Cañón Piedra… y Hot Springs! (La Fortuna, Costa Rica)

Party : Fernando y yo.

Located near the town of La Fortuna and guided by the Desafio Adventure Company, Cañón Piedra is commercially known as Lost Canyon. It is a short canyon with a couple of big rappels and some short constrictions. It’s a fun couple of hours, especially in high water. Suitable for beginners who can manage their fear of heights.

After an amazing day exploring the beautiful Ciudad Esmeralda, we headed back through Ciudad Quesada and onto La Fortuna. There were a pair of cañóns there I’d read about called Piedra y Piedrita. They were guided by two commercial companies and we weren’t sure we were allowed to run them or not: all rivers in Costa Rica are public, but unfortunately access is usually private and controlled. We also thought the modified nature of the routes might mean they have some kind of government agreement…

It was dark by the time we were close to La Fortuna and turned up a dirt rd before hitting the town. After passing the canyoning office (Fer wanted to camp here), I quickly checked the entrance to Piedrita which was barred by a heavy gate… Continuing up road, we stopped to talk to a family who didn’t seem to know much about the cañóns, and then headed to the entrance to Piedra, which seemed to be open and a good place to spend the night.

Waking early the next morning (still dark), I waited for Fernando to get ready (frustratingly, a pattern that would repeat itself many times)… Finally we headed down what must be the nicest cañón access trail I’ve ever used!

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Very quickly, we arrived at the small chattering creek and a strange metal platform straddling it. We set the rope up, but it wasn’t really nessacary and I quickly downclimbed to take a few photos of Fernando dropping down on the bouncy rope (the anchor was a cable strung over the creek).

Quickly, we arrived at the first big pitch. Again a giant metal structure filled the creek. It looked like it most people did a guided abseil, but we decided to drop down through the waterfall which was quite fun.

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Note the platform at the bottom of the waterfall.

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Some nice creek walking followed before arriving at the final big drop. (It looks like commercial groups actually get another abseil in by following the trail… If you stayed in the water as I did and downclimb through a slot you avoid this pitch).

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Me dropping down the final pitch.

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Me dropping down the final pitch.

It was over very quickly. We took off wetsuits and washed at the confluence of two creeks. It was a nice spot. While Fernando pfaffed I walked a short way up the other creek to check out another large waterfall.

When I got back I was supprised to see a rope dangling down the waterfall… How had I missed that!? Then I noticed a person at the top. We found out what the small cable was that stretched from the top to where we were : it was to send a rope down (like what I did guiding in Horne Lake Caves in the Rain Barrel). He seemed to be an advance guide setting up the pitch before the clients arrived. When he disappeared, we though it best we did too.

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The waterfall in the other creek.

A short way down the creek we easily found the exit trail and quickly gained the rd. We walked cautiously past the office, expecting questions, but no one bothered us and we were soon at the junction to Piedrita. A group was just having their introduction talk… Time to go we decided. Leaving my pack, I ran to get the car.

We popped into the Desafio office in town and then the competition: Pure Trek (who guide Piedrita). The guy at Pure Trek was a lot more helpful, and basically said we’d be better off heading to Bajos del Toro if we wanted to run our own canyons.

I didn’t really like La Fortuna. It was overly commercialised and basically made for tourists. Everything was overpriced and seemed a little artificial. I guess that’s what most tourists want…

Luckily I knew about a free hot spring. The entire river was hot actually! It was one of the first things I’d been recommended to visit in Costa Rica… A few other travellers in Guate, etc had recommended it. Unfortunately, even here people were taking of people, making you pay for parking on the side of the public highway. Technically optional to pay (but expected), the asking price of ¢2k was dropped to ¢1k when I told Fernando that we’d find somewhere else. It was the principal. Fernando paid, and we were soon enjoying the thermal waters.

I was taking to some Americans in broken Spanish. They thought I was Tico, but I’d just wanted to practice my Spanish 😉 also a couple of Aussies. There were actually hardly any locals :(… It’s a tourist town.

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Eventually, with prune skin, we got out

Pausing in an outdoor shop in LA Fortuna, we popped briefly into Scotts place. Grabbed some mechanical ascenders, then food. And were soon on our way to enjoy our first routes in Bajos del Toro… I wish we’d bought fuel in Ciudad Quesada… We were pretty much out by the time we arrived. With no petrol station in town, I gave Fernando a told-you-so and we soon bought two overpriced gallons from a local before heading to the start of the next adventure.

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