A Guide to Climbing Nevado del Tolima in Colombia

Andrew AstonJanuary 14, 2019

Nestled within the Los Nevados National Park in the Colombian Andes, Nevado del Tolima (5,220 m) is the second highest volcano in the national park after Nevado del Ruiz (5,320 m).

Located only 235 km West from the capital city of Bogota, climbing Nevado del Tolima is a brilliant option for those mountaineers wishing to truly test themselves on a challenging and interesting South American peak. The challenge arises from the terrain changing quite quickly to uneven ground and muddy, bog-type surfaces, as well as the fact there is little to no flat parts on the climb – it is basically upwards the whole way, with long distances covered on every day and the very thin air occurring early on.

The diversity of the landscape, scenery and terrain is one of the most stunning and alluring features when climbing this volcano, as the lower sections are covered in tropical forest and jungle-type vegetation, with valleys, rivers and waterfalls in abundance. Once higher up the climb, the landscape evolves in to more traditional volcanic and arctic conditions, with hot springs sitting next to mesmerizing glaciers, beautiful lakes and of course the snow-capped peak.

 

Nevado del Tolima, Colombia
The idyllic lower reaches of the volcano. Photo courtesy of Alex Torres.

 

Here are some of the best tips to help you start planning a mountaineering trip to Nevado del Tolima.

Starting Point & How To Get There

 

 

Starting point differs depending on the route you will take.

Some tours start in the town of Salento, a tranquil and peaceful colonial town located just 40km from Pereira, and from there you will head to the Cocora Valley.

Other tours start in the sleepy settlement of Juntas, just 50km from Pereira, an area known for its gorgeous and magnificent countryside.

Salento and Juntas are approximately 250km from Medellin and 300km from Bogota. There are regular buses that go from these two main cities to Salento, taking approximately 6-8 hours. Alternatively you can fly to the nearby city of Pereira and catch a bus from there.

 

Duration of the Ascent

 

Nevado del Tolima, Colombia
All routes are generally between 4-6 days. Photo courtesy of Ascenso Andino Colombia.

Most trips are over the course of 4-6 days, with the first day being spent acclimatizing to the altitude. The longer trips (6 days) generally have a rest day built-in the day before ascending the summit, whereas the shorter ones (4 days) do not have this option.

Ascending Nevado del Tolima is often combined with climbing other Colombian volcanoes nearby, such as Nevado de Santa Isabel (4950m) and Paramillo del Quindio (4700m). These trips are 7 days in length, such as the Parque Nacional los Nevados, with Santa Isabel ascent, here.

Climbing Routes

 

Nevado del Tolima, Colombia
There are two main routes to take. Photo courtesy of Ascenso Andino Colombia.

There are two main routes that people take in order to climb the volcano.

The first is what is known as the slightly easier route, and it begins in Salento, where you will then take Jeeps to the Cocora Valley, where horses will be waiting to take heavy possessions up to the first camp, ‘La Playa’. You then climb to the second camp on the moor of Nevado del Tolima, and then to the summit, before descending back down to base camp.

The second, and more challenging route, begins in Juntas, where you will head straight to the first camp ‘La Escuela’, with horses taking heavy possessions. You will climb straight to the summit from this camp before descending back to Juntas.

Physical Requirements and Technical Difficulties

 

Nevado del Tolima, Colombia
The climb can be physically and technically demanding. Photo courtesy of Alex Torres.

Climbing Nevado del Tolima is very difficult and challenging, as access to the volcano is not easy, it is a very steep incline and the large glaciers located near the peak can be problematic to get around.

As such it is recommended that participants have an extremely high level of fitness and acclimatization, as well as a high level of technical ability in both glacier and mountaineering skills.

Weather Conditions

 

Nevado del Tolima, Colombia
Conditions are cold all-year-round. Photo courtesy of Ascenso Andino Colombia.

Due to being so high up in the Andes, it is consistently cold at the volcano all-year-round, with the temperature range staying between 3 degrees Celsius to -9 degrees Celsius.

It is recommended to climb in the Summer months as it will be warmer before and after you climb the volcano, as opposed to still being cold during Winter.

Equipment

 

Nevado del Tolima, Colombia
Plenty of equipment is needed to complete the climb. Photo courtesy of Ascenso Andino Colombia.

The following equipment is recommended for climbing Nevado del Tolima:

Head:
– Hat for the cold
– Hat for the sun
– Good quality sunglasses

Body:
– Waterproof Jacket (Gore-Tex or similar)
– Waterproof Trousers (Gore-Tex or similar)
– Winter Coat (Polar)
– Base layer thermals
– Walking Trousers (Windproof, soft-shell or similar)
– Warm winter Jumper
– Waterproof Poncho (optional)

Hands and Feet:
– Thermal and/or Waterproof Gloves
– Hiking Boots, warm and waterproof
– Walking Cane
– Walking Socks x 2 pairs
-Thermal socks

Backpack:
– Backpack of 30/40 litres
– Separate backpack to be exported by the horses

Hydration:
– Camelback bottle – 2 litres minimum

Miscellaneous:
– Sun Cream Protection
– Lip Balm

Camping Equipment:
– Bed Liner insulator
– Sleeping Bag
– Plastic plate, glass, and cutlery
– Torch

Estimated Price

 

Nevado del Tolima, Colombia
Prices vary depending on length of trip and size of group. Photo courtesy of Alex Torres.

Pricing generally depends on the length of the trip and number of people in the group, but for 4-6 day trips, larger groups cost around $250-300 USD per person, whereas smaller groups of 1-3 people cost around $400-600 USD.

These typically include guiding fee, accommodation, meals and group equipment.

 

 

Climbing Nevado del Tolima is a truly special and unique experience – start looking at our trips and challenge yourself now!

 

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