Purpose Post Colombia

Usually this blog focuses on providing guide information for climbing in the wonderful Country of Colombia but as of 2 weeks ago I am no longer in the country… I have returned home, for the time being. With returning home I struggle with what the purpose of this blog will become. Should I leave it as is? Write about non Colombia related climbing mumbo jumbo? At this point I am not sure but I plan to continue to keep the website running as I have received messages (yes I read what people send me from the ‘contact’ page) and clearly the website has been of use for a handful of people.


Most of the writing here has been purely informational and I have shared little about myself personally. Now that things are shifting it would seem now is an appropriate time to share how I started this project and a bit about what brought me here and my future plans.


A year ago I quit a job I loved as an after school teacher in Salt Lake City Utah (Youth City for anyone who is interested). It was the best job I had ever had. However, it did not provide healthcare so as a 25 year old I was faced with a choice. Hunker down and find a new job that provided healthcare or use the money I had saved to do a trip before I turned 26 and lost my insurance via my parents. The original plan  was travel southern Mexico to Panama in 3 months. The trip ended up being a year long and ended in Colombia. My trip was transformed when I did a hike in Guatemala with the amazing Quetzaltrekkers a trekking and charity operation that funds a school and hogar (if you ever have 3 months of time to volunteer look no further than QT). I could write a book on how amazing Quatzaltrekkers is but ill keep it short. Basically I decided to volunteer as a hiking and climbing guide with them and the minimum was 3 months. My time at Quatzaltrekkers changed my life profoundly, not only did it change my role and purpose in the world but it also opened the door to future travel. I had spent little money in the 3 months that I was volunteering and had met loads of people who advised that I visit Colombia.


After a short bit of traveling in Central America with another ex guide and now close friend I made my way to Colombia. I started by volunteering on a farm building bathrooms and milking cows in order to save money. The farm was close to Suesca, the main rockclimbing area in Colombia. It was there that I realized that the information about rockclimbing in Colombia was fairly limited when it came to information in English. One would think that Suesca was the only place to climb in all of Colombia where in reality there are loads of places to get your rock on. I ended up buying a Motorcycle and doing a bit of a tour of the country climbing when I could and writing about it to keep myself busy.


However, my tourist visa has now expired and I am back in the United States. I would love to work in Colombia as I am CELTA certified and I am currently searching for work that could sponsor a work visa. Until then I plan to do loads of climbing and hiking  in the USA. Which brings me to a new cross roads, I would like to continue writing here but it would seem strange to write about climbing in the USA on a website called Rock Climb Colombia. There is a part of me that is thinking about creating a bit of a guide to climbing in the USA but in Spanish in order to practice my already limited Spanish skills. Anyway, in the coming weeks I will make a decision whether or not to abandon updating this website or start writing it in Spanish. Till then cheers and thanks for reading and thanks to all of you who have given me feedback.

Macheta: It Starts at 11 (video and photos)

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.

Zipa MTN Project update

The very first area I added to Mountain Project was an area just outside of Bogota called Zipa. At the time I added the location I was unfortunately unable to add the climbs and photos. Recently however, I had a shot at redemption with a return to the wonderfully tranquil and overhanging jug zone that is Zipa. Covered in vegitation that looks like mother natures beard Zipa has no shortage of great climbs. Additionally, I was happy to see that other people (Federico Echevery) have started adding climbs and I am no longer alone in the quest to add routes to this local. If you are looking to do some climbing I highly recommend the area but more than anything I am happy to see that other people are adding climbs making MTN Project of use in Colombia!

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Macoa: Beauty Amongst Tragedy

To many Macoa exists soley as a small blurb towards the end of their Lonely Planet Colombia guide. Though it occupys a small space in the guide books Macoa has a big heart that is more than worth your time should you choose to visit Colombia. Earlier this year Macoa suffered a catostrophic mud slide that killed more than 300 people. This tragedy unfortunately has repelled tourists in a time where tourism stands to benefit a community in need most. One can see from bridges the destruction wrot by the mighty mudslide. Cloths and parts of houses still sit along the rivers shore. A grim reminder of the power of mother nature. Many are saying the intense rains that triggered the mudslide are further proof of climate changes ability to intensify natural disasters. I am inclined to agree with this point of view and there are even some who say that local mining in the area has weekend the soil leading to the slide. That however, I will leave to real journalists.

 

Despite the horror of such a disaster life goes on. People are happy and welcoming and the nature is as beautiful as ever. I stayed at Hostel Dantayaco just outside of town next to El Fin Del Mundo. For starters the hostel was beautiful, hospitable, and attracted a good group of people. Both staff and guests were exceedling kind and you will have a great day adventuring or spending the day chilling in hammocks. Many tourists of all types visit the area. There are adventurers, bird watchers, and spiritualists all of which will expose you to knew ideas and a great time. Personally, my favorite part was venturing into El Fin Del Mundo. El Fin Del Mundo will cost  you only 3,000 pesos to enter and will lead you to 3 separate waterfalls where you can cliff jump and swim to your jungle hearts content. To top it all off is the final waterfall which is incredibly high and has a spectacular view of the city of Macoa. Fin Del Mundo is far from the only hike in the area but was certainly the most memorable for me.

 

Dont skip Macoa. You wont regret it.

Baños: Rocks and Rafts

Baños is located a short bus ride from Quito and should only take 3 hours. Baños is the perfect place to continue your journey as it is similar to San Gil Colombia in that it is a place for outdoor activities. 
Located along a stunning river Baños is an absolute treat to walk around. After walking around town chances are you will be hungry for some real Ecuadorian grin. I recommend going to the Mercado in the center of the city where you can get a huge lunch for 2.50$ or a fresh squeezed juice for just a buck. Or if you are a little more adventurous try some of the local guinea pig delecacy.


The town is littered with travel agency’s touting EXTREME activities which feels annoying when really they just rent bikes and organize tours that even your mom could get along on. That being said probably the most popular activity in Baños is the rafting. For 25$ (including lunch) this is an absolute steal. The rapids are reasonable but considering you could not get someone to drive you to the mouth of the river in the USA for 25$ this is a no brainer. Not only is it cheap but it is an absolute blast!
Unfortunately I was unable to do any climbing during my time in Baños. However, there is plenty to be had behind the Zoo. If you have equipment just ask for thfor Zoo and you will find some sport routes. Additionally, it is worth it to hike up to Casa De Árbol for a stunning view and a good time swinging!

After a long day rafting, climbing, or hiking it is worth visiting one of the many hot springs in town. The spring located under the main waterfall in town is open at night and has varying temperatures that left me feeling rejuvenated for the following day. 

Climbing Quito: Rocks at 2850m

If you are anything like me you loved Colombia so much you had to renew your visa after thirty days. I chose to cross the boarder with Ecuador and make a bit of a vacation out of it. And fortunately as always there is climbing. I began by taking the bus from Pasto to Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

Quito, the highest capital city on earth has a beautiful colonial side located in the old town and a more bumping nightlife to be found just outside. Located centrally, it is easy to get to the beach, mountains, or Amazon with just one bus!


There is plenty to see and to do in Quito. Visit the many churches and city square and visit the local market to get a full smash meal for just 2.50$. Oh yeah, they use USD in Ecuador which is nice and has an interesting story to it that can be learned by taking the free walking tour that’s leaves from the Community Hostel.
In addition to a cool cultural city Quito has quick access to some fun climbing spots. I met up with a guy from Mountain Project and we headed out to Sigsipamba.

Sigsipamba has a hand full of routes, most of them hard because they are overhung. Not only will you get nice and strong climbing here but it is shielded from the rain which was a god send because during my time in Quito it rained everyday. Sigsipamba is far from the only crag close to Quito but sadly it was the only one I had a chance to visit and I will hopefully adding the routes to MTN Project soon. 

Popayan: The White City

If you have been climbing in Colombia chances are you will eventually head south to visit Pasto (post coming soon). On the way to Pasto you will have the opportunity to visit the pristine colonial city of Popayan.


Popayan is know as “The White City” because of its white buildings. Why paint them white? It all has to do with an insect infestation from the colonial era which devastated the towns folk. These insects would bury themselves into the skin of their host and cause incredible itching so much so that the infected persons would use the cities coarse stone walls to scratch the incredible itch. Soon the town realized that they could kill the bugs with a chemical derived from chalk and painted all the buildings with it. Though the insects and chalk are no longer present the traditional white color for buildings remains.


            Photo: itching corner

There are many great activities to do on an off day in this quaint town. I recommend heading to National Park Purace or head to the thermals 30 minutes out of town and bike downhill on your way back.


Additionally, I recommend taking the free walking tour run by students which leaves from the main square at 10am. They guides are kind, knowledgeable, and funny. During the tour we even found about a free piano concert in the main theater that lead to a night of high class culture, which was refreshing after 9 months of a dirtbag backpacker lifestyle.


Popayan is a town worth stopping in for any traveler in Colombia. Whether it be a day or two or even a week this town will leave you wanting more colonial city exposure. 

Los Nevados National Park: Palms and Peaks

Los Nevados is a gigantic park located West of Bogota and is accesible from Salento, Manizales, and a few other small towns. It is a park of amazing natural beauty and kind hearted farmers.

 

My journey begins in Salento where I met up with my buddy Kurt who I used to volunteer guide with in Guatemala. Salento is a touristy cozy town located next to the park that boasts plenty of accomodating hostels. While relaxing in Salento make sure to go for a hike to the surrounding rivers, eat some of the deliciously cheap trout (trucha), and kick back with a beer at the main square. While Salento is deserving of a post all its own the true meat of Salento comes from the park Los Nevados.

 

The park is unique in my experience of Colombia because it is one of the few parks where no guide is needed (though they are very helpful). Kurt and I began our day early and left for Cocora Valley (the entrance to the park) from the main square at 8am. Transport was on the back of a jeep and cost about 3,000 COP (1$). There is a standard loop that many tourists do from the hummingbird area to the palm trees. Kurt and I opted for a more intense route.

 


We began by visiting the iconic palm trees first where we then proceeded to cross a few rivers and climb for what seemed like forever to Finca Primavera. It took us 7 hours to arrive at the finca where we were greated with amazing home cooked food and a cozy bed. The next day we explored the incredible vistas and waterfalls and ran into a guide at Finca La Playa who said he could guide us up the Tolima Glaciar.

 

Usually I am not one for guides but this was well worth the money because much of the route we made was done in the middle of the night. We left to scale Tolima at 1am in total darkness and rain. Tolima is the tallest volcano in the park at 5215m (around 17,000ft). After scrambling up light snow and a rock section we reached the Tolima glaciar where we put on our crampons, rope, and ice axes. The rain was clearing and the sun rising. We had an incredible view from the top and even were able to see one of the other volcanos in the park erupting. The weather window was perfect as it started to rain once we began our decent.

 

The downclimb was great because we could finally see the trail we had been hiking the entire time. We even past a point of great interest where we could see the left over tail from a plane that had crashed years ago. We returned to Finca La Playa around noon and took a nap and awoke just in time for dinner.

 

Our original plan was to hike the following day to Termales Cañon, camp, then hike out at Ibague the day after. However, it was raining so hard we decided to head back to salento. If you would like a detailed map for the trail all the way to Ibague I recommend this website. The trail down was absolutely soping wet and was more like skiing than hiking. The river was running so high that we used some folks passing buy on horse to help us get accross. All in all Los Nevados is an incredible park that we only scratched the surface of, as there are many hikes and trails in the area and one can spend weeks exploring these areas. If you would like to see a video of the adventure click here.