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Mountain Madness Climber

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