The Red Edge, Rock Climbing in Colombia
Colombia offers a small but stunning selection of climbing locations which can keep you satisfied for weeks. Perhaps the best climbing area is in the tiny three house town of La Mojarra, just three hours south of Bucaramanga and north of San Gil. Suesca, just an hour from Bogota offers the most accessible climbing and bouldering area and Tayrona National Park in the north east has an interesting selection of boulder problems, if you can brave the heat.
For me, Colombia was my first opportunity to get back on the rock in seven months and provided brilliant climbing.
This stunning red rock wall in Santander region has more than 100 well bolted sport routes ranging in grade from 5.6 to 5.14s (4b-8c). Offering slab, overhangs and technical routes this is a place climbers come to for a few days and are still there a month later.
It is not just the rock that makes this place hard to leave. The Rock Refugio accommodation is a two minute walk from the crag and offers rooms clinging to the edge of the cliff providing stunning views across the mountain and the crag. The Refugio has an excellent communal lounge area, a communal kitchen and a dedicated mountain top yoga room providing yoga in the clouds.
This beautiful accommodation is let down by its exorbitantly high rental prices for ropes (COP40,000 – US$15 – per day) and quick draws (COP5,000 – US$2 – per draw, per day), making it impossible to stay for more than a few days if you haven’t traveled with full gear.
Compact two bed dorms are COP25,000 and rooms are from COP70,000, camping is available too.
Getting there: Few people seemed to know of this town so there may be some confusion about where to change buses. By bus, is about 12 hours north of Bogota and south of Santa Martha and two hours from Bucaramanga. There are direct flights from Cartagena and Bogota to Bucaramanga.
When travelling from Bucaramanga or San Gil asked to be dropped at the bypass or detour road north of the town of Los Curos. On the bypass road take the bus for Los Santos and asked to be dropped outside of the Rock Refugio in La Mojarra which is about 40 minutes from the main highway – the bus driver will know it.
Alternatively, if you are travelling from San Gil, ask the bus driver to drop you at the aerial tramway (cable car) and take the scenic route across Chicamocha Canyon to the mountain top (COP39,000). There, take the Los Santos bus and travel 15 minutes to La Mojarra.
If you are lucky enough to be here during hormiga culona or Big Ass Ant season, you can collect your own and fry up this delicacy. Apparently in each nest, the ants drop their wings just once a year providing a rare opportunity to collect this local delicacy.
Things to do nearby: The adventure town of San Gil is three hours south of La Mojarra and offers canyoning, white water rafting, buggy jumping and kayaking among its adventure sports. The beautiful whitewashed town of Barichara is near San Gil.
Just an hour north of Bogota is the small cement factory town of Suesca which has a two to three kilometre long wall that dominates the valley. Here, there are over 600 routes but few are properly bolted. Trad gear is essential with the first bolt on sports routes often 3-4 metres off the ground. Some of the sport routes are the second pitch of a multi pitch. Grades range from 5.5 to 5.14 but are high in the grade.
The crag can be reached about 1 km before the town by turning off the main road at the climbing shop and following the disused train line.
There is a beautiful bouldering area about an hour’s walk from the climbing shop which can be reach by following the rail line to the end and then heading up the hill and into the neighbouring valley.
Guides cost COP60,000 for a half day. The local climbing shop rents gear for reasonable prices.
This place is crying out for a good climbers’ hostel. Close to the crag and near the climbing shop are two hostels which offer basic accommodation for COP25,000-COP30,000. La Nomada can be booked in advance. Expect damp rooms, a tiny communal area and a kitchen with limited utensils. A more comfortable hostel is next door. Camping is available at the base of the crag on the weekends.
Getting there: Direct buses run to Suesca from Bogota’s north terminal. It is also possible to take a bus for Tunja and change for Suesca.
Tayrona National Park
This stunning national park also offers some lovely bouldering routes set on the beach and in the jungle. They are easy to find as the boulders are along the main walking tracks between the beaches.
The biggest problem is the heat, making it hard to dedicate much time to bolder beyond just after sunrise and near sunset.
Each beach has hammock and tent accommodation for between COP20,000 to 25,000. There are a handful of beaches only that are safe to swim.
Park entrance: COP39,000
Getting there: Take the public bus from Santa Marta to Palomino and asked to be dropped at the entrance of the national park. COP6000.
Around Tayrona: The town of Santa Marta is less than an hour away but the main attraction here is the Lost City which can be reach in a four day return trek. Also recommended are the coffee production town of Minca and the beachside town of Palomino.