This is the trip report from our climb of Nevado Tolima (Colombian Andes) via the Las Latas Route/El Silencio December 1998-January 1999.
Day 1: December 29
From El Silencio we followed the good trail along the scenic river gorge to El Rancho (hot springs). There is a basic refugio here that cost $2 a person and sleeps 10. We crossed over to the east side of the stream and located the steep trail that heads up the forested mountain slopes to the east. The trail heads to Las Cuevas (3800 meters) which is a small camping area with a very basic refugio. The refugio sleeps six, and was dilapidated but usable. It may not last much longer.
Day 2: December 30
From Las Cuevas, we followed the trail to the campsite known as Las Latas (4650 meters). There are excellent views of the summit of Tolima in this area. There are also places to camp between Las Cuevas and Las Latas, but there is no water in the dry season between these two campsites.
Day 3: December 31
From Las Latas, we headed directly up to the right and towards the summit of Tolima. At a convienient place, we crossed over the black lava ridge to the gully just to the east of the lava ridge. We followed this gully all the way to the snowline. We continued up the snow to the crater rim and to the summit. What a beautiful climb! We descended to Las Cuevas that same day.
Day 4-5: January 1-2
We hiked to El Rancho and soaked in the hot springs! We soaked in the Hot Springs a long time before heading for bed in a nice grassy campsite.
The next morning we made the short walk back to El Silencio and rode a milk truck back to civilization.
To get there: There are a few milk trucks a day that reach El Silencio. You can also hire a jeep for $25 from Ibague for up to five people (Dec 1998).
By using the route that we did, we avoided crossing any crevasses. Crevasses exist on almost any other route. Take a rope jut in case however. Use caution in the gully above Las Latas. It's best to stay on one side or the other and on high ground while following the gully. The reason for this is rockfall danger. Some huge bus sized rocks come crashing down from the volcanic plug known as Cerro Negro, and some of them make it into this gully. Don't even try to pass under Cerro Negro to try and reach the summit of Tolima because a few climbers have been killed by rockfall here. The route described above is easy and safe. The climb to the summit of Tolima and back takes most people four days, but it can be done in three days in good weather, and by a well acclimatized climber.
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