My trip to Tolima
By Arianna Gonzalez Madsen
“The greatest challenge in life is discovering who you are. The second greatest is being happy with what you find”
In January of 2018, my father and I did a trip to Nevado del Tolima. Our goal was to climb this huge and impressive mountain, located in the department of Tolima in the west-central part of Colombia.
Day 1: Our trip started in El valle Del Cocora, which is a valley where Colombia’s emblematic tree called wax palm is located. We packed our things on the horses and started walking up by a rain forest full of vegetation and nice smells. After some hours of walking, we arrived to our first destination: La Argentina at 3483 meters, which is a farm close to a wasteland. Here we had some agua de panela (a drink made from sugar cane) and a nice dinner.
Day 2: Our second day was going to be a walk through the wasteland and the rain forest to La Primavera. Today we had a huge breakfast and we started walking to a pass that is between La Argentina and La Primavera, which is know as La Línea at 4019 meters high. On this walk we passed an old farm called Buenos Aires, then we started and went down and up again on the mountain, to the top of the pass. On the pass, we had some lunch and we spent sometime up there to get acclimatized. From there it was an easy trail because we only walked down; this was one of the most beautiful trails on the trip. Down the peak we passed by el Paramillo Del Quindío, which has a spectacular view; a few hours later, we could start seeing El Nevado del Tolima and La Primavera.
La Primavera was the last farm before reaching the top, it was full of people getting ready and talking about the mountain, and we repacked our things on the horses and checked that everything was there.
Day 3: Today we started walking at 9:00am, through a field and soon we were in the wasteland where the frailejones (a genus of perennial subshrub, in the sunflower family) are found. We walked in the same direction as going to lake called Laguna del Encanto. Just before getting there, we turned right to Nevado del Tolima; it was a long and steep walk until we got to the first campsite called El Calvito. We decided to keep on walking to the next campsite called Arenales, where we put up our tent and organized all the gear that horses brought, then we went to sleep – the next day was going to be a long day.
Day 4: We woke up at 2:00am, had a fast breakfast, and put our gear on. It was then that I realized that I forgot my harness, so I used my father’s harness and he created one with some slings and carbineers; after all that hassle we left the tent at 3:00am. After a small walk we went in to the moraine to a steep walk up to El Helipuerto that is meters 4700 high, and then we went for a short climb of about 20 meters. Now we only needed to walk a bit more to reach the glacier. On the glacier the sun started to come up over the glacier and we had a small snack, then put on crampons. We went up to the glacier; it was a long walk of about 5 hours.
Some meters before the top, we came to a really steep section where we needed to use our ice axes, and then we came across a huge crack that we passed with a lot of care. It was really long and deep, but then after the crack we got to the top. We were at 5221 meters high – from there we could see the Nevado Del Ruiz Volcano, it was completely clear so we had a lovely view. We took some pictures and started to go down. I had a big smile on the way back, it was an incredible trip! I shared my trip with the best mountaineer partner, MY FATHER! We walked down to the campsite and on the way, I turn around saw the impressive walk that we had just completed.
At the campsite, we packed everything really fast, there were some black clouds getting close and we wanted to be at the farm before the rain. We left our packs at the campsite so the horses could take them. We started walking fast and on the third part of the trail, the clouds disappeared, so we decided to walk down another trail. This trail was going directly to La Laguna del Encanto; the trail was not well marked, not many people went on this trail. There were (not?) that many tents on that lake and it was such a beautiful lake that I wanted to spent more time there but, pitifully, it was getting late and the dark clouds were coming back.
Some minutes later, we arrived at the farm and it started to rain – we were so lucky! I was really tired that night so slept like a rock.
Day 5: Next morning I woke up at 9am, this day was going to be the last on the mountain; we packed all the things for the horses and we took our poncho and the rubber boots. We thought there was going to be a lot of mud after the huge rain from the previous night.
We started to walk by some fields full of mud, and took a trail called Estrella de Agua that went up and down all the time. On the trail we looked back and we saw the Nevado del Tolima. It was full of snow, and it was there that I thought that we were so lucky to climb the mountain that day, because it would be impossible to climb it the next day.
Some hours later we got to a trail that went down; it was impressive with all the mud that we found. We could get stuck in it – there were lakes of mud and also some hidden mud puddles. I fell a few times in them and I also got stuck in the mud, many times. The trail got interesting because of some of the trails of mud you could actually ski on, like a slide. That part of the trail was a lot of fun. At the last part we crossed some rivers and walked through some fields, it was there that we saw some restaurants and we could see the cars going in and out. It was an amazing trip. I had learned so much! The weather helped us all the time, and I got to know many different people. I truly hope that I can come back soon.
- I recommend taking the route to hike by Laguna Del Encanto on the way up or down. It’s beautiful and you will enjoy it very much.
- I think it’s important to bring some rubber boots (it’s really muddy on the way back) as well as a poncho since it’s a wet region.
- Don’t forget to enjoy every moment, every view. It’s a special and unique place and we need to take care of it.