This is part 2 of a 2-part series. This post covers the Blue Mountain peak, day 2 descent, tips and additional info on how to conquer the peak safely and affordably. Part 1 covered the ascent. Completing my track analogy from last week, the peak trail would be GO! 🏁
Go: The Peak Trail
The voice at 11:53pm belonged to Mr. Owen Bowman, a guide thrice my age and twice as limber. I had got over my annoyance at being awoken early and we got along pleasantly– such a sweet elderly gentleman. Flashlights in hand, we began our trek at 2am. The advice “If you cyaa [can’t] handle the ladder, turn back,” began to make sense. The ladder is all the preparation you need to reach the peak because nowhere along the trail gets worse than the ladder’s terrain. The path is steadily uphill so we felt the burn in yesterday’s sore spots.
The views of Kingston and the Milky Way were glorious! We turned off our flashlights at every rest stop we took to admire them. I never understood the seriousness of light pollution until this point. We really miss the beauty of the night sky in urban areas.
Blue Mountain Peak, Portland
We made it in just under 3 hours. Mr. Bowman had underestimated our endurance. My first impression of the peak: unbearably frigid. The blast of 4:50am wind slapped me full-force. My 4 shirts and 3 leggings were somehow insufficient. Without leaving my tropical homeland, I managed to step into a winter wonderland. This roofless building was our only shelter, which according to our guide has never been repaired since hurricane Gilbert of 1988. However, we emerged at 5:30am to this!
Every drop of sweat and torn muscle fibre was worth it. At 7,402 feet, we were higher than the clouds! It wasn’t raining and the sky was clear enough for us to see the surreal sunrise. To our chagrin, no view of Cuba. Haha. . . I won’t say it’s untrue but just know your chances are slim. Then again, who cares? Look at this sun!
Descent & Departure
It took 90 minutes to return to our Portland Gap campsite, half the time it took us to climb the peak trail. All the foliage and canopy we failed to admire on the way up revealed itself now in the soft morning glow. Ferns, conifers, bromeliads and blooming things line the trail; Jamaica’s own garden of Eden. The greens weren’t as bright as they can get since the trail hasn’t had rain for a bit we were told.
In Portland Gap we snacked, relaxed and got more rest until 11:00am when we began cleaning up after ourselves and packing. As the signs say, take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footprints!
The driver we hired for 2pm Sunday afternoon came 5 minutes early. It took us just over an hour to reach the foot of Jacob’s ladder when he was pulling up, so we were right on time. Thankfully, he drove a mini-van this time so we had a more comfortable ride. Our eyes were treated to the same stunning views on the way down, and we had an uneventful ride into Kingston.
It’s clear the park needs some work. A shelter at the peak and heating devices are lacking essentials. Nonetheless, I understand the financial constraints. Slowly but surely our national park is being transformed from a hidden beauty to a sustainable eco-tourist spectacle, evidenced by the construction of sturdier cabins and facilities in Portland Gap. It should be exciting to see where this development reaches in a decade. However, I still rate here 5 stars ☆☆☆☆☆ because I truly have never seen nor experienced anything quite like it. One visit is insufficient. I still don’t know at which point I got dragged into making a sunrise visit but I don’t regret it. Next time, I may try seeing sunset and certainly pack warmer wear. Also, I’ll budget for transport to and from the ladder. No further heroic hiking attempts will be made unless I’m miraculously fitter when next this opportunity presents itself.
- Download, bookmark or pin my planning checklist and advice infographics.
- Jah B’s Guesthouse
- Jamaica Conservation & Development Trust (JCDT): The government unit which manages the entire Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park (BJCMNP), offers the best rates, operates the Portland Gap cabins & campsite and can answer not only all your peak questions, but also everywhere else within this park e.g. Holywell, Cinchona Botanical Gardens etc.
- Whitfield Hall Hostel
- Learn more about the significance of the BJCMNP through UNESCO here.
I hope this post will help subsequent hikers. I included every ounce of advice I had, while injecting enough wanderlust for those who won’t/can’t make the trip, so they can enjoy the adventure through my eyes. ‘Til next time. ✌
“It is the fairest island eyes have beheld; mountainous and the land seems to touch the sky.” -Christopher Columbus, 1494.
This is part 2 of a 2-part series. This post covers the Blue Mountain peak, day 2 descent, tips and additional info on how to conquer the peak safely and affordably. Part 1 covered the ascent on day 1 of the adventure.
Also, I featured the Blue Mountain peak as #3 on January 9th in my 2017 bucket list so this is 5 down, 12 to go.