2013: Trekking El Cocuy, Colombia
I met a friend in the Sierra Nevada de El Cocuy, a mountain range in Colombia, for a weeklong trek which never dipped below 14,000 feet.
These mountains, though little known outside of Colombia, are easily some of the prettiest peaks and valleys in the world. The alien plants, the stunning spring-like weather, and the swirling mist also make this trip special.
There is a decent trail that we generally followed, but at times went off trail. There are abundant places to backcountry camp, all of which are incredibly scenic. My tiny bivy tent froze solid to my sleeping bag each night, and I hardly slept for most of the week. Though equatorial, these mountains get quite cold. The sun can be rather intense. Wind and rain were not an issue on our trip, in January, but is generally an issue the other 11 months of the year.
Laguna de la Plaza, the largest lake and the highlight of the trek, is my vote for the prettiest lake in all of South America (which is saying a lot!).
While there is some guerilla activity east of the mountains towards Venezuela, safety is not much of a concern in the mountains and surrounding villages. I found everyone to be friendly and the towns to be quite nice, and didn't have any problems as a solo 23-year old. But hey, I'm fluent in Spanish and have years of experience traveling in South America.