According to Oprah Magazine, climbing the Piton's should be on your list of 'Five things to do before you die', and when Oprah talks, people generally listen.
And it seems that the Americans do listen; our tour group was predominantly excited Americans plus a couple of quiet Brits. The long winding drive from our hotel was enough to jangle anyone's nerves, so it was a relief to tumble out of the bus at the base of Gros Piton, the larger but easier of the two to climb.
We were handed small bottles of water, which we stuffed into a borrowed backpack generously loaned by our bus driver alongside another small bottle and felt wildly underprepared.
The climb itself is only two hours, however, with an estimated climbing time of two hours, you know it's not going to be a gentle path. Split into four sections, these bench breaks provide a moments rest, and a drop off point for those who can't continue any further. We weren't the only ones who had underestimated the intensity of this activity, and we left two companions at point the first stop, 15 minutes into the hike.
The views at the lookout points were huge incentive for us to keep going, despite the sweat pouring off. The 31 degrees and high humidity meant we were all dripping almost as soon as we started, and had to ration water.
The hike is classed as moderate to hard, with the first half as the moderate bit. This includes some quite steep scrambling over boulders and grabbing at trees to hoist yourself up to the next bit with some interludes of flatter parts. The second section is steeper with no flat areas of relief. Scrambling is often the recommended strategy.
Lungs heave, sweat drips into your eyes and down your back, and your quads are burning yet any ailments are all but forgotten once you reach the summit. Sweeping panoramic views across the North of St Lucia, a shaded rock to perch upon and a light breeze rejuvenate even the sweatiest of climbers, as do the snacks that most people remembered to bring. (We did not remember snacks; an apple has never looked so appealing). A camera is also a must have to document your once in a lifetime achievement.
The way back down is easier on the lungs, but tougher on the legs and required even more concentration. It took us around an hour and a half to descend the mountain, watching every foot placement to ensure no ankles were twisted. We scooped up any waylaid hikers and made our way back to base, where we enjoyed liquid gold in the form of cold Sprites swigged straight from the bottle.
Refreshed, our guide took us to a local cafe overlooking the Pitons to admire our morning's work whilst eating local Caribbean cuisine, before a rejuvenating dip in the sea.
If you're in St Lucia and after a challenge, then climbing Gros Piton is certainly that, however do not underestimate how tough it is. The guide told us that our group did it faster than most, however I do think that a few signed up without the level of fitness required for it.
Upon returning to our hotel, Sandal's Le Toc, there was a freshly drawn bath, arranged by our private butler, waiting for us to jump in before heading off for a massage. We toasted our day's achievement with champagne and a five course dinner on the beach as the sun went down, not a bad way to spend a day on holiday if you ask me.