Volcan Galeras

  • Volcan Galeras
  • 4256 m.
  • Primary factor 1111 m.
  • Near Pasto in Colombia
  • Location North 01.21812, West 077.35452 (GPS on the summit)
  • Climbed December 19, 2017


How to get there:
This Volcano is located directly next to, and above the city of Pasto. It has been quite active across several hundred years and most recently erupted in 2010. An eruption in 1993 killed 3 tourists and 6 scientist that investigated the crater in order to better predict eruptions.
The access road starts near the church Iglesi San Juan De Anganoy. More precisely, the road you want to take heads right (when facing uphill) from location N01.21435, W077.30708, elevation about 2800 meter. You should be able to get a normal city taxi to take you there and onwards up a reasonable dirt road that ends at a place called Santuario de Fauna y Flora Galeras, location N01.21288, W077.33129, elevation about 3350 meter. There are some antennas a bit further onwards and a small tourist hut and an information sign. The bad news is that the road is blocked by a gate at this point. There is also a sign on the gate saying that this access is closed. However, there is a possible option that avoids crossing this gate.
Route description:
Walk back down the road to location N01.21079, W077.33138, elevation about 3315 meter. Look for this sign on your right hand side. Walk directly to the sign and enter via the open space below it. It may be best to do this in a somewhat discrete way. The sign indicates several things that you should not do, almost too many to fully comprehend when in a hurry to get in behind it.
You will now find a small, but clear trail that heads steeply uphill. Follow this trail. The trail is very narrow and quite overgrown in a few places higher up, still the alternative is close to impossible jungle, so there is no big problem. Make certain to pass location N01.21092, W077.33453 close to elevation 3500 meter.
The trail will gradually improve as it joins an old established trail. There will be several old signs along the route. Most notable is a sign next to a small bridge that crosses a slight depression.
Higher up, this trail crosses the road that serves a building complex as well as some antennas located to your left and close to the rim of the volcano crater. One should cross discretely and continue on the right hand side of the ridge that extends uphill towards the summit area. There are no difficulties in picking a pretty direct and safe line further uphill.
The summit area is cluttered by some old concrete (ruin) structures. Move right and locate the highest rock point.
Note: The official elevation is 4276 meter, just barely making it a 14'er. We use an elevation that is 20 meter lower, since consistent GPS measurements clearly showed that this mountain is lower.
Having returned to Pasto from our trip to Volcan Cumbal, our next goal was the big volcano Galeras dominating the view from the city. First, the helpful person at our hotel suggested that we ride a taxi to obtain a climbing permit. This took us to the official government agency for volcanos etc. They politely informed us that permits were issued by the National Park office. After more taxi time, we arrived at this address only to find a posting on the building informing us that they had moved to a new address. More taxi through heavy traffic, we finally arrived at the office for national parks. However, the only person there was a middle aged woman shaking her head and saying that they did not give out permits. My thoughts could not avoid thinking about the advantage of a phone relative to a taxi.
Returning to the hotel, we next asked the taxi to drive us as high as he could on the road that climbs the side of the Galeras volcano. We passed the church and the driver was more than happy to take us up the rougher road all the way to t place called Santuario de Flora y Fauna Galeras.
At this point, the road was closed by a gate and a small rifugio was located right next to the road. Almost instantly 3 men on motorcycles also arrived. At least one of them was a park ranger, he was wearing an official looking uniform. They must have noticed the taxi and decided to ride up and check out the situation. We asked about passing through the gate, that was OK together with the ranger, as they unlocked a couple of buildings to show us some exhibitions. We also had a look at the sign where the old summit trail, started out, now quite overgrown. Our taxi had left and we prepared to hike down the road as it seemed unlikely to climb the volcano, - too bad with all these restrictions!
As we walked down the road, suddenly, we became aware of a large sign on our right hand side. It had a pretty big opening below it. What might be behind there? We looked and much to our delight we discovered a trail that went directly uphill. The trail was easy to follow, obviously a bit of use. We gained elevation and after a while the trail itself became somewhat bigger and old signs started to appear. After a bit more, we crossed the road that serves buildings up near the rim. A brief rest for some water and the good view down to Pasto, then we continued straight uphill and arrived at the summit at 1205, so 2 hours from where we started.
The summit had some old ruins, then some higher boulders that were easy to climb. We rested and enjoyed a good view all the way down to Pssto. Almost every day this volcano had been hiding in the clouds, thus very lucky that we had clear views today.
We started our descent after about 10 minutes and reached the road in 1:20. Then followed a pretty long road hike back down to the city. As soon as we were on the upper city streets (This took about 1:30), we flagged down a yellow taxi that drove us the last part downhill and across to our hotel. All in all, a very successful day with a fine ascent.