Cristobal Colon

  • Cristobal Colon
  • 5731 m
  • Primary factor 5540 m
  • Highest in Colombia.
  • Location: North 10.83900, West 073.68674 (GPS on the summit)
  • Difficulty: PD+
  • Climbed December 13 2015.

Copyright Petter Bjørstad, 2015-2020.


How to get there:
The city of Santa Marta on the Caribien coast (north coast) of Colombia is a good point of reference. Santa Marta has frequent connections by air to the capital of Bogota. Bogota has multiple daily flights to Europe.
A more detailed trip-report is available.
Route description:
The following is a brief outline of a trip that takes 2 weeks. For more details, please see the trip-report referenced above.
The outline below assumes that the reader, as a minimum, refers to this map.
Note that a permit for climbing the mountain and for travelling across Kogi land, should be secured in advance. Also, one should have pre-arranged transport of gear and provisions with mules provided by the Kogi. These mules will typically start from Palmor. There are few opportunities for making camp outside of the places mentioned. A strong party could (perhaps?) skip an intermediate camp, but the need for proper acclimatization as well as keeping the mules happy must be kept in mind.
Day 1: Complete preparations in Santa Marta. Drive to near location N11.00810, W074.21638, , turn left onto Hwy. yy and continue to near location N10.74253, W074.10132. The road to Palmor starts here, this road is 4WD only. Continue on a rough dirt road to the very small town of Palmor. Palmor has a small hotel on your left before you drive down the hill in the middle of town.
Day 2:Secure transportation to the end of the road. This section is very rough, you need a 4WD of Toyota Landcruiser quality or better. The straight line distance from Palmor is 6 kilometer, this took 2 hours with a skilled, local driver. The trail starts slightly downhill at location N10.72482, W073.99297, elevation about 1200 meter. Continue on foot to the Kogi village of Mamarongo. This is about 800 meter of (total) ascent and takes 5-6 hours.
Day 3: We needed a full day in Mamarongo to visit the Kogi. If this can be avoided without any offence (or insult), then a day has been saved. See the trip-report.
Day 4:Continue the trek along a pretty good trail from Mamarongo (1650m) to the very small place (a couple of Kogi huts) called Uramaka (2400m). The total ascent is near 1000 meter and about 5 hours is a reasonable time.
Day 5:From Uramaka, the trail climbs in a more determined way as you traverse a big hillside high above the valley river, then eventually join the river again, but now above timberline in an area where the valley is broader. You first arrive at a couple of huts called Dubungie, however the camp is about 100 meter higher at a large pasture and one Kogi hut. Elevation about 3670 meter. Trekking time about 4 hours.
Day 6:The trail continues up the valley and runs right next to an old wreck of a small airplane that crashed here. Keep right as the trail climbs the hillside and reaches the first mountain lake. The mules walk an alternate route here, staying more at the valley floor, then more steeply up to join the trail just before/below the first lake. The first lakes are all passed on the left, a short stretch on stepping stones in the lake below a steep cliff. After crossing higher on the left, the valley is crossed near a small pasture before a final ascent to a new (pretty large) lake with camp on its left side. Elevation about 4400 meter, another 4-5 hours of trekking.
Day 7:The route continues gently uphill and more lakes are passed along the way. There are two somewhat steeper sections where the cairns should be followed closely, in particular for the mules to find a way up. One then arrives at a spectacular high camp right next to a lake and with a panorama view directly at the Simons mountain with a large glacier in front. This camp is at 4890 meter and the mules do not go any further. We camped here, but a strong and well organized party should consider pushing on to the final camp in the same day.
Day 8:Proceed with heavy backpacks across rougher terrain (there are cairns marking a reasonable route), to gain a distinct col at about 4940 meter of elevation. Next descend, as the route follows a very narrow valley. This descent has three distinct steps. First, down to a tiny lake/pond. Next, down to a second pond, then a somewhat longer descent to a distinct meadow/pasture. This marks the lowest point on this route. Continue right and cross several morraines while climbing to the final campsite, located at about 4580 meter of elevation.
Day 9:From camp, one can look up the valley and see the lower end of the main glacier that flows down from Pico Cristobal Colon and Pico Bolivar. The key is to access this glacier (or rather another branch of it), high up on the right hand side. We initially went up to the north col on the left hand side, a route that led to nowhere.
Day 10, Summit day:Proceed up passing the small lake that lies slightly higher in the valley, then on good slabs of smooth rock to about 4700 meter of elevation. Turn right, cross the small stream and pick a good route directly uphill until you find the glacier at about 5080 meter near location N10.84626, W073.69374.
Ascend this glacier with an overall aim to pass near, but north (left) of the big rock pyramid above. That is, you will pass near (to the right of) a very much smaller rock feature that extends from the glacier.
From here, find a way onto the main (more level) glacier below Pico Colon and Pico Bolivar. There are lots of (large) crevasses and the best route may change from year to year. This glacier completely covers the large north-west couloir that separates the two peaks as it climbs more steeply to the pass (col) between the two summits. Proceed up this couloir until it ends in a steeper headwall that forms the last obstacle before the col. Climb the headwall directly up to a point on the main crest that will be on the Colon side (left) of the lowest col. This stretch is about 50 meter. Depending on the snow/ice conditions, it may need to be protected.
Once on the main ridge, the route to the summit of Cristobal Colon is straightforward. Proceed up along the main (west) ridge to the summit. The summit is entirely snow and may have a cornice, do not walk too close to the edge.
Depending on how much time this has taken and on the team, a strong party may be able to climb Pico Bolivar as well, before a late return to camp after a long day.
Day 11:When a route has been established from camp to Cristobal Colon, a strong party may consider a second ascent, this time of Pico Bolivar (possibly after a rest day.) This peak has a steeper, first section (rock and snow) as seen from the main col. Above this, follows what appears to be a pretty direct, but sharper snow ridge that culminates at the summit. Since we did not have time to investigate this route, no more details can be provided. A careful look at my picture of this ridge should be helpful. Depending on the snow conditions, one may also consider climbing the headwall on the Bolivar side and thus reach the summit ridge above the lower (steeper) part.
Any party should consider a stop at the high camp near the lake, then assign a half day to an ascent of the very nice Pico Simons.
Day 12:Descent. One may without much trouble, assuming that mules are coordinated to carry most of the load from the 4890 camp/lake, descend back down to the 3670m camp (Day 5), in one day.
Day 13:From the 3670m camp, one easily walks down another 2000+ vertical meter to reach the Mamarongo village.
Day 14:From Mamarongo, one can walk out to the road, proceed to Palmor and onwards to Santa Marta, arriving there in the evening.