Toti is one of the many glacier bounded rock peaks located El Cocuy National Park of Colombia. In the park are 31 major peaks situated along two parallel running ridges. Toti is found between the larger peaks Concavito (to the north) and Pan de Azucar (to its south). The large glacier which flows off Azucar guards the large summit rock outcropping from the west while to the east drops a giant 500m rock wall. Toti is thus most frequently climbed from the east, and the glacier here has few open crevasses making for a normal snow climb and rock scramble. The summit offers splendid views of both Laguna de la Plaza and Laguna Grande and many of the major peaks to the northeast.
map of region
El Cocuy National Park is located approximately 230 km northeast 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.
The easiest access to the base of Toti is from Laguna Grande de la Sierra. The trail to here is clearly marked and a base camp at the lake provides an excellent access to many of the other peaks in the park: Concavito, Concavo, Portales, Pulpito del Diablo, and Pan de Azucar. Alternatively, if one wants to give the east wall a shot, one could take the more strenuous trail south around to Laguna de la Plaza and strike from there.
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 just before the glacier which melts off nearly due west of the rock outcropping summit. There is at least 1 camping area on the rock shelves which approach the glacier base.
If approaching from Laguna de la Plaza, there are many nice camps right near the end of the trail where it meets the lake. Be more careful here though; whereas there is no problem with storing food on the Laguna Grande side, there was an issue of “wild cats” stealing food left unguarded at Laguna del la Plaza.
Camping is free provided you paid the fee to enter the park.
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 but the risk of rain is slightly greater.
There are multiple routes to the summit upon reaching the top of the glacier and base of the summit rocks. An upward traverse from the south side to the summit offers a class 3 scramble to the top; a more direct 2 pitch rock climb has also been reported.
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.
Other info and external links
For an example of expenses used to access and climb in El Cocuy National Park, please see that at the Pulpito del Diablo page
Parques Nacionales de Colombia - El Cocuy
: this is the official website of El Cocuy national park with general information about the park and a map (not too useful for climbers though)