Pulpito del Diablo is a giant rock mass located in the beautiful El Cocuy National Park in Colombia. The park contains 31 major peaks situated along two parallel running ridges. Pulpito del Diablo lies next to Pan de Azucar just north of the southernmost peaks Campanillas Negro and Campanillas Blanco. Vertical rock on all sides, the summit of Pulpito del Diablo requires a brisk trad climb of between 70m – 90m to reach the summit. The summit offers splendid views of the Laguna Grande de la Sierra below and many of the major peaks to the north.
map of region
El Cocuy National Park is located approximately 230 km north east of Bogota near the border of Venezuela. For international climbers traveling to Colombia, the park is most easily reached from Bogota. Buses leave here to the city of El Cocuy in the morning and in the late evening; currently the price is 70,000 pesos roundtrip (about USD $33.00) and expect about a 10-11 hour ride. In the morning, a milk truck leaves from the city to the farms near the edge of the park. For 5000 pesos per person (~$2.50), one can hitch with the milk truck for the 20 minute ride up the hill. If a private driver is hired, it is usually more (~15,000 pesos per person with gear). Mules can be arranged to pack gear from here to the park for approximately 50,000 pesos each way per mule.
It is easiest to follow the trail to Laguna Grande de la Sierra in order to climb Pulpito del Diablo from the north. There are signs along the trail that well mark the route to Laguna Grande. Alternatively, one could also approach from the south and camp near the base of the glacier but this is more out of the way.
One must first register with Colombian National Park department before climbing Pulpito del Diablo. There is an office located just east of the town square in El Cocuy. As of 2006, the price is 7,000 pesos if you are a Colombian citizen and 21,000 pesos for foreigners.
There are multiple options for camping if approaching from Laguna Grande. First, the "Cueva de los Hombres" (caves) offer great shelter from any rain and wind and are clearly marked by sign ~1/2 mile before the lake. As appealing as these may seem after a long day's approach, there are many nice camps on the east shore of Laguna Grande. Temperatures at night are often below freezing here by the lake but are still bearable with a summer bag. Lastly, one may also camp atop the pass which divides Toti and Pan de Azucar. Here there are no pre-made tent spots and thus is much less protected from the wind; nonetheless, it offers quick access to the glacier making for an easier summit day.
Climbing: when, how, and what to bring
The mountains in El Cocuy National Park are best climbed during the dry season which is typically stated as (and most busy during) Dec-Jan. Dry weather climbing is also very possible during the flanking months of Nov and Feb.
There are multiple routes on the north wall to the summit. The length from the base to the top increases as one heads from west to east across the base of the Pulpito. There are bolts and pitons for stations on some of the routes.
A light racks is all that is necessary; cams are useful (we only brought sizes 1-3) but not required. Many slings are left from previous raps but should be inspected as always before trusting.
Note for American climbers in Colombia
For whatever reason, Colombia has an unsafe reputation among travelers from the United States. Although the United States Department of State still issues travel warnings for US travelers to Colombia, do not let this deture you from considering a climbing trip to El Cocuy National Park. I cannot stress it enough: the major cities in Colombia and the region of El Cocuy itself are all very safe places for travelers. I am not advocating ignoring the State Departments warnings, but just realize it is other far remote regions of Colombian jungle that are lawless, not the area of or between El Cocuy and the cities of Medellin, Bogota, and Cali.
Still useful information for consulting before a trip:
US Department of State fact sheet for Colombia
US Department of State list of countries with travel warnings for US citizens
Colombia is an amazingly beautiful country with nice people and spectacular mountains. The park itself, the bus ride there from the city, and local areas are are just as safe and secure as much of the United States. I personally would go back there without second thought in a minute.
Example trip cost to El Cocuy for internationals and other info
The current exchange rate is about 2,250 pesos per USD $1.00. Not including the food you use while camping, here is an example of the per-person expenses to climb in El Cocuy National Park if arriving from Bogota.
35,000 pesos (bus from Bogota to El Cocuy)
21,000 pesos (registration to access Colombian national park)
5,000 pesos (milk truck up hill to outskirts of national park)
50,000 pesos (stock to haul gear one-way to base camp)
5,000 pesos (milk truck back down to El Cocuy)
+35,000 pesos (bus back to Bogota from El Cocuy)
This is about USD$ 67.00
If a day or two is spent in the city of El Cocuy waiting for the bus flanking the days climbing in the park, meals can be purchases and many of the resturants in the city. With drink, soup, and main course, the prices range from about 3,000 - 5,000 pesos per meal. A hotel stay can be had either in the city or in the cabins near the farms for <20,000 pesos per night.
There is a market in the city of El Cocuy every Friday where one can buy fresh fruits, vegtables, ice cream, and hand made along with corporate made clothing/crafts.
note for vegitarians: it is difficult but not impossible in Colombia. Most resturants only serve one or two different dishes for a given meal and it can be hard to substitute a main dish for something veggie; usually they will make eggs with cheese instead of the meat dish if you ask.
Add External Links text here.