Colombia High PassesAltitude 4,850m/15,912ft » Duration 15 Days » Grade T2
A tough mountain trek through the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy National Park in the Northern Andes - unique to Jagged Globe
IntroductionThe Sierra Nevada del Cocuy is located on Columbia’s border with Venezuela in the far north east of the country. There are twenty two snowy summits above 5,000m in the National Park. Amongst these cut deep valleys, with cascading waterfalls and lakes - home to tapirs, spectacled bears, Andean condors, eagles and páramo deer. Our trek takes us from north to south, through the heart of this protected wilderness area, over five high passes. The terrain is rugged and some of the passes are snow covered (occasionally requiring the use of crampons). Participants need to be fit and prepared to walk for 5 – 8 hours each day. Following our arrival and a city tour of Bogotá, we transfer by road to El Cocuy at the entrance to the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy National Park.
El Cocuy is one of the most beautiful towns in Columbia, reminiscent of the charming white-washed towns of Andalucia in Spain. We spend two nights here and over the next three days, we walk in the surrounding mountains to 4,500m as part of a careful process of acclimatisation.
Our main trek takes five days, crossing passes up to 4,530m, never sleeping lower than 3,800m. We trek through lush vegetation alongside beautiful azure alpine lakes and cross rivers to eventually arrive at Valle de los Cojines, the most spectacular of the valleys in this area. It is surrounded by 800m high vertical rock walls that drop from the 5,000m summits above. At sunrise the rock is illuminated, providing one of the most stunning sights of the trip.
For the climax of the trek, we cross the Paso de Cusiri (4,530m). The views from the top of the pass, across the wide alpine valley of La Laguna Grande de la Sierra, are fabulous.
On our return to Bogotá, we spend a night in the beautiful colonial city of Villa de Leyva. In recent years, Villa de Leyva has become a centre of arts and crafts, as well as being home to one of the most important palaeontological discoveries in Columbia: a dinosaur from the Pleistocene period.
SecurityWhilst no guarantees of safety can be given for any overseas treks or expeditions, our expedition to Colombia has been approved by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). We wrote to the FCO with our itinerary and they have advised us that it is reasonable to travel to the specific locations named in it. If you would like to read the general FCO Travel advice for Colombia please visit the FCO website.
|Day 1:||Fly London to Bogotá|
We arrive in Colombia's capital city in the evening and are transferred by private vehicle to our hotel in the old district of Candelaria.
|Day 2:||City tour|
Bogotá is located at 2,660m, so we must take it steady today, though we can take the cable car to the church on Cerro Monserrate (3,152m), which provides excellent views over the sprawling city. After descending the furnicular, we can tour the plazas and visit the Gold Museum. In the evening, we might eat at one of the excellent steak restaurants near our hotel in Candelaria.
|Day 3:||Drive to El Cocuy|
We leave Bogotá in the morning and transfer by private bus to El Cocuy (2,850m). El Cocuy is the main entrance to the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy National Park in the northern part of the eastern Andes. It's a long but terrific drive through interesting towns and villages on mainly paved roads, though due to the recent few years of El Nino torrential rain, some roads are in a poor condition and this makes travel much slower. All in all the 400km drive should take between 10 - 12 hours with stops. The landscape will gradually change as we drive through the towns of Tunja, Soatá and Capitanejo. El Cocuy has been chosen several times as the most beautiful town of Colombia, with it's stunning white and green houses, redolent of Andalusia in Spain. We stay overnight in a hostel with good rooms.
|Day 4:||Acclimatisation walk to 3,850m|
In the morning we set out for an acclimatisation walk from the town, with the aim of climbing Cerro Monserrate (3,850m). Before we head into the higher mountains and commit ourselves to crossing high passes, we need a good base of acclimatisation. From day six, every night will be spent above 3,800m, so we need to ensure that everyone is acclimatised and ready for this. We drive to the beginning of a trail at 3,400m and walk up through beautiful Andean countryside past twelve tiny chapels to the summit. Having reached this high point of 3,850m, we descend to the hostel in El Cocuy.td>
|Day 5:||Transfer to Kanwara Huts (3,990m)|
We drive for 30 minutes to Güican, where we begin our trek to the mountain huts at Kanwara (3,990m). In the afternoon, we take a short acclimatisation walk to 4,100m with good views back towards Cerro Monserrate. Overnight in mountain hut.
|Day 6:||Acclimatisation to 4,350m|
From the hut we follow a trail that leads up an easy ridge for three hours to gain a high point of 4,350m. From here there are excellent views of Ritacuba Blanco and Güican. The walk assists our acclimatisation, as tomorrow we cross the Paso de los Verdes (4,400m). Overnight in mountain hut.
|Day 7:||Cross Paso de los Verdes (4,400m)|
This is really the first of five days of trekking across the range. We begin the day with a moderate ascent to the first of two mountain passes. It takes about 1.5 hours to reach the Paso del Cardenillo, from where we can enjoy amazing views towards the northern peaks of the Sierra. It takes about an hour to descend from the pass into the Valle del Cardenillo, where we must cross a river, before climbing up the other side of the valley to the higher Paso de los Verdes (4,400m). This pass is the entry point to the eastern side of the range, through which we will travel over the next four days. On the descent from the pass, we pick our way through lush vegetation to arrive at a beautiful green lake in the bottom of the valley. We camp on the shore of Laguna Grande de los Verdes at an altitude of 4,050m. 7 hours walking.
|Day 8:||Trek to Valle de los Cojines|
Awakening to the cool of the morning, with mist rising from the lake, we contemplate another day of tough trekking to reach the Valle de los Cojines, one of the most beautiful locations on the trip. After breakfast, we follow a steep path for about 1.5 hours to reach the Paso de los Frailes (4,300m). Here we have views into the Valle de la Laguna de la Isla, so named because of its beautiful alpine lake with a small island in the middle of it. It takes about three hours to descend from the pass and walk up this valley, past the lake to the next pass, El Paso de la Avellanal (4,750m). It's here that we enter possibly the most attractive of all these high mountain valleys; the Valle de los Cojines. The valley is surrounded by several peaks above 5,000 metres, which have steep rock walls as high as 800m on their eastern aspects. We camp below these beside yet another lake, the Laguna de la Avellanal, at an altitude of 4,500m. 7 hours walking.
|Day 9:||Trek to Laguna del Pañuelo|
At sunrise the steep rock walls of the valley are illuminated and glow a bright orange colour, providing a wonderful backdrop as we enjoy breakfast. Our route today takes us down the valley and past some strange vegetation, that gives the valley its name. 'Cojines' means 'pillows' in Spanish and is the name given to the floating vegetation on the swampland in the middle of the valley. After a couple of hours walking, we reach El Castillo, a very curious looking peak, which is well-known in the Columbian Alpinist world. From here we head up to the next pass at 4,650m, which has a small glacier on the top of it. The descent is straightforward and takes us to another alpine lake called La Laguna del Pañuelo at 4,350m. 7 hours walking. Overnight camp.
|Day 10:||Cross Paso de los Balcones (4,500m) to La Laguna de la Plaza|
The climb up to Paso de los Balcones is on steep moraine and should take about 1.5 hours. On a clear day it is possible to see the east face of Concavo, an impressive wall that rises up to 5,200m. After a rest at the top of the pass, we descend through high altitude vegetation to the biggest lake in the range; La Laguna de la Plaza. This blue lake is surrounded by an alpine scene of snowy peaks and vertical rock walls, which contrasts with the lush vegetation of the valley. 7 hours walking. We set up our camp at the end of the lake at an altitude of 4,400m.
|Day 11:||Trek over the Cusiri Pass (4,530m)|
This is a tough day trekking over three passes; Patio de Bolos (4,370m), Paso de Cusiri (4,530m) and a final un-named pass to reach to La Esperanza Farm (3,600m). 7 - 9 hours walking. Overnight La Esperanza Farm.
|Day 12:||Transfer to Villa de Leyva|
It takes about 6 hours by private transfer to Villa De Leyva for a relaxing afternoon and evening at our hotel.
|Day 13:||Transfer to Bogotá|
We have most of the day to enjoy the colonial city of Villa De Leyva with its cobbled streets. It is a very well preserved Andean town and a good place to buy arts and crafts. It is also home to one of the most important paleontological discoveries in Colombia, the Dinosaurio de Villa de Leyva. We will visit this excellent museum to find out more about this dinosaur from the Pleistocene times. Alternatively, you might prefer to simply relax with a beer. In the afternoon, we return to Bogotá to spend a night at our hotel. We have a final, celebratory meal in the old part of the city.
|Day 14:||Depart Bogotá|
|Day 15:||Arrive UK|
PLEASE NOTE: Please note that this itinerary is a guideline only. Although every effort will be made to adhere to it, unforeseen circumstances may force changes to be made at the last moment. Please be prepared to be flexible if necessary.
LeadershipOur expeditions are led by very experienced mountain leaders. In selecting suitable leaders, our prime concern is that they have an excellent personal track-record of climbing at high altitudes...read more about leaders.
Team CompositionThe Jagged Globe leader is supported by an local English-speaking Colombian guide for the duration of the trek. He has grown up mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy, so knows the area intimately. A fluent English-speaking assistant guide will also be employed for part of the trek, depending on team numbers. Mules and porters are used to carry both the group equipment and team members' gear, so you only need to carry a daypack.
- There are 14 places available on the trek.
Experience RequiredColombia High Passes details is graded T2.
The Colombia High Passes Trek is suitable for fit walkers or those with previous trekking experience. If you have completed the Inca Trail, climbed Kilimanjaro or are a regular weekend hill walker, you could consider the Colombia High Passes trek.
If you would like to discuss your previous experience or your suitability for the expedition then please get in touch and we would be delighted to talk to you.
Our Introductory Long Weekend in Scotland provides good preparation for a tough trek.
Pre-Trip MeetingPrior to all our expeditions and treks, we host a Pre-Trip Weekend in North Wales. The primary purpose of the weekend is to provide an opportunity for individuals to ask questions about the forthcoming trip and to introduce them to other team members. The weekend covers topics as diverse as personal equipment and acclimatisation and usually involves a hike and some skills training. To find out more about our Pre-Trip Weekends [click here].
EquipmentFind out about our comprehensive Equipment Hire Service.
Trekkers need to provide their own personal clothing and equipment. Some items of equipment are available for hire from us but we strongly recommend that you purchase your own personal equipment and test it before departure.
A complete kit list is contained in the Trek Dossier, which is sent to you on receipt of your booking deposit.
What the price includes
- Economy class return airfares from the UK (unless otherwise specified.)
- UK airport taxes.
- Good standard hotel accommodation in Bogotá and El Cocuy on a bed and breakfast basis.
- Camping and mountain hut accommodation throughout the trek.
- All road transport by private vehicles.
- All meals during the trek.
- All porterage costs.
- All costs for leaders, guides and local helpers detailed under Team Composition.
- Jagged Globe kitbag or fleece.
What the price does not include
- Visa fees.
- Overseas airports taxes not paid in advance through the international airline ticket.
- Bar bills and laundry.
- Travel insurance.
- Lunch and evening meals in Bogotá and El Cocuy.
- Optional trips.
Tailor-made optionWe can organise this trek on a 'tailor-made' private basis for groups of friends, families, clubs, charities or any other group. Depending on your previous trekking experience, you may want a Jagged Globe leader or go 'self-led' with the assistance of local guides. The cost of going private can be surprisingly reasonable, particularly if you take the self-led option. Please contact us to discuss the itinerary and your preferred dates. We will then send you a quote, with no obligation.
Additional InformationIf you wish to discuss any aspect of the trek or your suitability for it, please contact us by telephone:
- +44 (0) 845 345 8848
Alternatively, you can contact us by email via the Contact Page on the website.