Hiking to Blue Mountain Peak
Southern view from Blue Mountain Peak
Last weekend, a group of friends and I went hiking to the top of the Blue Mountains. Blue Mountain Peak is the highest point in Jamaica at 2,256 metres or 7,402 feet above sea level. I had hiked to the top once before many years ago and didn’t remember it being too strenuous, but after revisiting it I’d have to warn others that at least a basic level of fitness is required to make it to the top and back without too much pain (or even at all). Proper shoes and provisions are also a necessity. The trip, however, is definitely worth the work out as the views are spectacular, both from the top as well as during the ascent and descent.
Our odyssey began on Friday afternoon as we traveled to historic Whitfield Hall (a 150+ year old guest house where many hikers spend the night) to overnight before proceeding with our climb. The journey to Whitfield Hall is also a bit of an adventure in itself. Many persons make the relatively easy drive to Mavis Bank, park their vehicles and are then ferried the rest of the way by Land Rover. Not relishing standing in the open back of an aging Defender for an hour or more on unpaved dirt roads, we chose to drive the whole way ourselves. A word of advice- in anything other than very dry conditions, this is not a drive to undertake in anything less than a solid 4-wheel drive vehicle (a Toyota Hilux Surf in our case).
We left Kingston at around 5:00 pm and made it to our destination by 7:00 pm. The drive goes up through Gordon Town, St. Andrew to Mavis Bank and then up into St. Thomas through the small coffee farming districts of Mahogany Vale, Hagley Gap and Penlyne Castle. By the time you arrive at Whitfield Hall, you have already climbed from sea level to approximately 1,280 metres or 4,200 feet.
Accommodations at Whitfield Hall are rustic- most rooms are filled with bunk beds and have very little space to move around in. There is no electricity or hot water, although there is running cold water, flush toilets and decent lighting at night via kerosene lamps. Hardy Jamaican meals are available upon request.
We spent the evening on the front lawn of the aging structure, admiring the towering eucalyptus trees that ring the perimeter of the property. You don’t see tall trees of this variety in Jamaica very often, and the setting was more reminiscent of northern California than our tropical homeland. Thankful the evening temperature was also of the cool west coast variety, as Kingston was literally baking in summer heat below us.
We departed Whitfield Hall at around 6:00 am, opting not to bother with the 1:00 am departure time that many hikers choose in order to see the sunrise (which more often than not is invisible due to the clouds, mist and rain at the top). I found that hiking in the daylight was infinitely preferably to the nighttime hiking I did the last time and much safer as well. Our companions also had the foresight to hire a donkey to accompany us- this made our load much lighter and the trip all the more enjoyable.
The ascent was steep- the entire hike is about 12 km or 7.5 miles each way, and you climb almost 1 km in the process. The first half takes place on wide tracks and trails in reasonable good condition, although the grade is quite severe especially for the first hour. After about an hour and a half, we reached the rough midpoint (actually about a third of the way), the ranger station at Portland Gap. Here we paid a small trail use fee (JMD 100 per person) and stretched our legs- there is running water here for refilling your canteen, and also small cabins if you want to camp for the night.
The remainder of the climb took approximately two hours and the conditions are significantly worse. Narrow trails with loose stones and gravel are bordered by almost vertical precipices. On our way up, we passed more than fifty persons coming back down, who had obviously gone up in the wee hours of the morning to view the sunrise- surprisingly many of these were tourists, including a substantial number of Koreans and a smattering of North Americans and Europeans.
Upon reaching the top, we were greeted by a clearing and what could only be described as the sad ruins of a building- apparently this was constructed in the 1930s and at one time featured bunks for persons wanting to overnight as well as pit toilets and facilities for trash. As the picture illustrates, we are poor stewards of our national treasures, and I felt embarrassed as a Jamaican given all the foreign visitors we had passed on the way up.
The peak itself is actually just around the corner from this clearing, and features a small monument and a large metal tripod. The views are spectacular- to the southeast you can see the Yallahs River as it winds its way down through St. Thomas, as well as Morant Point, and to the direct south Kingston and Portmore. To the north you can catch glimpses of the Portland coast, and on clear days it is said that one can make out Cuba in the distance, although we were not so lucky.
More information on Whitfield Hall is available at www.whitfieldhall.com.
A somewhat precarious pedestrian bridge on the drive up
The road gets narrower
Whitfield Hall, St. Thomas
Setting out at 6:00 am
Errol and “Big Boy”
Taking a break at Portland Gap
Keeping warm at the peak
The dilapidated structure that greets you at the peak
The trail coming down
Errol and Big Boy coming down
Mind the edge!
Coffee growing on the mountain hillsides
View on the way down
My journey to the Blue Mountains in 2002 was extremely gruelling,yet exciting. The memories are still fresh in my mind. If peradventure I were told that my prospective husband were there after I descended those slopes he would have had to stay up there as I would not be going back ,and I would have to stay unmarried!😁😁😁
Memories to treasure!
This is something I’ve always wanted to do, and plan to do for my first time later this year. This has been very helpful. Thanks for sharing your experience 🙂
When Ioriginally commented I appear to have clicked onn the -Notfify me when new
comments are added- checkbox and nnow every timke a comment iis added I recieve four emails with the exact same comment.
There has to be a wway you are able to remove me from that service?
This is my first time go to see at here and i am really pleassant to read all at one place.
Aw, this was an exceptionally good post. Finding the time and actual
effort to create a good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate a whole lot and
don’t seem to get nearly anything done.
Write more, thats all I have to say. Literally, it seems as though you relied on the video to make your point.
You clearly know what youre talking about, why throw away
your intelligence on just posting videos to your site when you
could be giving us something enlightening to read?
Genuinely no matter if someone doesn’t understand then its uup to other people that
they will assist, so here it happens.
I am now not positive the place you’re getting
your information, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding
more. Thank you for wonderful info I was searching for this info for my mission.
With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright violation? My site has a lot of
completely unique content I’ve either written myself or outsourced
but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the
internet without my permission. Do you know any ways to help reduce content from being ripped
off? I’d really appreciate it.
I have been to the peak four times already and will make my fifth trip this month as a senior citizen. Each time I go their are new beauties to discover.
I must say that climbing the Peak taking a thirteen miles journey,37,292 steps and eight hours of trekking is not just physical but mental strength. I love the Whitfield Hall small Sunken Garden/Court yard. It is very relaxing just sitting there after a rigorous trek, just to relax under the trees and listen to the wind rustling with the leaves and the birds doing their welcome songs.
The trek is one of my fondest memories in my country “Jamaica”
Great beat ! I wish to apprentice while you amend
your website, how can i subscribe for a blog web site?
The account helped me a acceptable deal. I had been
a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast offered
bright clear concept
This shows you truly know what you’re talking about and are secure enough to be able to share with others without fearing
that you are jeopardizing your career. An substandard merchandise will not succeed regardless how very much marketing strategy.
Types of training available would include Affiliate
Marketing, Article Marketing, Email Marketing or PPC (Pay
Per Click) Marketing.
Hi! I know this is sort of off-topic but I had to ask. Does operating a well-established blog such as yours
require a massive amount work? I’m brand new to blogging however I do write in my journal daily. I’d like to
start a blog so I can share my own experience and views online.
Please let me know if you have any kind of recommendations
or tips for new aspiring bloggers. Appreciate it!
Went there on June 8,2012 everything is still the same i posted some pictures on my Facebook page,just type in, Renegade Outdoor Corps.
Had some good times back in the day,planning a trip there for this summer.
Have not been there in ages!Use to hike there nearly every weekend back in the mid nineties.
[…] my account of our hike to Blue Mountain Peak and our visit to cCharles Town Maroon […]
Thanks for the pictures…brings back fond memories of the late 1960’s and early70’s; when I made the hike 4 times.
[…] up a unique folder for the different islands you regularly visit. Whether for Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Bahamas, Barbados, Aruba, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominican Republic, […]
I did four trips from mavis bank and will never forget the first 1977. I swore that any one who saw me again should shoot me, however the joy of acheivement and beauty has captured a part of me. My fifth trip was from whitfield hall eight years ago and was extremely challenging, I am still planning on taking up the challenge again, more so after looking at the pictures and reading your article.
[…] the variety of experiences that Portland does. The parish extends from the highest peaks of the Blue Mountains, 7,402 ft above sea-level, down to the north coast, and is known for its rich history and varied […]
My wife and I along with some friends made this trip in 1969. It all seems the same including the wonderful view from the peak. We were with a black Lab who just went crazy in the cool temperature at the top. Many thanks for your good reminder of what a joy the hike was. I have photo that I took of misty trees just outside of Whitfield Hall hanging in my bathroom.
I WENT THERE IN DECEMBER,06/2009
Excellent capture of events! This was my experience when we went last April and August. We drove to the Rangers station and hiked to Portland Gap when we went in April, but didnt go to the peak. In August, we went for the long haul – took the Land Rover to the Rangers station, hiked to Portland Gap at about 10pm then woke up at 2am to hike to the peak. Breathtaking and exhilarating!
My best Jamaican vacation to date!
Thanks for the wonderful pictures. When I went we were using black and white exclusively. I am glad I went when I was fit. A whole sixth form led by (easy to guess who in my group) CARMEN Fong Kong then. I remember that we ate off most of the food as we climbed and that we heated water to brush our teeth. The view was worth it. Felt as if we were on top of the world. We certainly were on top of our world. Thanks for reminding me
Hi Karin. Loved it. Brought back memories of our Campion College class trip from so many years ago. Loved the pics as well. BTW, I tweeted this for you as well 🙂
Wow! What an adventure. Karin I envy you for this awesome opportunity, and for having the skills to do it. It’s an absolutely picturesque outing. Sounds like something every Jamaican should do at least once. Kudos!
It sounds so hard to do. Sighs, it’s on my ‘to do list’ of things before i die.
Thanks Karin. That sounds like fun. I want to do this trip on my unicycle!
Fantastic pictures!! This brings back great memories, I went to the peak twice as a youth, I will have to do it again next time I am in the island. Looks like you had a great time. I agree with the comments on maintaining our national heritage, perhaps the people who maintain Whitfield Hall (it seems that everybody who goes to the peak, at least stops at the hall even if they don’t stay over night) could assist in collecting the donations and maintaining the building you mention?
So this is the place where the best coffee in the world grown? Wow, this is a terrific place…
I doubt if I will ever make it to the peak but maybe one of these days… Even Whitfield Hall is worth the trip (I have been that far.) My parents went in the 30s and I had photos of them at the peak in a structure that must have been in good condition then. We really do need to restore the facilities – if every climber gave a small donation it would add up in no time, but the challenge (ours always is) will be maintenance.
Nice pictures. They bring back memories of the days when I was fit enough to make the climb.
Awesome pics Karin! I’m yet to make the trod! But these pics are pulling me closer to that moment! =D
From my high school days, I have had a strong interest in climbing the Blue Mountains. To date, I have not realized this objective. Hopefully, I will get around to doing it one of these days, if I can get back into shape by ending the excessive procrastination and the couch potato lifestyle I have acquired in recent years. Enjoyed the various pictures of scenic Blue Mountains accompanying your piece. With respect to the buiding at the peak of the Blue Mountains,can it be restored by say the Ministry of Tourism? Specifically, in light of the fact that the mountain is well trafficked by tourists from Asia, North America, Europe and even locals, as mentioned in your piece. Also, as you rightly contend, we are indeed poor stewards of our national treasures.Certainly, in most countries with such beautiful natural resources as ours, their would be greater emphasis on maintaining and restoring the buildings and facilities which were erected for lodgings and accomodations of climbers and hikers.Nuff respect!!