree that traveling with a guide who is knowledgeable about the flora and fauna can add to the value and enjoyment (for some people) of a hike, in this case, when there is only one well-used trail to follow, I fail to see how a guide would be able to make the hike any safer, especially if one does not enter the crater. If I trip and fall and break my ankle, there is no way a guide is going to be able to carry me down the mountain. Other tourists may treat hikes differently but when Rebecca and I go into the woods, we bring everything with us to be self-sufficient, knowing that if we get hurt we are on our own.

  8. Hey Mike!

    Great beta on the hike here! I am actually heading to St. Kitts in less than a month and planning on hiking the volcano and possibly checking out the crater. I’m just curious about the steep drops you encountered. How far of a drop were they? In what way did you use the rope? Because of slippery rock or to lower yourself over a rock ledge? I am planning on bringing some ‘webbing’ that we use when rock climbing. How long was your rope? It sounds as though if we found some one with a 4×4 we could be dropped off right at the trail head and save some time? Looks like we should schedule about 6 hrs for the hike otherwise. Thanks so much for sharing your adventures here.

    • Hi Jared

      Each drop is not too big but the footholds are just out of reach. You don’t need much rope. We carried 30-40′ and doubled ours up around a tree, adjacent to some of the other ropes that were already there. Just go slow and you’ll likely be fine. You can drive to the trailhead but it is at the back of a development right now. You just need to find someone who knows where it is.

  9. best report ive read especially with regards to getting to the trail head…thanks

  10. thanks for the comments. I laughed when I read this. Nobody – nobody at the hotel knows where the trail head is. They all recommend guides. Fooey –

    1. Drive to the St. Paul’s church at the NW side of the island.
    2. Google maps – yep that is the best map system of the island. The white roads on Google maps are dirt roads that may or may not still be there. The Yellow roads are “main” roads – ha.
    3. From St. Paul’s church there is a dirt road accross the street that leads to the Belmont Estate – or what is left of it. We had a rental SUV -2 wheel drive and made it no problem – but you do need ground clearance and I would not do this if raining. We left the SUV at the old wall (ie. 200 years old) with a tree growing up the side of it – once you see it you will know exactly what I referenceing here.
    4. From there you will see to your SE a housing development. Head in that direction. Road graders, after apparently smoking some serious weed, have cleared lots of ground so that if you are not careful you will run into huge washout areas.
    5. Travel to the SE house that is highest point in elevation in the development and there you see an old road.
    6. Travel down the old road about 50 meters and there is the trailhead.
    7. Back at the hotel I again asked the activities director if he knew where the trailhead was. Nope – no idea – need a guide $90.00 per person. But then I started discussing the development at the trailhead and suddenly he know exactly what development I was taking about.
    8. The wife and I are going to go up the trailhead tomorrow as we took this in two steps and rented a car.

  11. Amended instructions to trailhead:

    1. Drive through Basseterre heading NW. Pass the Fort on your right and keeping going until just before St. Paul’s Methodist Church. Look for the sign that says Mt. Liamuiga.
    2. When you see the sign on your left that says Mt. Liamuiga turn on the little paved road to your right. Drive 2.3 miles o the sign that says “Parking Lot.”
    3. Park your car.
    4. Ignore the dogs barking next to the pig pen.
    5. Pick up a walking stick from the pile of sticks.
    6. Go through the gate.
    7. Turn left and you are on the trailhead.
    8. The trail is very clear
    9. I think there are other trailheads that head into this trail, but this trail goes to the rim.
    10. The hike is not technical at all, but the last 45 minutes are steep. It is an easy climb becasue there are so many footholds and roots to grab on to (Not like the Bird Ridge Trail outside of Anchorage).
    11. I did not decend into the crater since I would not try that wihout rope. There are old ropes that you see.
    12. The hike took us over 4 hours, but the wife likes to stop and look at everything.
    13. If you don’t work out very often this hike may leave you feeling not-so-hot the next day. But if you are a regular in the gym, its no big deal.

    • Thanks, Matt. That sounds a LOT easier than our multi-mile hike just to get to the trailhead and then our jog back to the road to catch our return ride. We’ll do it better the next time! We’ll also leave earlier so that we can spend more time down in the crater.

  12. This was certainly no casual hike… The report and pictures are great and give us a good insight into what it was like. Thanks Mike and Rebecca you two rock in so many ways.

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