Tony and his buddies have been talking about the Sea to Summit hiking challenge, and Sunday was the day. For some unknown reason, we ladies agreed to come along. Matt E mapped out the route for us via the Pockwood Pond Ghut. A little background for you: Pockwood is the area of the island set aside as the industrial area. There’s a rock quarry and cement plant, the island dump and the incinerator where they burn all the trash. Matt informed us, though, that we’d be upwind and should have a pleasant hike. The highest point in the VI is just above Pockwood in Sage Mountain National Park.
A ghut is essentially a dry riverbed that has formed naturally over the course of time as large amounts of rainwater rush down the mountainside to the sea. We knew there would be lots of rocks and it would be steep. Beyond that, we really had no idea what to expect.
The beginning of the hike sloped gently uphill as we approached the base of the mountain.
The terrain quickly shifted though to large boulders that needed scaling. This was just the first of many times on this journey that I would look at what needed to be conquered next and utter expletives.
Gemma, as the smallest in the group, and I, as the least fit, decided we might try to go around this early obstacle another way. This proved to be a poor idea as we made it up a series of rocks, only to find our way blocked by larger rocks, brush and trees. Finally Gemma forged the way over the 3 foot tall mesh of dry sticks and past the thorny bushes, thoroughly cutting up our legs in the process. At that point we decided to stick with the route everyone else took, even if we had to be pushed up from behind!
After just over an hour of hiking, I was famished! Eventually we stopped for a quick lunch.
Along the way we left our mark on the trail!
As Sherpa Matt had expected, the higher we got, the more the trail narrowed. We could also tell we were approaching the national forest because the breeze picked up and the trees started to look different – smaller and closer together.
We began seeing remnants of the barbed wire fence we knew we’d need to cross in order to enter the park, but since leaving the ghut behind, we were really just guessing where to go. Luckily Matt thought he recognised something from a recent birding expedition in the park, so while he held the fence down with his foot, we all went over it and into the park.
By this point in the hike, my leg muscles were protesting, LOUDLY! After all that high stepping and climbing, I was worn out. So, even though this was the easiest part really, it was still up hill and I was dragging.
Around the corner though, and we’d reached the lookout in the park! We were all so tired we couldn’t even stand for the after shot!
By this time rain clouds were moving in, and we still hadn’t reached the summit, so we set off again. This time, with my energy renewed, I led the pack through the familiar trail to the always anti-climactic high point in the Virgin Islands. As we began to hike down to the vehicles (they were parked at the Sage Mountain car park) the rain began to fall, cooling us all off.
Hiking the ghut was probably the most physically challenging thing I’ve ever done. Rounding each bend we came across another ridiculously large rock, or series of rocks, to scale. It was also very obvious that there was no going back. The only way out was up. It was the kind of thing that gives you butterflies in you stomach.
However, having completed it relatively unscathed, it also feels like a tremendous accomplishment! It’s awesome that I was able to calculate every step and really push my body to the limit. I just might be interested in doing this again!