Le Pouce Mountain. At 811m (or 812m), it is the 3rd highest peak in Mauritius. & from what I've heard, one of the easiest to climb. Look at it, it’s just an over-sized hill…
I mean, how hard can it be?
To find out, last Saturday (9th July), accompanied by two friends, I was on my way to Mt. Le Pouce. Nearly a year after my trek down the Black River Gorges along with fellow Mauritian bloggers, I was now embarking on another first - mountain climbing.
The first thing that happened is that we got lost... 100m from the start point.
After asking for directions, we spotted this welcome sign & the mud road to Le Pouce.
Ducks & moorhens under the bridge.
It was perfect day for hiking. Plenty of sunshine, few clouds & most importantly no rain!
The area around St Pierre is a typical agricultural region & the villagers were already at work.
Le Pouce looming in front of us.
& Guiby Peak on the left.
Panorama of the road.
Lettuce growers bringing back their produce to the marketplace.
Sugarcane workers harvesting the sugarcane.
Panorama of the road & fields.
The mud road came to an end as we reached the start point of the mountain trail. 2km in 2h10min? Surely, they must be kidding.
Looking back on the 800m we have walked from St Pierre.
The first 100m was easy, but pretty soon I was huffing & puffing along as the trail kept climbing & we had to follow a path through the rocks.
The thick trees & dense undergrowth shielded the winds & made the atmosphere very hot.
Soon we came to our first viewpoint of the central plateau. While admiring the vista, we concealed our embarrassment of being caught up & overtaken by another party of climbers. On that day, there were at least a dozen hikers on Le Pouce.
As we slowly continued our progress, the gradient of the trail kept increasing. For a novice like me, it was becoming hard to keep up. It's like climbing the stairs of a 5-storey building 2 steps at a time. I have done that once before, but to do it again & again & again - that's what mountain climbing feels like.
Fortunately on the excuse of taking photos, you can rest. Unfortunately, you can't rest too long or you get cramps.
Even my camera was suffering…
Soon, we caught up with the climbers who had overtaken us & the race was on to see who would get first to the summit.
As we gained in altitude, the views were getting better & in the shade of the mountain, it was also getting a lot colder, made worse by all the sweating.
We were like wind-up toys. Wind yourself up. Climb along until you lose all power. Rewind. Repeat. No margin for mistake as shown by this sheer drop…
Once we got to the other side of the mountain, it was hot all again as we were shielded from the wind.
An abandoned grotto.
The thumb of Le Pouce was finally in sight as the slope straightened out a bit before picking up again.
& we got our first look of Port Louis.
The vegetation changed into a sea of flowery shrubs.
The end was near, but my legs were nearing exhaustion. One more strategic stop before the penultimate ascent.
Ouf! I could well do with any energy drink.
The final ascent.
As I found out, this was the most difficult part of climbing Mt. Le Pouce.
Real mountaineering. You have to analyse & spot the best path, looking for footholds & grasping anything in sight (rock, roots or grass).
If it had been raining, I would have never attempted it. This ascension is really dangerous. If you are afraid of heights, do not try it because while climbing you're less than 1m away from the edge.
That was close.
It took us nearly 2h, but we finally made it first to the summit. The views were breathtaking. As you might have noticed from the photos, the position of the sun has already shifted because I took the photos much later.
From our vantage point, there was nothing in Mauritius that couldn't be seen. From Coin de Mire...
... to Le Morne.
The only downside was the mist that hovered over the island, clouding the landscapes & our camera sensors.
Champ de Mars racecourse on race day.
The ring road at Pailles.
Vallee des Prêtres.
Runway? No, just the Jin Fei zone.
Pieter Both (823m), Creve Coeur & Grand Peak.
The road we came by.
Helicopter flying BELOW us. That was just awesome!
Paille-en-queue flying around.
One misstep & you're gone. Seriously, people have died here. & some even had to be rescued by helicopter.
The thumb of the Le Pouce. CATR Stage 124?
That's the GPS map of our trek, positioned by my N900. As you can see, we were slightly waylaid on our way to the summit by following the path to a spring.
The coordinates are pretty accurate, but the altitudes not that much.
The actual height of Le Pouce is somewhat like this. Source: Longman Mauritius Resource Atlas.
& yes, 811m above sea level, I had full 3.5G coverage & my N900 managed to detect up to 4 wifi access points.
We stayed on the summit for more than 2.5h. I would have loved to stay until sunset, but there was a mountain to climb down.
The descent was equally as treacherous as the ascent.
More like crawling along like a monkey.
Once this difficulty surmounted, going down was pretty straightforward.
Le Pouce in all its magnificence. With the sun setting down, the light was less harsh on our cameras.
The moon rising.
Hello, a centipede.
Once we reached the other side, we felt a full blast of winter - ice-cold winds!
Wasn't as bad as descending Gorges.
In less than an hour we had reached the road to St Pierre. Our journey was over, like this carrier filled with sugarcane, waiting to leave.
So, as it turned out, climbing Mt. Le Pouce is very hard! At least for people like me who was mountain climbing for the first time. I'm sure I lost nearly 1kg of
... for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of being on top of the world!
The complete map of our trek. Start point is at -20.212735,57.523255
Update: Guide to Le Pouce from notes by Pat Knox and Allan Jones, uploaded by REy
- My second visit to Le Pouce - Le Pouce II
- Espace-temps au goût de fraise Tagada - Le Pouce, On dirait de la neige..., Panorama direction Nord, Cherchez Le Morne, Direction Sud-Ouest, Le Pouce : Vue plein Ouest, Descente vers Port Louis
- Picasa - Le Pouce 2006/2007 by REy
- Anou Monte Le Pouce by Yashvin
- Flickr – Le Pouce 2006 & 2008 by rubared
- Flickr – Le Pouce 2007 by pixelinthebox
- Flickr – Le Pouce 2010 by Neckarios
- Flickr – Le Pouce 2009 by Isla Mauricia
- Flickr – Conquering Le Pouce by neo_dil
- Flickr – Le Pouce 2009 by Avinash Meetoo
- YouTube – Le Pouce (812m) – Link 1, Link 2
- Le Mauricien - BOTANIQUE: Bonnes et mauvaises surprises sur la montagne du Pouce.