Hike to Victoria Peak. March 2015
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Thursday July 16, 2015

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“Who has seen Victoria Peak has seen beauty. Who has climbed Victoria Peak can understand beauty. This was my first time to actually make it to the top, as my plans were cut short due to rain back in 2006. Such a hike really reconnects you with nature even if it has been decades apart. Here is a photo-story for birders, botanists, GIS-ists, and all those of you who love Belize for its natural wonders…

Roni Martinez is the Director of Field Operations for the Scarlet Six BioMonitoring Team. Scarlet Six is a registered Belizean Non-Governmental Organization protecting endangered species in their habitat. Roni is certainly one of the GOOD GUYS…and he has embraced his responsibilities as a champion for Belize’s forests wholeheartedly!

We are thrilled to share his photo-story with you…reading the captions, it feels like we’re there (except we’re not ) How excited are YOU to take this hike?! I know we are! (runs an extra lap…)

Victoria Peak Expedition Roni Martinez Scarlet Six Biomonitoring-1

It was a dry March morning when we left the Cockscomb Basin Visitors Centre, and headed NW towards the Peak. Since it was a big crowd and we coud afford it, we got a short ride with all our bags on a bumpy ATV ride.

The Sittee River was a refreshing stop as we endured the hike. This was a stop for water and for Macaws.

The Sittee River was a refreshing stop as we endured the hike. This was a stop for water and for Macaws.

From the Helipad at 18K, I lay half dead with barely any energy to snap. But then I reasoned that I might not come back and angled the lens.

From the Helipad at 18K, I lay half dead with barely any energy to snap. But then I reasoned that I might not come back and angled the lens.

I zoomed into the peak and thought for long on tomorrow's hike. I endured today, but tomorrow... tomorrow was not sure.

I zoomed into the peak and thought for long on tomorrow’s hike. I endured today, but tomorrow… tomorrow was not sure.

The rythm was up and down, followed by up and up and up. Your body plays tricks on you and your mind disuades you in a way poorly understood. For this hike, you need a strong body, but a much stronger mind.

The rythm was up and down, followed by up and up and up. Your body plays tricks on you and your mind disuades you in a way poorly understood. For this hike, you need a strong body, but a much stronger mind.

As we hit 2000ft we started seeing Colpothrinax plams, a high elevation species. Spotted Woodcreepers started appearing as well.

As we hit 2000ft we started seeing Colpothrinax plams, a high elevation species. Spotted Woodcreepers started appearing as well.

Exhausted, we started going up the rockface. Because of the humidity, they are covered in ferns and orchids and moss.

Exhausted, we started going up the rockface. Because of the humidity, they are covered in ferns and orchids and moss.

Moss of many colors and shapes I must say. But you could not hold on to those. If you were falling, you could only see them as you fell.

Moss of many colors and shapes I must say. But you could not hold on to those. If you were falling, you could only see them as you fell.

Near the top, the vegetation changed. I was expecting only elfin scrub, but that was not the case. Every single trunk, vine and branch was covered with moss. The cool wind blowing from the East was moist.

Near the top, the vegetation changed. I was expecting only elfin scrub, but that was not the case. Every single trunk, vine and branch was covered with moss. The cool wind blowing from the East was moist.

At "the saddle" I paused for a good while watching Crowned Woodnymphs and Brown Violet Ears feeding on this Psychotria. The flowers were easy, the hummers, not so much.

At “the saddle” I paused for a good while watching Crowned Woodnymphs and Brown Violet Ears feeding on this Psychotria. The flowers were easy, the hummers, not so much.

Its truly incredible just how much moisture the trunks can hold due to the amount of moss growing on them. From a little distance it does seem dry. I placed my hand on the moss and when I pulled back my hand it was dripping with water.

Its truly incredible just how much moisture the trunks can hold due to the amount of moss growing on them. From a little distance it does seem dry. I placed my hand on the moss and when I pulled back my hand it was dripping with water.

View from "the Saddle" looking West.

View from “the Saddle” looking West.

View from "the Saddle" looking SW. Thats the mighty Chiquibul in the distance.

View from “the Saddle” looking SW. Thats the mighty Chiquibul in the distance.

Looking NW from "the Saddle". Sittee River F.R. in the foreground and Sibun F.R. in the background.

Looking NW from “the Saddle”. Sittee River F.R. in the foreground and Sibun F.R. in the background.

Looking NW from "the Saddle". Sittee River F.R. in the foreground and Sibun F.R. in the background.

Looking NW from “the Saddle”. Sittee River F.R. in the foreground and Sibun F.R. in the background.

The Northern Walls could certainly host Orange-breasted Falcons, but they made a royal absence during my surveys. Massive Granite!

The Northern Walls could certainly host Orange-breasted Falcons, but they made a royal absence during my surveys. Massive Granite!

"The Saddle" itself seems very worthy of exploring. Tons of Clusia! Euterpe and Colpothrinax plams soared above.

“The Saddle” itself seems very worthy of exploring. Tons of Clusia! Euterpe and Colpothrinax plams soared above.

Inside this miniature forest, orchids, ferns, anthuriums and bromeliads covered the levels. My friends from the Cave's Branch Botanical Garden even found a new plant record for the country!

Inside this miniature forest, orchids, ferns, anthuriums and bromeliads covered the levels. My friends from the Cave’s Branch Botanical Garden even found a new plant record for the country!

Leaving "the saddle" and heading higher up. The true peak reveals its full glory. The backbone of the Maya Mountains begins here.

Leaving “the saddle” and heading higher up. The true peak reveals its full glory. The backbone of the Maya Mountains begins here.

Looking south, this is The Basin.

Looking south, this is The Basin.

The most stunning views I have witnessed, start here.

The most stunning views I have witnessed, start here.

The trail at the top has a fancy and very spongy carpet.

The trail at the top has a fancy and very spongy carpet.

Looking North, towards the Sittee River F.R.

Looking North, towards the Sittee River F.R.

And all the way up there, I stare at the landscape and recap the odyssey. I take in the views and mentally go over the bird list.

And all the way up there, I stare at the landscape and recap the odyssey. I take in the views and mentally go over the bird list.

The following day, we head back slowly at first light. Curiously, that heart-crunching hike seems like a stroll along the beach on the way out.

The following day, we head back slowly at first light. Curiously, that heart-crunching hike seems like a stroll along the beach on the way out.

We keep following a serpentine trail and stopping only at these cascades for water.

We keep following a serpentine trail and stopping only at these cascades for water.

Back at camp, we were greeted by Emerald Toucanets. I am totally amazed at just how much we recorded at night. During the day I found a Crested Eagle which was a lifetime achievement. But at night... Armadillo, Crested Owl, Kinkajou, Margay, Tapir, Gibnut, and and my second Cacomistle!

Back at camp, we were greeted by Emerald Toucanets. I am totally amazed at just how much we recorded at night. During the day I found a Crested Eagle which was a lifetime achievement. But at night… Armadillo, Crested Owl, Kinkajou, Margay, Tapir, Gibnut, and and my second Cacomistle!

We end the final day, exhausted and humbled but educated! We have so much more to discover, so much more to uncover, so much more to learn. All I pray, is for time to be on our side.

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Scarlet Six Biomonitoring Team
Scarlet Six Biomonitoring Team is a registered Belizean Non-Governmental Organization protecting endangered species in their habitat. S6 seeks to protect endangered species in their habitat, inspire Belizeans to value wildlife, and teach future generations to act now for these species.
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Hike to Victoria Peak. March 2015

We end the final day, exhausted and humbled but educated! We have so much more to discover, so much more to uncover, so much more to learn. All I pray, is for time to be on our side.

Oh Roni, your words have certainly re-affirmed our desire to join you on such an expedition someday soon.

The Victoria Peak Natural Monument is managed by Belize Audubon Society.

Photographs by Roni Martinez

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