Location: North 11.11281, West 074.03432 (GPS at the summit)
Highest in the San Lorenzo mountains, Colombia
Northernmost Ultra in South America
Difficulty: YDS class 1
Climbed December 1. 2015
How to get there:
The coastal city of Santa Marta is the most convenient point of reference.
Travel by car to the small (tourist) community of Minca.
This village is
served by bus from Santa Marta, more conveniently, one can go there by
taxi, 60.000 Peso as of 2015.
Minca is located at N11.14371, W074.11781, elevation about 635 meter.
Route description: From Minca, there is a road
all the way to the summit, however this road could
be arbitrarily bad. One may travel onwards by a high clearance 4WD, it is faster and
a lot less expensive, to proceed by motor-bike. The distance from Minca
to the summit is about 27 kilometer, so one may also do this as two-day hike.
Continue along the main road through Minca, you will soon
note that the road quality deteriorates.
After about 13 kilometer, you arrive at a very clear road-fork.
There is a sign for
Cerro Kennedy going left. This location also has a small bar,
the view west is quite good.
This important road-fork is located at N11.09707, W074.08102, elevation about 1500 meter.
Take the left fork, this roads climbs to the top of the mountain, gaining a distinct top
ridge, then ascending to the final, highest part. Unfortunately, there is a
Colombian military base
on the very summit. There is a gate across the road and an armed guard on a small platform
on your left hand side. Thus, it may be difficult to gain the true summit. (See my report
There is at least
one commercial company that offers
a trip to Cerro Kennedy. Note, however, that they speak about a viewpoint, most likely
the one where my motor-bike wanted to stop. This is 2.5 kilometer from - and many hundreds of
meter below, the true summit. They also claim that this summit is 3100 meter, totally wrong
and quite (deliberately?) dishonest.
Heidi and I left our nice hotel
in the old center of Santa Marta at 0830, a taxi
took us conveniently to Minca. In Minca, Heidi would join a full day guided tour
while I would make an attempt on Cerro Kennedy.
I made an agreement that a young man with a motor-bike should drive me as close
as reasonable, they claimed the road was so bad that a 4WD would not make it.
(Not completely accurate, but no doubt a motor-bike was faster.)
We left Minca around 0950 and arrived at the road junction after 30 minutes at 1020.
We continued uphill and after about one hour, we arrived at an antenna and a small
turn-off going right to some sort of view point. Since we had clouds, this was not very
interesting. However, it seemed like my young driver assumed that this would be our
goal for the day. When I pointed onwards, he just said that the rest of the road
belonged to the military. I told him that the summit was still about 2.5 kilometer away
and that I would walk. Ten minutes later, he came driving and I had a lift a bit
further along, still, there were several sections where he could not drive with me, and eventually
he stopped and waited while I continued on foot.
Higher up, the road
actually improved, nicely made with two parallel tracks with smooth and
solid surface. I arrived at the gate to the military base at
1210. The guard was initially up on a platform on the left side, but I succeeded to get him
down on the road to me. Not a single word of English spoken. Still, this seemed difficult as he
clearly indicated that I could go no further. I then gave him my sheet of paper with a photo-copy
of my passport. He had no idea what this was, but as it looked sort of official, he called up
to the top and I realized that he explained that I had arrived with a document that possibly
authorized me to visit the base. This seemed fine to me, I was looking forward to the next
event with some guarded hope. Next, the soldier informed me that "El Comandante" would
descend and talk to me directly. After a few minutes, he arrived in company with another soldier.
El Comandante knew at least 10-15 English words, studied my document with interest, but seemed to
think that this was not a proper authorization. I told him, that I had travelled all the way
from Norway, he turned to his soldiers and said: "Europe Norte". Subsequently, our conversation turned
to football and I mentioned the Spanish team Real Madrid. His face turned into a wide grin as he
said: "Martin Ødegård". I nodded and explained that Martin was a super-talent, playing
for Real Madrid already at age 16 and coming from Norway!
This seemed to break what remained of hesitation,
- El Comandante turned to one of his soldiers and asked that I be escorted around the base on the
condition that I would ONLY take photos pointing outwards. This seemed very reasonable and we subsequently
started up the final piece of road accessing the ridge slightly right (east) of the summit.
Once on the top ridge,I wanted to turn left, but my escort wanted to go right. OK, we went by a building and
to the logical end of the ridge, where I took a picture of
the slope, then one more of my two soldiers.
Returning, they wanted to descend back down the road, while I insisted to pay a visit to
the true highest point. After some hesitation, they decided to accept my wish. We went up, I got a GPS
reading as well as a picture down-slope towards the north side.
Quite happy with my success, I walked back down
to the motor-bike, now waiting about 200 vertical
meter below the summit. The time was 1300 when we started the bumpy ride back down.
After a break at the road-fork, where a big truck
we continued back down to Minca, arriving there at 1500.
A nice, big glass of Paulaner Weissbier was next in line. I waited until Heidi's tour group showed up
around 1600. However, they were not done yet. I joined as we walked up a small hill to visit a
(small) coffee plantation and learn a bit
about how to make coffee. The taxi back home left around 1730
and we were back at our hotel at 1830. A well earned shower, then dinner.