Andes Website : Climbing, Skiing, Trekking and Guidebooks in South America

Trekking and Climbing in the Los Nevados range of Colombia Dates November to February
Duration 16-18 days
Grade 1B
"Andes" Leadership Fee (includes leaders expenses)

about £1600

Easy Mountaineering in Colombia.



All are per person.

"Andes" Leadership Fee (includes all leaders expenses) -- about £1600

Estimated Airfares -- £900

Estimated Trek & Travel Costs in Colombia -- £500

Estimated Accommodation & Meals -- £300

ESTIMATED TOTAL COST per person  --  £3300

We ran our first trip to Colombia in 2001, and first visited the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy in 2006, both many years before any other company was running  trips to Colombia. This expedition combines ascents of a couple of easy Colombian volcanoes in the Los Nevados range with some climbing in the remote and spectacular Sierra Nevada del Cocuy.

After a flight to the Colombian capital Bogotá we'll travel north to the beautiful wee town of El Cocuy and the mountain range of the same name. From here we will first spend several days walking and acclimatising in the central part of the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy massif. Then we'll finish with an ascent of the highest peak, Ritacuba Blanco 5410m, which is a  straightforward one day snow climb.

The second phase of the trip is based in the Los Nevados range to the west of the capital, where we will make ascents of Santa Isabel 4950m and El Ruiz 5311m. This phase of the expedition will be based in Manizales, a provincial city in a spectacular setting within Colombia's main coffee growing area. We will fly here from Bogotá. Both main ascents in the Los Nevados range are straightforward glacier ascents on volcanoes. Ruiz has a spectacular, steaming 200m deep crater at its summit.

Expedition members should be experienced summer walkers ideally with some alpine or snow walking experience. Skills using an ice-axe and crampons will be needed for the ascents, but these can easily be gained or improved on the expedition and it is not necessary to have used these before you join.

Three clients with a combined age of 195 on the summit of Ritacuba Blanco, Sierra Nevada del Cocuy, February 2009. You're never too old to do something adventurous.!

Three clients with a combined age of 195 on the summit of Ritacuba Blanco, Sierra Nevada del Cocuy, February 2009. You're never too old to do something adventurous.!

Outline Itinerary

Day 1  Flight to Bogota
Day 2  Day in Bogota
Day 3-7 Travel to Cocuy and acclimatisation walks
Day 8-9 Ritacuba Blanco ascent
Day 10-11 Return to Bogota and fly to Manizales
Day 12-15 Climbs in Los Nevados national park
Day 16-17 Return flight to Bogota and home

General Information about our holidays

Please read our warning on altitude before booking this expedition to high altitude.

Who runs 'Andes' and where we are based

General information about equipment, accommodation, flights, meals etc.


The expedition will fly out to the city of Bogota, the capital of Colombia, at an altitude of 2680m. We'll also have some time here at the start and in the middle of the expedition. Bogota is a pleasant and attractive city despite its size and is a much friendlier and more relaxing place than its reputation.


The first phase of the expedition will take us to the beautiful Sierra Nevada del Cocuy in the northwest of the country. One of the most scenic parts of the Andes, this range boasts snow-capped peaks, huge rock walls and unusual vegetation. The area is popular with local Colombian climbers and walkers. We'll travel from Bogotá in a privately hired vehicle to the pretty wee village of El Cocuy at 2700m. From here we will spend several days walking in the central part of the Cocuy massif to acclimatise before finishing with an ascent of the highest peak, Ritacuba Blanco 5410m, which is a straightforward snow climb up a shallow angled glacier.

Ritacuba Blanco, at 5410m high, is the highest peak in the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy. It is a reasonably straightforward climb over easy angled snow on the western slopes above Las Cabañas, usually with a high camp on rock slabs beneath the glacier at 4600m. From the summit there are spectacular views of the cliffs on the eastern side of the range to the remote valleys of the eastern Sierra Nevada, and even on many days all the way to the Sierra Nevada de Merida in Venezuela, 270km away!.

Ritacuba Blanco from above Las Cabañas.

Ritacuba Blanco from above Las Cabañas.


Our second trip to the mountains will be to the Los Nevados range west of Bogota. From Bogota we will fly to the city of Manizales and then use hired transport to take us into the mountains. Los Nevados are Colombia's most accessible mountain range and we will spend a total of three days here. In that time we plan to make ascents of Nevado Santa Isabel 4950m and Nevado El Ruiz 5311m. The latter is an active volcano which erupted to devastating effect in 1987. Both of the highest peaks are easy ascents over snow and ice.  We will climb El Ruiz by the normal route on the west slopes, which is a short day ascent from the road end at 4800m. The ascent is generally an easy walk over snow slopes, but there are a few very small crevasses to cross. Santa Isabel is a pretty mountain with three summits in the centre of the Los Nevados range. We will climb in a short day from a beautiful campsite at 4200m on the west side of the mountain.

Camping in the Colombian Andes

Campsite beneath Santa Isabel in the Los Nevados range, from our first expedition to Colombia in 2001.


Clients should be experienced summer walkers or trekkers. Some experience of using an ice-axe and crampons would be an advantage but is not essential as adequate instruction can be given during the course of the expedition.  Ascents to over 5000m require considerable fitness. Good hillwalking fitness is obviously important, but you'll also need some cardiopulmonary fitness. This is best obtained by a program of intensive exercise such as running, circuit training, squash or cycling. There will be some short sections of backpacking on this itinerary of up to 2 or 3 hours, carrying 15-18kg rucksacks.


The weather in Colombia can be a little unpredictable. Periods of good weather alternate with short periods of bad weather every few days, so it is possible that at least one of the ascents may involve waiting for a day of suitable weather. We will be climbing in the area during the dry season but it is not as well defined a dry season as parts of the Andes further south enjoy. However the sun does come out very frequently and when it does it is almost overhead and very strong. At altitude there can be cold winds and temperatures are normally low, going down to -5ºC during the hours of darkness each night, so bring a warm sleeping bag and a good book!

Panorama of the El Ruiz crater, Colombia, February 2009.Steam pouring out of the El Ruiz crater, February 2009.


All clients must be insured for medical costs and repatriation in an emergency. We recommend having insurance for baggage, personal liability and cancellation as well. If you would like further advice please ask. Colombia has something of a reputation as a security risk but Bogota, the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy and the area around Los Nevados have been considered safe for many years now and have certainly proved safe on our four previous visits. If this situation changes we might have to substitute an alternative destination. We issue further advice on security to all clients before departure.  It should be stressed that we have run countless expeditions to South America over twenty years including four previous visits to Colombia and we can quite confidently say that in general people are more likely to lose something than have it stolen!

Our hotel in El Cocuy village, February 2009

Our hotel in El Cocuy village, February 2009


This is an adventurous itinerary and all clients will be exposed to an element of risk by taking part in this itinerary. While we take all reasonable precautions to reduce risk it is neither possible nor desirable to completely eliminate these additional risks. Some of these hazards carry the risk of serious injury or death. It is important that you understand the risks involved before signing our booking form. We have identified the following areas as the principal additional risks of this itinerary. This is not a fully inclusive list - please ask if you would like to see a more detailed risk assessment of this itinerary before booking.
Crime : Colombia has a higher crime rate than Europe. As a wealthy tourist you may attract attention.
Driving, hotels and general safety : In Colombia driving, fire safety standards and general safety standards are not as high as in Europe.
Remoteness : You will be more than a days walk from medical help for some of the time. There is almost no chance of a helicopter rescue.
Minor slips and falls : due to steep, uneven and unstable ground.
Weather : The mountains of Colombia can be affected by cloudy weather making navigation difficult. Forecasts are not so reliable and not always available.
Mountain Hazards : On all the climbs there is a very slight risk of avalanche and crevasse falls. In certain places you may be subjected to a slight risk of rockfall.
Altitude : At high altitudes there is an increased risk of medical problems, most obviously altitude illness

The summit view from Ritacuba Blanco, Sierra Nevada del Cocuy

The summit view from Ritacuba Blanco, Sierra Nevada del Cocuy.



Our expeditions are designed to be small and flexible. The expedition will be co-ordinated, organised and lead by us, but as far as possible will adapt to the plans and aspirations of the members. We will consult you when planning the details of the expedition. We publish an outline itinerary so that we have something to fall back on if none of us can agree! Please note however that the leaders decision is final where the safety of the group or any member is in jeopardy; for example where retreat or diversion is necessary due to illness or bad weather. The minimum number of customers we need to run this expedition is three. The maximum size of the expedition will be four customers plus leader.