When asked to imagine the typical countryside of Colombia few would picture a vast and brutal desert similar to that of the Australian Outback. La Guajira is a department (state) of Colombia located on the Caribean coast that boasts salt, stars, and rough roads that will leave travelers exausted and enamoured with the adventure that is La Guajira.
La Guajira has two main destinations, Cabo De La Vela and Puntos Galinas and a trip to both is required to fully enjoy this odity of a desert. First you must take a collectivo out to Uribe which is the Wayuu nation Capital more or less. The Wayuu are the local indigenous group who live like modern Colombians in Uribe and in a more traditional livelihood further out in the desert. Once arriving in Uribe you need to ask around for a 4×4 transport because the roads are really rough. I was lucked enough to get a guy by the name of Alfonso who drove like a bat out of hell with a laugh as loud as his engine.
The first stop on the trip is in Cabo De La Vela, a rural town with little to do other than swim and kite surf which was also the landing site of the first explorers to South America. Amenities are basic; there exists little power and sleeping in a hammock under the stars will likely be your accommodation for the night. Go for a swim, soak up the sun and go for a hike in the neighboring hills.
While the views are pleasant it is a stark contrast to the rest of Colombia. The poverty of the Wayuu is extreme and saddening and many struggle with Spanish and live in shanty huts. People will likely beg for water/food and money and in all honesty you really should give them something. What is a meer 1,000 COP and some water to someone who is on vacation… anyway… the next stop will be in Puntos Gallinas the most northern part of South America.
After an early morning drive and a boat ride you will arrive in Puntos Gallinas in enough time to check out where the sand dunes meet the ocean. Truly the nicest and most dramatic beach I have ever seen. Relax in a hammock durrning the night and observe the Milky Way floating above your head. Speaking of the Milky Way, Alfonso was kind enough to share a bit of a silly story about the Wayuu. The Wayuu nation is a part of Venuzela and Colombia and is the reason you will likely only drink Venezuelan beer there. The close connection means that smuggling is easy and common. When I think smuggling I think guns and drugs however, Alfonso surprised me when he said it was more common to smuggle commercial goods like MilkyWay candy bars and other food items.
After returning the next day to Uribe with only one car fire and minor bruises from rally car driving we made our way back to Riohacha, ending our trip. All in all a trip out the desert is one you won’t forget so if you have time give it a go
Fiordlands National park is home to the famous Milford Sound. The drive through the park it worth your time alone as the road coming in serpentine through lush forest, snow-capped mountains and endless cliff faces gushing huge waterfalls as if the rocks themselves were sobbing. All this can be seen simply from the road but for a trip that requires a bit more work head toward the Hollyford Track located at the northern part of the park. We set about our 6 day 140k loop trek in good weather but forgetting a few essential items… most notably a pot to cook all of our delicious ramen in. The first stretch of the hike is easy and straight forward as it takes you through neutral terrain dipping through forests giving you a chance to spot hidden waterfalls and many of NZ’s bountiful bird species. Our first day ended at the DOC managed Alabaster hut which was beyond fancy. It was there that we realized we had forgotten our pot and decided to go for a swim in lake Alabaster to hopefully get some creative juices flowing to try to remedy our cooking problem. We swam till we could no longer take the horrible sand fly menace (10 minutes) and returned to the hut with an idea. use our empty tin cans on the burner hobo style to cook the food. While it was not the most efficient way to do things it was certainly effective. Upon chowing down on dinner we flipped through the hut sign in book and saw lists of comments about a fabled bush man. “Go with the Bush Man” “Fishing with Bruce the Bush Man, go if you can”. Not sure what to make of the comments we hit the hay in hopes of another day with equally good weather. We awoke the next day to stomping outside the hut. An older German man looked up at me and said “The Bush Man is here”. In walked Bruce, the most Kiwi looking Bush Man I have ever seen. Gummie boots, short so short he looked naked with his coat on and a big scraggly beard almost as big as his smile and sense of humor.
For our loop hike we opted to start with the Big Bay loop track from Alabaster. Signs at Alabaster said that the track was overgrown and suitable to experienced hikers only. We figured this was nothing but overly cautious smoke and mirrors and went for it anyway. We mentioned to Bruce that we were headed up the Big Bay track and he offered us a ride in his rubber boat which we gladly accepted. The trip even included a brief stop at his hut. It was a slow boat ride as we were at capacity with our bags but the slowness was no problem as the trip across the crystal clear water and multiple waterfalls was a joy to experience.
Bruce was a hard-core character. He spent the winters out in the Fiordlands as a possum trapper and regaled us with trapper tales. At the entrance of his hut he comically displayed a sign saying “no junk mail” and something about “Sax Country”. Now Bruce told us the tales of Sax. In my mind he was like a non environmentalist Ed Abbey of the Fiordlands. We hear stories of incredible helicopter hunting trips that ended with 100s of invasive deer being killed. While I did not fully understand the significance of this Sax charactor it was clear that he embodied a kind of wild west attitude to the trapping out in the Fiordlands. eternally grateful and after some more chit-chat we parted ways and started walking towards our next hut. Despite having a good chunk of the days walking knocked out by Bruce’s boat ride we moved very slowly. The track was indeed overgrown and we spent a lot of time engaged in some serious route finding as hiking through the bush allowed for little to know visibility. Just before sundown we arrived at our hut for the night and goofed around on the old mining trolley cart used to cross the river. It was rust but a whole lot of fun.
We started the next day early as we had been told we would have to traverse the black marsh. However, keeping with out boat luck from the previous day some kind jet boaters gave us a ride past the Marsh. This was a god send because despite leave early and having a boat ride past the hardest part it to us the entire day to reach the Ocean and the Big Bay hut. The views were beautiful and crossing the river was good fun but I can see how the trail could be especially hazardous if conditions were rainy. In fact knowing what I know now I would not attempt to take the track if it had recently rained as the river level and swamp sections could lead to some seriously sketchy situations. We reached Big Bay just in time to enjoy the sunset and a heaping bowl of hot ramen.
Ecstatic that we had finally left the bush we enjoyed a slow morning as the hike from Big Bay to Martins bay was along the beach for the whole day so route finding would be simple. At first we were happy to have left the bush but as we continued along the beach the path became more and more rocky and even included some reasonable sea cliff scrambling due to the tide. It hurt our ankles but it was good fun seeing the crash of the waves and yellow eyed penguins hopping ashore. The beauty quickly turned to fear as we stumbled into a seal colony but made it out safe and sound with a bit of beach side boulder navigation. The following three days of hiking were beautiful but less than interesting in terms of adventure. Simple trail, lakes, waterfalls, and gorgeous peaks. The standard NZ affair. Attached are a few photos.
After much brooding and handwringing I finally made it happen, I found my way to New Zealand. Though long, the flight was pleasant especially landing in the city of Christ Church on such a gorgeous blue bird day. I met up with my buddy who had been working out of Queenstown as part of a working holiday. It had been two years since I had seen Christian but I could sense that the Honda Odyssey with two surfboards on the roof was his, or the sense was brought on by the delirium of the ridiculously intense sunlight of NZ because of the hole in the ozone layer (bring sun screen folks!).
Christian getting the wing up in Christchurch
After exchanging pleasantries and an introduction to his girlfriend Marie we headed first to a rugby game (I had no idea what was going on the whole game). After finishing a few errands about town we headed up to Mt Somers to do some climbing and stay in a back country hut. One of the many beauties of New Zealand is its backcountry hut system. Gone are the days of fumbling with a tent in the backcountry with the plentiful amount of huts spread across the country. In order to incentivize hunting to reduce invasive specie populations like deer and Tahr the NZ department of conservation has built backcountry huts that await hunters, hikers & climbers with beds, fireplaces and the usual deck of cards for a game of shit head. All for a nominal fee or flash of a 6-12 month hut pass.
Mt Somers is home to a hut located next to the Pinnicals climbing area. After a 4 hours hike to the hut lugging all our gear and food we arrived sweaty but rewarded with stellar views of waterfalls and Jurrasic park esc foliage. Armed with a bit of beta from Climb NZ (MTN Project for NZ) we took a stab at the crag just 10 minutes away. We happened on the 3 pitch Rocky Road (5.10c).
Depending on the site you trust pitch 2 can be rappelled with a 70m rope where as mtn project says it needs two ropes to wrap down if you need to bail. We trusted the Climb NZ beta but it felt awfully high at the top of pitch two and I am glad we made it up the whole climb so we did not have to solve the mystery of how long of a rope was actually needed to bail. The climb it self was great! Super balancy and run out making each venture to the next bolt a moment of intense focus as a fall would lead to a considerable ride for an intermediate sport climber. The grippy plentiful feet go all the way to the top where we were greeted with a horrible old bolt belay for pitch 2 and rusty rap chains atop pitch 3 that utilized a piece of metal that I had seen to hold together a childs swing set. Sufficient to say I was not excited about the wrap off the back on the sketchy chain but it all worked well enough. The next day we spent doing a few of the shorter routes which were fun but not exceptional. More than anything the location and the trad climbing is the star of this crag, with an additional sense of adventure coming from the hut experience.
View of Mt Cook on the way to Dunedin
Weather rolled in so we decided to continue our journey south towards the beautiful city of Dunedin. Dunedin is probably the coziest of the “big” cities on the south island. A university town located right on the water gives the town a sense of quaintness while still maintaining a busy downtown area. Just outside of Dunedin is a little crag called Long Beach. While not a paradise in numbers it surly is paradise in terms of pleasantness. Short basalt cliffs line the mostly empty beach that will lead to a good pump and some inspiring one move wonder climbs. The style and frequency of climbs feels a lot like Black Rocks in St. George, Utah. After climbing a few pitches we took a break and wandered over to the penguin cave next door to spy a couple of the cute critters hiding out in a hole beside the cave. And just like that the day was over. Walking the beautiful beach back to the car during sunset is a joy seldom experienced in my climbing career and was so good we went back the next day for more climbing action.
Long Beach Climbing
While both of these crags were a good deal of fun they are both small crags. In future posts ill talk about some of the bigger locations like Wanaka, Castle Hill, and Milford. Till then enjoy a few photos!
Hut life in South Temple
When out traveling it is easy to rationalize that while you miss home you are likely putting it on a pedestal and the feelings of comfort, joy, and excitement you get from the thought will slowly fade after the first week of being home. Much like the scene from 500 Days of Summer where expectations and realities are juxtaposed next to one another and the realities are lack luster at best, coming home can feel the same. I however, am a lucky man… The luckiest man on earth I would even say. I have been back home in Utah for two months now and leave for New Zealand tomorrow and I am still excited and amazed by Utah’s beauty each and everyday. I had the good fortune to finally climb the 22 pitch 5.11 monster that is Squaw Struck with my climbing partner Michael (A goal of mine that has been on the table for years), trips to Joes Valley, and endless amounts of fun during a tour of Utah’s National parks with a former guide buddy of mine.
City of Rocks – Idaho
Joes Valley – Utah
Having lived in Utah nearly all my life I like to think I have a reasonable grasp on the opportunities and cool activities in the area. Theoretically this is true but I did not really believe it till I went on my road trip through Goblin Valley, Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Zion. We started our trip in Goblin near the Swell where we did some rappelling and Canyoning before moving on to the Cottonwood Wash outside Capitol Reef. Most people when they visit Utah look only at the National Parks and miss out on much of what makes Utah truly amazing… its National Forrests and State Parks. On the incredible drive from Capitol reef to Bryce through Escalante you will encounter incredible views and months worth of Canyoning and hiking opportunities all with virtually none of the crowds common in the National Parks (cough Zion cough).
Ding and Dang – The Swell
There is not much more to say other than I love this state and I love my home and while I am excited to head to New Zealand. This will not be the last you hear about Utah.
190ft Arch Rap
Angels Landing – Zion
Potentially a California Condor (someone correct me) atop Angels Landing
Kolob Canyon – Zion
My motivation to continue updating this blog and website has fallen dramatically. The plan was to continue to update the site in Spanish and write about crag in the United States. It goes without saying that the motivation to continue practicing Spanish in a written sense is minimal and updating the website with info on USA crags is pretty much pointless because there is such a wealth of information on Mountain Project. That being said it appears that the website is still helpful to many as it still gets a reasonable amount of views and I get emails and comments from time to time from people looking for help. My plans are as follows; keep the website up with all the information for Colombia and continue responding to comments and emails to help people climb in the amazing country that is Colombia. I am headed to New Zealand in Novemeber and there is not that much info on Mountain Project with regard to NZ so maybe I will start updating again when I go there.
Till then here are some photos from the climbing I have been doing back home in the American West. I have been lucky enough to hit up Joes, City of Rocks, Smith Rock, Tahoe, and all my favorite local crags and hoping to complete the 22pitch 5.11- Squaw Struck in the coming weeks. Till then here are some photos from my adventures back home.
Acá está un video de la caminata a Lago Aloha en Tahoe California. Hay perfectamente agua aquí como un espejo! En la próxima blog voy a discutir los lugares por escalada en Tahoe.
My last video of hiking in Colombia. In the video you will see Macoa and a few spots around Bogota.
Last weekend I was looking for the easiest way to get to the La Calera boulders in hopes that I could do some pebble wrestling. During my search I encountered some videos of people boulder in a place called Las Moyas located behind Bogota with trail access from Rosales.
The hike was steep and maybe not the best approach for people trying to get a quick bouldering session in but from what I could tell there is a much easier approach from the La Calera side. I was excpecting there to be other boulders up there but when I arrived there was nobody. I asked the police if it was ok if I climbed the rocks and used chalk and they said it was all good and enjoyed watching me boulder for an hour or so.
Despite having seen videos of people climbing in Las Moyas I saw no sign of bouldering routes, chalk or otherwise. Which is strange because with a little bit of work this could be a fun little bouldering spot as the holds are great allowing for countless V0-V3 opportunities. That being said the holds need to be cleaned a bit but with time and work it could be something special. I worked a couple of routes all with sit starts with two of them being reasonably fun. I will upload the boulder problems to MTN Project sooner than later. Until then here are some fotos of the bounding possibilities.
Additionally information about hiking in he area can be found at the Amigos Del Montaña website
I finally snapped. The endless pressure and bubbling anxiety from my CELTA course had reached its peak. It was time to climb.
My friend Sergio invited me to climb in a small pueblo about two hours out from Bogota and promised big overhangs, guacas (jugs), and hard as hell climbs. He delivered on all three.
Machete is the Spinal Tap of climbing crags in Colombia. Where Spinal Tap’s amps go to 11 Macheta starts there. There are more than 50 routes in the zone where the lowest grade I saw was a 10c that was as hard as an 11a. In Macheta even the 10’s are 11’s. The rock is steap and overhung and perfect for people who want to warm up on a 12 and project 13’s. AKA not for people like me. That being said if you are a climber looking to push grade this is the place for you.
At the bottom of the crag is a small hostel where you can get a cheap bed and you might even be fed some delicious sancocho soup after a long hard day. If you have the time to stop by and are a reasonably strong climbing you will have a blast on the rock and with the locals!
I will update the website soon with info on getting there and a list of routes. Till then, choa.
I have spent 10 months with my crimson colored backpackbuddy and the love is as strong as ever. I purchased my Farpoint for my trip from Mexico to Colombia because of its ability to be stored as carry on and because of my experience with other Osprey bags. Little did I know I got far more than what I paid for.
The Farpoint is a 40 liter bag which allows you to stow it as carry on most flights. The material is strong, zippers tough and have holes to allow owners to lock pockets with padlocks when you arrive at the hostel or leave the bag at the beach. It’s been 10 months now and I feel that I can carry more than most people do with their 60liter bags. People are always amazed the Farpoint has brought me from Mexico to Colombia. The bag has the best of both worlds as it can be opened like a suitcase making access to cloths and toiletries easy unlike top loaded bags. As you can see from the featured image I was able to fit a harness, 2 pairs of climbing shoes, chacos, pants, puffy, 3 pairs of shorts, jacket, shirts, journal, and other essentials no problems. I can not stress how strong this bag is. It survived countless chicken bus rides, 3 months of use while I was a hiking and climbing guide in Guatemala, endless rain and motorcycle rides in Colombia and even a visit to a glacier. In all this time there are only very small tears in the bag but it has not compromised the integrity yet.
When I see packpakers lugging around 80liter bags filled with garbage they never use I feel grateful that I have such a tiny bag. It forces you to only take the essentials with you (though I have still managed to fit plenty of gifts for friends inside). Like I said, 40liters is more than enough for the typical backpacker. Additionally the bag is small and makes you look less like a tourist trudging through town with a bag on your back bigger than you are and a bag on your front that screams “please rob me”.
Though the shoulder straps can be a bit uncomfortable if you walk with it for multiple day camping trips (which the bag is NOT designed for but I did anyway while guiding) this is the best bag I have ever owned and can’t recommend it enough.