First Ascents into the High Frontier of Costa Rica

¡Pura Vida!

A good time to write a note: nearing the end of the third month here in Tres Piedras, Costa Rica. This past month was quite exiting. This past week Mark, Keith and I taught a course in Tropical Tree Climbing through Cornell Outdoor Education here in CR. Five students from Cornell came down and climbed into the high frontier. Prior to the course, we explored and scouted sites for climbs and adventures. Eric Tartter, a great pal from Bingoland joined us for the recon work. Eric proved strength and ability many times over either hauling 100 lbs of wood on his back up a mountain or jugging 450 in one day. Keith was a perfect element to the team as his huge throws into the trees (arboles) dubbed him the Arbolski. Mark, without eating, works 15 hours a day with no rest. It was a good team.

Within 24 hours of flying into the country, this team was pulling hard into a 700 year old Oak in the cloud forests of the Cerro Del Muerte. We scrapped together our various materials at a hotel in the mountains: a trashcan to stow lines, a rusty metal pole for our bigshot. After a few tries, Arbolski hits 150ft and we clip our ascenders on and start jugging. When we bust over the first branches, perhaps hundreds of different plants appear in a garden in the sky. The first explorers into this tree, we were amazed at the diversity of mosses, lichens, bromeliads, ferns. When we reached the top we heard howler monkies and were engulfed in a cloud and descended to the ground by headlamp.

The next day I told the crew there was a series of waterfalls near Tres Piedras that I was interested in descending on ropes. I told them the known: long cascades of unknown lengths, slippery rocks and a long trek through primary rainforest. With smiles, they said “Long drops…lets take two ropes lets take two ropes and bust out before sunrise.” The series of rappels dropped us a total of 300ft and we landed in a tropical lagoon.   We took a nice swim in the lagoon and headed back for lunch. This marks a half a day work for this crew. 

A dream I had my entire life was to build from scratch an adult-like treehouse high in the rainforest canopy. This was the right crew to help the ideas flow. We assembled a frame on the ground and with the help of large muscles pulled it 150 feet up into a Frijillo. At the top we wrestled the frame into the crotch of three large branches. After tying it down and hauling the decking to the top, we all spent the night high in the canopy and toasted to a glass bottle of ice cold soda! In the middle of the night three cincajous came to visit within arms reach. In the morning, toucans, hummingbirds and egrets flew overhead. The following week, all five of our students spent the night on the platform and in hammocks. A new experience for sure.

The rains have taunted, but it is still super dry. After a few rains, the plantings begin. I plan to grow corn, beans, squash, peanuts, papaya, taro and watermelon in a piece of pasture. Behind the house 10 garden beds await kale, tomatoes, cabbage, and basil. Let’s see how it goes.