What is about mountains that makes us want to climb them? No idea, but when I saw photos and posts of people climbing Gros Piton in south-western St Lucia, I thought, “Great idea! I want to do that!”
I first heard about this hike when I was researching St Lucia for the Eastern Caribbean cruise I did in February 2019. I thought I might be able to do it on a day-trip, but quickly realized I wouldn’t have time to get down to Soufrière (our cruise ship docked at Pigeon Island in the north), do the hike and get back again in time for the ship’s departure. However, when my friends and I decided on St Lucia for a celebratory birthday trip just a few month’s later, I knew it was the perfect time!
Reading reviews, it was hard to understand just HOW hard this hike would be. Some people on Trip Advisor were saying it was more like rock climbing, the hardest thing they’ve ever done ….. Others were saying it was fine, as long as you’re in reasonable shape. In the end, two of us decided to give it a go. We knew that the worst thing that could happen is that we wouldn’t be able to complete it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Packing for the hike was annoying. Normally when I hike, that’s all I’m packing for. But for two weeks in the Caribbean, my suitcase was stuffed with sundresses and bikinis! I resented the space it took even for my CamelBak bladder. I’d read that proper hiking shoes were a must, and that the guides at Gros Piton insist you take at least 1.5 liters of water with you. So I knew it was a necessity. I traveled on the plane in my hiking shoes (I had bought these for 3 weeks camping in Alaska) and brought my 3 liter bladder but with a smaller backpack. I was extremely glad I had both!
We left our villa in Rodney Bay at 6am. I was keen to get down there and start hiking before it got too hot. I’d also read that clouds start gathering around 11am and didn’t want to miss the view! According to Google maps, the trip down to Soufrière was 56.5km and would take 1hr 40 mins. As we left it was raining and I was so worried that mist would ruin the view! The drive there was amazing – it reminded me of the Road to Hana on Maui. So winding and crazy, with lush, green vegetation and amazing views.
We dropped our friends off at The Tet Paul Nature Trail ( a ‘hillside nature trail offering a picturesque viewpoint of the water & mountains, plus guided tours’), which they really enjoyed. I had no idea how to actually find the base of Gros Piton, but it’s really not that hard. Just keep driving through Soufrière and along the road and eventually the road forks. There’s a sign saying ‘Gros Piton hike’ or something. Great explanation, I know! There was a guide in a green t-shirt at the fork. We stopped to ask her for directions and ended up giving her a lift the rest of the way.
You have to have a guide to hike Gros Piton. It cost $50 cash. This was my least favorite past of the hike. I’d be happy to pay this as an entrance fee but didn’t enjoy the guide aspect at all. Our guide seemed nice enough. Off we set. I’d read that the first half of the hike is fairly moderate and would agree with this. However, my friend was not able to keep up with the pace he was setting, and I had to keep asking him to slow down. In the end, he said that I should go on with another group and he would stay with my friend and help her get to at least the halfway point.
We must have started the hike at about 8:30am. There were quite a few groups on the path at this point. Not too crazy. It probably took about an hour to get to the halfway point. I was still feeling fine. My new guide set a leisurely pace and I was enjoying chatting to the two young Canadian girls I was now hiking with.
As you can see, the views from halfway are still pretty spectacular! I would say that, even if you don’t think you can make the whole hike, it’s worth getting to here!
We stopped here for a drink and quick snack. This is when I realized Amy had the trail mix in her bag. Oops.
As anticipated, the hike got a whole lot steeper from here on. The rest of the hike was lush and green and mostly under cover. Surprisingly, I still found it relatively easy going. There are lots of railings to hold onto and help you pull yourself up!
It took us about another hour to reach the summit. The views from the first viewpoint are ok.
I didn’t really even bother taking photos at this point. I was excited to get to the next viewpoint and look down on Petit Piton! Thanks heavens I’d read Emily’s post about this so I knew there would be two viewpoints (and also to fight to get there!). But, when I asked our guide about going to the other viewpoint, she shook her head and said it was too slippery and dangerous to get there. You can see from my photos how un-slippery this whole hike had been. Squashing my Britishness, I persisted. I was very polite, and said that the other viewpoint was the whole reason I was doing this hike. She countered by saying that, if she fell and injured herself, she wouldn’t be able to work (fair point, but isn’t it your job to guide me up this mountain?). I pointed to another group and said maybe I could join that group and go with them. At this point she started clicking her tongue and muttering to herself in Creole. She called over to the other guide in Creole and they laughed and shook their heads. I was embarrassed and getting cross at this point. I just waited her out and off we set.
I’d like to point out that I’m by no means a crazy thrill-seeker. I like pushing myself, but not in dangerous situations. I’m the girl who hiked almost to the top of Angel’s Landing, took one look at the 1000 ft drop (and the death warnings) and turned back around (I just watched 1 minute of that video and now feel sick). This 10 minute hike across the top of Gros Piton to the other viewpoint was laughable. Sure, we had to clamber over boulders and I was extra careful, but it certainly wasn’t anything different from what we’d just been doing for the past two hours.
The hike down was the hardest part for me, as it always is. I don’t mind going up, but coming down hurts my knees. I just took it as slowly as I needed to. Thank goodness those steep steps had handrails. I used them to lower myself down. I slowed my group down, but not hugely. By about halfway down, it was getting very hot and my legs were getting more wobbly. I didn’t hugely enjoy the last quarter and was very glad to be finished! I tipped my guide $10US – I resented doing so but have lived in America too long not to do it!
- In summary:
- Wear hiking shoes or gym shoes with a very good tread
- Take as much water as you can carry. I drank all my 3 liters (this is normal for me on a hike of this length) and still felt dehydrated and hot
- Start as early as you can. It was about 1pm by the time we finished – no wonder I was feeling overly hot
- Give it a try! I am 40, at least 20lbs overweight and my only exercise is Zumba once a week! If I can do it, so can you!
- Don’t be dissuaded from going to the Petit Piton overlook!
- Read others’ accounts! Emily is hilarious and gives a much better description of how to get there than I did. And Donna, who looked absolutely beautiful at the summit, and inexplicably very un-sweaty. Maybe she secretly took a helicopter …