The odyssey begins within the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary’s park headquarters, where hikers are recommended to wake up within for an early start at dawn. The innocent Victoria Peak Trail signage gives way to a mostly flat old lagging track that twists northwest towards the Peak itself. A quick rest stop at the 13km helipad includes a refreshing respite at the provided picnic tables along the banks of the Sittee River. ATV transportation is available until this point.
Most groups are able to push through to 19km on Day 1; the ascending and descending undulations quickly change to up, up, up. Living up to its name, “Heartbreak Hill” gives way to 19km, or “Dead Man’s Camp”, which will be home for the next 2 nights. Enjoy a well-deserved massage from the nearby shower-sized waterfall, share stories of the day with a soothing bowl of carb-laden noodles, and bask in the licking flames over a campfire in the cool night air of the jungle. Though medium-size tents may be used, camping hammocks are recommended due to their lightness.
Summit day requires an essentials only daypack of water, lunch, and sheer will for the ascent ahead. Starting earlier than the day before, altitude and humidity changes reveal a dwarfed elfin forest with ethereal qualities, including blankets of sphagnum moss and rare high-elevation species, like the Fiery-colored Orchid (Epidendrum ibaguense). Though the rope and harness required for a short rock gully climb may be intimidating, a final push of exhaustion and exhilaration reveals a 360 view standing at the height of the Maya Mountain range. After taking in the emerald expanse of the Stann Creek District below, your group returns back to 19km for another overnight in the wild.
Say goodbye to Deadman’s Camp as you return down the same path – ‘down’ being relative’. The journey back to civilization still comes with its ascents and descents; paired with fatigue, the prospect of a hot shower and clean clothes fuels you.
Victoria Peak is reserved for intrepid hikers, and the self-proclaimed weekend warrior, as one of the most strenuous hikes in Central America. A VP-experienced licensed tour guide must accompany all hikers on the 27 km one-way trail with no more than 8 guests per group. Both Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Victoria Peak Natural Monument are proudly co-managed by the Belize Audubon Society, where each visit funds on-site management and its sustainable conservation.
Written by Carolee Chanona