||On a scale of one to ten for treks it was a 10 for me. This place is so isolated that during our five-six day trek, we saw one other person. This was a local fella on a horse wearing a traditional poncho that we passed at the beginning of the trek.
My guide was Rodrigo Arias. His English is very good so it made things very comfortable since my Spanish is pretty bad. Rodrigo is a great guide, fantastic cook, and an all around great guy. This trek through the Sierra Nevada Del Cocuy has the most breathtaking scenery of any place I have been in the world. Its grandeur and remoteness are unprecedented. It is actually a National Park in Columbia called "Parque Nacional El Cocuy" but there are those that feel that the name should actually be "Parque Nacional El Guican.". This appears to stem from an age old a feud between the towns of El Cocuy and Guican, which serve as the main base camps for treks into the park. I am staying in Guican right now.
The trek is not for the faint of heart. It begins at about 13,500 feet then rises quickly to 14,000 feet. There are a couple of passes that are over 15,000 feet. You generally camp for four nights at just over 14,000 feet. The first night is an acclimatization camp and is in a nice structure, but the rest of the trek is all natural and at high elevations. You need to be physically and mentally prepared to do this journey, as it is very challenging. The diversity of the terrain is daunting. From pasture, to high elevation wetland bog, to rocky moraine, to traditional trails winding up and down impossibly beautiful passes, to walking on solid granite platforms, to a little rock climbing (minor), etc, etc. Sometimes there is no visible trail, but the route is well marked with Carnes "Stacked Rocks." The campsites are located in amazing places with alpine lakes and massive snowy summits reaching 17,000 feet into the sky. Rodrigo woke me up one morning at camp three to see the sunrise. It was mind boggling with light, all different colors, shooting beams through the valley reflecting off the snowy peaks. I was too dumfounded to get any pictures.
This was probably one of the most difficult things I have ever done. The combination of altitude, cold weather, rain, snow and sleet, as well as the up and down terrain, and the fact that we were packing everything ourselves (e.g. - 50 to 60 pound pack) made this trek challenging but rewarding. Each day consisted of two summit pass crossings. This was hard. There were sunny days in which it seemed everything came alive, flowers, snowy summits, rivers, birds, and massive granite formations. I would recommend this trek for anyone who likes adventure and is willing to work for it. I underestimated the difficulty because all I was focused on was the beauty and grandeur of the place in the things I had read in travel guides and blogs. However, I was just lucky because I am in reasonable physical shape, or perhaps I am just plain crazy!
By the way if you don't want to carry your supplies they offer porter/horses. Another thing was how clean the route is, except for occasional horse excrement. I saw two pieces of trash along the entire route.
The Columbian people are warm, honest and colorful people. I will never forget this county and its people.
Aloha, Sam Lemmo, Hawaii, USA
My time in El Cocuy with Rodrigo was well spent. He is very personable and sensitive, and has a great imagination. But he is also a toughened mountain person, with much experience and a serious understanding of how to proceed. He also speaks English very well. I would trust him with any level of hiking, climbing, etc.
We explored in the highlands, and not only was he knowledgable of the area we were in - I had a sense that this was his terrain, and we could have gone on for quite a while exploring further areas, and he would have still been the master. I look forward to my next adventure with him.