El Cocuy – Colombia’s premier trekking destination

Colombia4-7

By now….we absolutely LOVE Colombia! One surprise after the other…. the country is so versatile and lots of amazing encounters with Colombians!

The Sierra Nevada del Cocuy contains 21 glorious peaks, most of which are higher than 5’000 meters (over 17,000 feet). The dramatic landscape consists of snow clad peaks, towering waterfalls, glaciers (rapidly melting unfortunately) and beautiful, crystal clear lakes. When we heard and read about this National Park in the Andes Mountains ……..we knew it’s a MUST GO! This place is a heaven for mountaineers and rock climbers with glaciated peaks and tons of rarely exposed alpine terrain. Hope you enjoy the pics – scroll all the way down.

Long but fantastic drive to the remote El Cocuy

Just the drive from San Gil to the remote National Park El Cocuy was spectacular and totally worth it. The winding roads, mostly unpaved, are going through some beautiful scenery. Up and down many valleys and through mountain villages.

Colombia4-2

Ivan is adjusting the tire pressure

Colombia4-3

Colombia4-4

looking back

Colombia4-5

Colombia4-6

Colombia4-7

we loved these spectacular roads

Colombia4-8

Colombia4-9

on the way we passed many small towns. this is the church of San Joaquin

Colombia4-10

the view of San Joaquin

Colombia4-12

the VERY friendly police officers in Capitanejo. Very few tourist drive through this town. Not only were they so helpful, they even served us coffee in the evening and in the morning.

Colombia4-11

Colombia4-13

Colombia4-14

the snow capped peaks of El Cocuy still far away

Colombia4-15

a lot of agriculture in this region

Güicán – one of the gateway towns

Güicán is the town from which we started our adventures into the mountainous haven of the PNN El Cocuy. Before you enter the park you need to register and pay fees at the National Park office. To acclimatize to the altitude we were looking for a place to stay in town. We ran into Benjamin and he invited us to stay at his little farm. His wife and daughter even cooked dinner for us. Myrjam used to work with tourist in the park and was very knowledgeable about the area and would love to welcome more travellers. Check out the details on ioverlander.

Colombia4-16

Benjamin and his family offered great hospitality on his finca a little above Guican

Colombia4-17

what a view they have!

Our first base camp at Cabañas Kanwara

From Güicán we drove up to the sector called “Ritacuba Blanco” and parked at Cabañas Kanwara – a great base camp at 4’000m to explore this stunning park. We met hikers at all levels. Some very well equipped with warm clothing and good shoes. Some with just slippers or rubber boots and did not know how to dress properly for this climate and were freezing accordingly.  Also the cabins were poorly built and had no heating. After dinner we went for a hot tea and not even the dining room was heated and there was no stove. Also the local mountain guides were wearing simple shoes, their typical poncho (made out of sheep wool) and had a shoulder bag hanging on the side. At night they were standing around the fire and were drinking Aguardiente (Colombian liquor) to warm up and invited us to join. We were so grateful for our warm clothing and especially for a comfortable warm night in our down sleeping bags. We talked to people that had no hiking experience at all and we wondering why they would choose such challenging terrain and the high altitude for a premier. In addition although they leave early in the morning, they come back only at dark and are totally exhausted and starved because they did not bring enough food and water. I was shocked and impressed at the same time.

I have to admit I was a bit nervous for the hike on the next day. You never know how you react at this altitude and if I would be fit enough. Luckily going up went well and it was an amazing feeling to stand at 5’000m. To reach the peak of Ritacuba Blanco (5’330 meters) a glacier must be crossed but we did not have the necessary equipment with us. Especially Ivan did not replace yet his stolen mountaineering boots. On the way down though I got a headache and the food I ate upset my stomach. Back in camp I had an hour sleep and immediately felt better. A great introduction for more adventures in the high mountains.

Colombia4-18

just before the base camp

Colombia4-19

amazing place to camp at 4’000m and so close to the highest peak in El Cocuy

Colombia4-38

we met wonderful people at at Cabañas Kanwara

Colombia4-20

next to the main house with restaurant they rent these cabins

Colombia4-37

sheep at base camp

Colombia4-22

horses at 4’000m

Colombia4-21

fantastic hiking trails

Colombia4-23

“Those moments when you know you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.”

Colombia4-26

the trails are well signed

Colombia5-1

hiking through the typical Frailejón plants

Colombia4-27

working hard….

Colombia4-28

alpine flowers

Colombia5-4

Colombia4-29

some scrambling before we reach the glacier

Colombia5-2

snow covered peaks

Colombia4-30

so windy and cold up here… had to wear my facemask

Colombia4-31

at 4’900 meters

Colombia4-32

Into thin air – on my way to reach 5’000 meters

Colombia_9999

we made it – we reached 5’000m / 17,000 feet

Colombia4-33

a well deserved break before descending

Colombia4-34

Colombia4-35

Colombia4-36

The natural beauty of Cocuy

Our second base camp at Cabañas Herrera

I needed a day to recover and we drove to a different sector called “Lagunillas”. We camped again at 4’000m and the following day we hiked towards the Pan de Azucar and the Púlpito del Diablo – a massive square rock.

Colombia4-39

our goal from distance…

Colombia4-40

Colombia4-41

Colombia4-42

Colombia4-43

Pulpito del Diablo lies next to Pan de Azucar

Colombia4-44

Colombia5-3

Pulpito del Diablo

Colombia4-45

Ivan had still some energy for bouldering

Colombia4-46

Colombia4-47

El Cocuy – the town

This is the other gateway town for the National Park. Here we had to check in with the park office again that we’ve exited the park safely otherwise rescue teams would be launched to look for us. Special character of this town is that nearly every building in town is painted white with sea-green.

Colombia4-48

the town of El Cocuy

Colombia4-49

nearly every building in town is painted white with sea-green trim

One thought on “El Cocuy – Colombia’s premier trekking destination

Leave a Reply to Gordon Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s