Conquering Chirripo – An Incredible Three Generation Adventure

An inspiring true story from my dear friend, Norma Kahn.

Norma, Neil and Melanie Kahn Conquer Chirripo Mountain in Costa Rica

“Climbing Chirripo, the tallest mountain in Costa Rica with an altitude of 3820 meters or 12,500 feet, has been what I thought was an impossible dream.  With each passing year, it seemed further out of my reach.  Several months ago my son Neil invited me to climb it with him before I was too old.  I’m 72.

After immediately accepting, the doubts began, but so did the determination to succeed.  My husband, Ken,  climbed with me daily, giving me his total encouragment.  I never was able to train at much above 5,000 feet- and certainly never hiking 14.5 kilometers up, up,up.

Neil, my granddaughter Melanie, age 13, and I set out at 6:30AM on Monday, Sept. 5.  LABOR DAY – and labor we did.  The first kilometer took us 1 hour – daunting, steep, muddy, rocky – a harbinger of things to come.  Let me say that Neil was amazing throughout – incredibly helpful and patient.  After a few kilometers, Neil was carrying my pack along with his.  At certain points, he was carrying Melanie’s as well.  Graceful, strong Melanie made most of the hike look almost effortless.  Some sections were more difficult than others.  The last one, Cuesta de Arrepentidos, certainly made you want to repent.  9 1/2 hours later we actually made it to the Crestones ‘hut’ at 3,392 meters or 11,130 feet where we were two spend the next 2 nights.  We ate lunch and crashed.

The hut had electricity 2 hours a day, internet 4.  There was NO HOT WATER – the coldest water ever according to Neil.  Neil, Melanie and I did have our own room with bunk beds.  The reigning indoor outfits were heavy, heavy coats, sweaters, hats, gloves. Inside my cold weather sleeping bag, I was wearing several layers of clothing. We had hired Oscar to cook for us, but some others fixed their food on little gas stoves. This hut experience added to the adventure.

Tuesday morning we had breakfast at 5:30 and then headed up to the summit.  People said this was easier, but I can’t say I agree.  It was shorter – 5.5 km, but with the higher altitude and the pure rocky steepness of the last  portion, it was TOUGH.  I had to stop every 3 steps or so to breathe.  Neil got behind me and pushed.  I told you he was great.  I could not have done it without him.

The feeling of exhileration, pure joy, sense of accomplishment when we arrived at the summit was incredible!!!

The next morning we headed down, which some said was more difficult than up.  I didn’t find it so, but when I got to km 1, my body pretty much wilted and Neil held my hand for that last bit.

With every step down I wondered how in the world I had been able to climb that mountain, what had ever possessed me to think I could.  But I could, and I did!

Thank you Melanie and Neil for this wonderful gift.  I couldn’t love you more.



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2 Responses to “Conquering Chirripo – An Incredible Three Generation Adventure”
  1. Mom - Tracy Gerney says:

    Norma Kahn is an inspiration. How wonderful that her son and granddaughter helped and
    encouraged her to accomplish this goal. Now all three have beautiful memories of this
    event to treasure forever. This piece is an amazing addition to the “Sunshine Club.”
    Thanks, Marcello.

  2. Marcello says:

    Hi mom,

    Thanks for checking in and for being MMP’s biggest fan. 🙂

    Norma is indeed an inspiration. The entire Kahn family, for that matter- is full of positive energy and influence.

    It’s quite possible that if they lived in Alaska, that’s where I’d be going back to every year instead of CR.

    They’ve always made me feel like family.

    Norma and Ken are simply beautiful souls… and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree with Neil & Yazmine.

    Pura Vida!

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