Loop around the
Sierra Nevada del Cocuy
one of Colombia's most spectacular trek
The Sierra Nevada del Cocuy is the highest point on the Eastern Andean mountains of Colombia, it is formed by two parallel extensions 30 km long with beautiful valleys and lakes and 22 snow capped peaks, It is part of Colombia’s National park system, the fifth in extension with an area of 306,000 Ha (756,000 acres); it lies between the departments of Boyaca and Arauca and is also known by the names of Guican and Chita.
It is the largest extension of glaciers in South America, North of the equator, altitude varies between 4,800 and 5,330 meters at the peak Ritacubo Blanco (15,700 17,500 ft). Its hydrography is of great importance, since it represents a large reserve of the Arauca and Casanare rivers on its Eastern slopes, belonging to the Orinoco basin, and on the Western side, the rivers Chicamocha, Gallinazo, Sogamoso and Sube, which are tributaries of the Magdalena River. The best time to visit the area are from December to February as there is less precipitations.
The area offers spectacular landscape for hiking and mountaineering but the observation of flora and fauna is also a great attraction, one can observe a variety of frailejons (espeletia), typical andean plant, or animals like the spectacled bear, the tapir, and among the interesting birds: the endangered Condor.
There are several possibilities for treks in the Natural Park El Cocuy, ranging from a day excursions to several days treks. There is also the oportunity of ice climbingvarious 5000 m. peaks.
The itinerary presented here is the Great Loop, a 7 days, non-technical, medium to high mountain trek, where we do a complete tour around the peaks of el Cocuy. In these unique landscapes, we will go from one pristine lagoon to another, between glaciers and nights so dark, one could almost touch the stars.
The itinerary described here starts at the small village of El Cocuy. You can get there by public bus or private car or we can arrange to pick you up in Bogota, just ask us. Whatever your means of arrival to El Cocuy, we recommend to arrive a day before the start of the trek in order to acclimatize to the altitude, which is the main danger in those mountain hikes.
The great Loop, 7 days / 6 nights
After breakfast, transfer by private vehicle to Kanwara cabins located about 3900 meters above sea level (about 1h15 drive). The cabins are built facing the highest point of the Sierra: the Ritacuba Blanco (5330 nm high). Lunch. In the afternoon, new altitude acclimatization walk of about two hours above the Kanwara cabins (up to 4100 m in altitude). This walk allows for the observation of several species of typical avd endemic plants of the colombian Andes, like the iconic "Frailejones." Back to the cabins and rest. Dinner. Night in bed in the Kanwara cabins.
Start of the "Great Loop" in the majestic Sierra Nevada del Cocuy with many snowy peaks rising to over 5,000 m of altitude. This day will take about 6 hours walking with two passes including the Paso de Boqueron of Cardenillo at an altitude of 4300 m. Picnic lunch on the way. We will et up camp on the shore of the Laguna Grande de Los Verdes at about 4200 m altitude. The lagoon was given this name because of the immense pastures that surround it. Dinner. Overnight in tents.
This day's walk is the longest of the trip. Allow about 8 hours walking with the crossing of the passes El Alto de Los Frailes, Laguna El Avellanal and the difficult Boquerón de la Sierra at 4650 m. (the highest pass in the loop). Picnic lunch on the way. Set up camp at the Cueva Larga at about 4200 m altitude. This is a huge cave where the tents will be protected in any weather. Dinner. Overnight in tents.
Today we walk about 6 hours, crossing the Valle de los Cojines and the Paso Del Castillo at 4530 m of altitude. Picnic lunch on the way. We will set up camp above the Laguna Del Panuelo at about 4300 m of altitude. The mountains surrounding the campsite are majestic and are reflected in the water of the green lagoon. Dinner. Overnight in tents.
Breakfast. Today, about 7 hours walking including the crossing of Paso Balcones at 4350 m of altitude. Picnic lunch on the way. We will arrive at laguna de la Plaza from the north. It is the Sierra's largest lagoon. We will then follow its shores to the Eastern half. The scenery is outstanding with frailejones reflected in the blue waters of the lagoon. Installation of the camp is near the lagoon at about 4200 m above sea level, or slightly above. Dinner. Overnight in tents.
Breakfast. 5 hours walking today with the crossing of Patio Bolos at 4360 m and the difficult Paso Cusiri at 4410 m of altitude. Before arriving at the cabin, we will hike along the four lakes in this part of the park: La Parada, la atravesada, la cuadrada and La Pintada. Picnic lunch on the way. Installation in the Sisuma cabins at about 4000 m of altitude. Dinner. Night in bed at Sisuma cabins.
Breakfast. Another 5 hours walking day to reach the perpetual snow at the foot of Pan de Azucar at an altitude of about 4800 m. Possibillity to perform a short walk on the snow, with, iin the background, the square-shaped peak el Pulpito. Picnic lunch on the way. We will descend the same path back to the Sisuma cabins and exit the park on foot (1h30 walk) following the River Lagunillas. Then, we will continue down to El Cocuy with a 4WD vehicle (1 hour). Beautiful mountain landscape with its small, isolated milk-producing farms. Arrival at El Cocuy.
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