Peak-Bagging in Colombia!
This end and begin of 2014 – 15 in Cocuy, Colombia was characterized by clear skies and very strong winds throughout the entire mountain climbing season.
Our MM group enjoyed great hiking conditions during the acclimatization hikes to the Monserrate and Pico del Aguila summits. The views were just perfect with the beautiful snow-covered peaks in the background contrasting with the green and yellow fields in the lower slopes of the mountain range.
Barbara on the summit of Pico del Aguila. Juan Carlos Gonzalez’s photo
Barbara and Kathleen, our team members, enjoyed rather warm temperatures at the beginning of the trip, until we began our ascent to our base camp at Laguna Grande de la Sierra. After our nearly 900-meter ascent to base camp and setting up our tents in the busy camp (busy by Colombian standards which is nothing to compare to other countries due to the unknown nature of the destination), we decided to climb Pico Toti the next morning.
Laguna Grande de la Sierra. Mark Gunlogson photo (prior trip)
We left early in the morning and had a pleasant hike to the glacier, where we started our first major ascent of the trip. For Kat, it was her first experience with crampons and ice axe and Toti features quite a varied terrain with snow, rocks and a bit of scrambling, so it was challenge! We summited before all the other groups with a clear view to the entire east side of the range and a nice view down into the lower valleys.
Barbara and Kat on Toti’s ridge. Juan Carlos Gonzalez’s photo
One great thing about the expedition to the Colombian Andes is the central location of our base camp. Climbers of all skill levels can find exciting objectives within a short distance and families or friends with varying skill-levels can enjoy the trip together!
The next morning, we departed with Barbara towards Pico Concavo, our next goal. We delayed our early schedule departure due to the strong winds. We climbed up from base camp to the summit in a little over 3 hours, which is a record for the MM’s groups! As the day before, the weather was windy but clear and this time the view was even clearer from lower clouds. We had an incomparable sight to the lowlands of the Orinoquia.
Barbara close to the summit of Concavo. Juan Carlos Gonzalez’s photo
In the mean time, Kat hiked up to the glacier at 4700 meters with assistant guide Rafa, as she had decided to take a lighter day and enjoy the scenery and landscapes. We met back at base camp for a nice lunch prepared by Rafa.
As Barbara was really keen on doing a bit more climbing, we took her out to climb Pico Pan de Azucar (5250 meters) the next morning, descending by Lagunillas Valley and hiking over the Aguila Pass down to La Esperanza mountain farm. This was a 12 hour climb, which she concluded very well. 3 summits in 3 days! A real “peak bagging,” as Kat put it.
The whole group enjoyed a well deserve rest and a great homemade meal at the family run mountain farm!
Lush farm land. Mark Gunlogson photo
The next morning we were taken to Ritacuba Blanco’s trailhead and hiked about four hours to high camp. Even though the weather was not as clear as it has been, the temperature was good for hiking. We woke up early to an incredibly still mountain adorned with a clear night sky.
Kat approaching the summit of Ritacuba Blanco. Juan Carlos Gonzalez’s photo
The temperature was well above freezing and visibility was perfect for a summit day. All the conditions were just right, the first light of the morning hit the snow peaks and the ascent was a total joy; a light breeze an comfortable temperatures along with clear skies accompanied us the whole morning. From the summit, we could see most of the western peaks as well as some of the eastern ones. The clouds were parked below us and a blue sky above. A perfect end to a very enjoyable and successful MM trip in Colombia 2015.
~ MM Guide Juan Carlos Gonzalez
Kat and Barbara on the summit of Ritacuba Blanco. Juan Carlos Gonzalez’s photo