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[TR] Parque El Cocuy, Colombia - 12/17/2013

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Trip: Parque El Cocuy, Colombia -


Date: 12/17/2013


Trip Report:

When I moved to Colombia a year and a half ago I had one goal, getting to Parque Nacional El Cocuy. With that goal accomplished I think I am ready to move back to Washington.


We only had 5 days to spend in this amazing area, I wish we had 2+ weeks. The scenery, mountains, people, and weather were incredible. With limited time and big goals we hired a guide to coordinate transportation and lodging logistics, and to make sure we didn't get lost on the approach. For us it was well worth it, but if you have the time it is a very easy area to go self-supported, good roads, transportation and places to camp. The trails are pretty good too, a little braided in places, but easy to negotiate in the light. At each trail head there are cabins/guest houses where you can get a decent bed and good meals for a reasonable price. We did both of our climbs as single-push days from the cabins (4,000m).


Currently the park holds the highest climbable peak in Colombia in Ritak U'Wa Blanco at 5,330m. There are 3 higher peaks in Colombia but they are in areas controlled by Narcos, or Natives, and the natives don't appreciate any outside influence, or people climbing their sacred mountains. Fair enough. Current estimates give the glaciers in El Cocuy 25-50 years before they are gone. Get it while you can. Anybody up for a last ski descent?


After 2 days of acclimation hikes we climbed Pan de Azucar (5,120m) on the 17th. The weather pattern had been clear mornings until 10am when the clouds moved in, but this day it was overcast when we started out at 3am, with the clouds breaking just was we reached the summit. It was a straight forward walk-up ascent, with a little exposure on the summit ridge. This was Tara's first climb and she was a total champ! She never thought she would like climbing, and then she tried it.


Once we got back to the cabin, we caught a ride to the north end of the park, to get set up for climbing Ritak U'Wa Blanco(5,330m) on the 18th. Tara decided to sleep in and skip this peak, relishing in her accomplishment on the previous day. Ritak U'Wa has the biggest glacier in the park, and the views were amazing.



Statue of the U'Wa creation story



God Sleeps in the stones, Breathes in the plants, Dreams in the animals, Whispers in the water and Awakes in man



Poster inside the National Park office, Smokey the bear doesn't seem so hot anymore.



Endemic Collared Lizard



La Vieja



Cool Rocks



Frailejones with Pulpito del Diablo and Pan de Azucar in the background



Base Cabin for Pan de Azucar



Bring your fishing pole if you go.



First site of Pan de Azucar, STOKED!



Summit ridge of Pan de Azucar



Last steps to the summit, Possibly the biggest smile I have seen.



Ritak U'Wa Blanco poking through the clouds on the decent



Pulpito del Diablo. There are a number of rock routes on this tower.





It took an hour to descend on the bedrock that the receding glacier has exposed in the last 50 years.



Guide Hilberto with Ritak U'Wa negro in the back



Summit of Ritak U'Wa Blanco




Almost there



Summit views



Pan de Azucar on the far right


On the bus ride back Tara asked, "What does it take to climb Cotopaxi"

She is hooked!


Approach Notes:

Fly to Bogota, 12 hour bus to the towns of El Cocuy or Guican. 2 hour drive to trail head.

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I had no idea that Columbia had such cool mountains, thanks for the report!

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Cool trip! How tall is that Pulpito del Diablo? Hard to tell from the photos.

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Summit post lists Pulpito del Diablo as 70m-90m, seems about right.


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