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.
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.
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.
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.
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.