PNN El Cocuy

=> We are going for a 5 day trek to PNN El Cocuy in September 2012. When we come back we will publish a thorough review with a complete guide to treks, accommodations, fauna, flora... Until then, enjoy the words and the beautiful pictures of Thorsten.
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Majestic PNN El CocuyIf you are up for spectacular hiking tour during your visit in Colombia, el Parque Nacional Natural El Cocuy is the place to go. It is situated in the Cordillera Oriental in the district of Boyacá and has 21 peaks whereof 15 over 5000m. There are several hiking options in the national park, the most popular being the circuit (la vuelta), a rather demanding hike of 6 days. Other possibilities include several day tours from one of the cabañas or climbing one of the peaks, e.g. Ritacuba Blanco (5330m) or Pan de Azúcar (5120m).

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Camping in the PNN El Cocuy

Even though the trek is well marked and it is possible to do the hike alone, it is recommended to go with a guide or in a group. The trek is accessed from Güicán, or El Cocuy, respectively. There you have to check in at the park office and pay the park entrance fee and you can also hire a guide and porters.

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Through the clouds in El CocuyThe best time to go hiking in the National Park is from January to March, when you can expect rather stable weather. However, make sure your tent and sleeping back bring you without discomfort through a night below freezing point and be prepared for snow on the highest passes. No special equipment is needed for the circuit. There is no infrastructure between Cabañas Laguna Pintada and Cabañas Kanwara, so you have to be self-sufficient for 6 days or more.

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=> There are daily busses (e.g. Libertadores, Concorde) going directly from Bogotá´s main bus terminal (terminal terrestre) to both Güicán and El Cocuy. Busses leave in the morning and in the evening and take around 12 hours. More info on: Getting to Bogotá.
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In the Paramo, PNN El CocuyBoth, Güicán and El Cocuy provide reasonable accommodation. In high season you might want to book in advance.The best way to start the trek is by taking a ride with the milk truck (el lechero) leaving at around 4 o´clock in Güican, taking a stop in El Cocuy at around 6 o´clock, than zig-zagging its way along the western side of the mountain range collecting milk from the local peasants. If you want to do the trek from south to north (as described here), get off close to Cabañas Del Pulpito. (Hiking north to south you want to get off later, close to Cabañas Kanwara.)

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Day 1: Cabañas Del Púlpito to Laguna Pintada (3992m)
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From Cabañas Del Púlpito follow the unpaved road along Valle Lagunillas towards Laguna La Pintada. It is an easy hike of around 2 hours where you can catch a scenic view of Pan de Azúcar (5150m) and El Púlpito del Diablo (5120m).

The Cabañas at the Laguna offers food and lodging and is your last contact with civilization for the next week. You are likely to feel tired and get out of breath easily. Remember you are now at 4000m. Take it slow and spend a day at the Cabañas doing a short acclimatization hike.

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Day 2: Laguna Pintada to Laguna Grande de la Plaza (4314m)
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PNN El Cocuy Colombia

Slowly leaving the valley you reach el Alto de Cusirí (4411m), the first pass on your hike. Descend on the clearly visible track that is also used by pack animals bringing tourists to the Laguna as a day or two day tour. Before reaching the Laguna Grande de la Plaza you have to take another pass, el Alto de Batio Bolas (4380m). The Laguna Grande de la Plaza is rightfully described as one of the most beautiful of its kind in South America. If you are not in a hurry, spend another day by going around the Laguna.

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Day 3 Laguna Grande de la Plaza to Laguna del Pañuelo
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This leg starts along the eastern shore of the Laguna on solid rock. Here you have to rely on stone markings to find your way which is not always easy. From the end of the Laguna ascent towards el Alto con Mojón (4280m). On the other side you will descend among frailejones, typical for this alpine ecosystem, before crossing Rio Mortiñal. From here starts a rather arduous and somewhat dangerous passage across large stone blocks towards el Alto los Balcones (4475m). The camping site is situated in the middle of an end moraine on the shores of Laguna del Pañuelo.

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Day 4 Laguna del Pañuelo to Cueva Larga (4285m)
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Get ready for some tough weather, PNN El Cocuy

Keep on the right side of the river and cross it at the end of the valley. On the other side you will eventually see the trek ascending towards la Cueva Larga. On rainy days you will appreciate the opportunity of a dry camping site underneath the overhanging rock.This leg features only one pass, el Alto el Castillo (4574m). You will descent into the Valle de los Cojines, featuring a unique kind of alpine flora.

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Day 5 Cueva Larga to Laguna Grande de los Verdes (4070m)
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On this leg you will cross the highest pass, el Alto de la Sierra (4676m), which is likely covered in snow, but usually you do not need crampons to cross it (ask in the park office before starting the trek). Descending slowly the valley on the other side of the pass you will enjoy spectacular mountain scenery. Take the second pass of this leg, el Alto de los Frailes (4190m), and descend towards Laguna Grande de los Verdes where you put your tent on the shore or sleep inside a cave above the camping site.

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Day 6 Laguna Grande de los Verdes to Cabaña Kanwara /Güican
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Even though this leg is frequented by pack animals, the ascent towards el Alto de Cardenillo (4360m) can be hard to find in bad weather conditions. Later you get on an unpaved road that leads you to Cabañas Kanwara, where you should be able to arrange transport to Güicán.

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Maps and links
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Sure, I'll go with a local guide!In most parts the trek is clearly visible or marked with cairns. However it is not unusual that even experienced trekkers get lost here when trapped in bad weather conditions. A recommended safety measure is to bring a GPS. You can download a map for OruxMaps on your Android mobile phone from: http://www.nevados.org

Better yet, go with a local guide!

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=> More information on http://www.pnncocuy.com
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