November 21, 2010

The time I wished for winter boots in Colombia.

When I suggested hiking Nevado del Ruiz on our trip to Manizales, Kelsi and I figured it would challenging, but full of awesome views of the surrounding mountainside. Several friends have completed the journey and their pictures made it seem manageable, so why not?

The highest volcano on the central range of the Andes Mountains, the Nevado del Ruiz stands at 16, 732 feet above sea level. This still-active volcano last erupted in 1985, killing more than 20,000 people, and now often called "the sleeping lion of Manizales".

We set out early on Sunday morning dressed in the warmest clothes we own in Colombia, full of water to attempt to avoid altitude sickness, and ready for a full day. After driving about an hour from Manizales we stopped at Laguna Negra for breakfast, then continued another hour and a half in the van to El Refugio, the snack shop at 15,748 feet. From here you typically are able to walk uphill to the flag pole or summit. However, on the day we visited the entire area beyond El Refugio was roped off and no one was allowed to wander uphill. The snowy conditions made for extremely limited visibility and hiking any further was much too dangerous.

Freezing cold!

The snow and hail fell almost the entire time we were at the top of the volcano and made our hour long stay there quite chilly. Needless to say, we were disappointed about not getting to actually hike, but all things considered we didn't really feel like venturing too far from the wind-sheltered van.

Seeing the Nevado definitely felt weird, since I haven't seen snow like that, or really been cold in that way in almost eighteen months. The experience confirmed by belief that living in Colombia has made me less tolerant of the cold. I am reasonably concerned I will spend a large portion of my Christmas vacation in Minnesota feeling positively numb to the snow and ice!

Check out the video below to observe some of our adventures at the top of this snow-capped mountain - basically us being freezing cold and me teaching Kelsi how to make a snow man. Enjoy! :)

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