Mérida
Venezuela
Calle 24, #8-86
Tel/Fax:+58 (0)274 2522080
E-mail: info@guamanchi.com
Pico Pan De Azucar - 2 days

Day One:
We will take you by car for a 40 min. drive out of town and up into Sierra La Culata, the mountain range on the other side of the valley from Sierra Nevada. La Culata means butt or rear, so-called because from Lake Maracaibo (some 100km north) it is seen as a backdrop. On the drive up be sure to look out of the window because although your hike hasn’t begun yet, the beautiful scenery has.

The end of the road marks the start of your hike. Crossing carefully over some private farmland, we wave goodbye to civilization for the next 3 days. The trail winds up and around some curious natural ridges in the valley, like the backbone of some huge reptile, and enters into El Valle del Muerto (Dead man´s valley), marked by a simple stone grave and a side trail to Laguna Tapada. Don’t be in the least bit surprised if you felt out of breath from the first step – you are already over 3000 meters and rising! “Poco a poco” is the best approach – don’t fight it. The trail alternates between open green meadows and dense frailejon (espeletia) plants with their thick, soft leaves like the ears of a rabbit. This species has adapted to resist the punishment given the sun, ice and evaporation at such altitudes.

After a few hours we reach an old abandoned farmhouse on a wide grassy plain which can be used as an overnight shelter if necessary. Nearby is a large rectangular area marked by a low dry-stone wall which must once have been a pen for animals. After a break and a snack we continue, onwards and upwards. Look out for the thickets of short, red-trunked coloradito trees next to the river (said to be the highest-growing trees in the world) and also for some horses which roam in this valley.

A crystalline waterfall tumbles from a plateau high above. We set up camp here, or continue up a steep rocky trail to reach another side suitable for camping next to a soft field of damp, green, moss and lichens.

Day Two:
From the higher plateau, the summit of Pan de Azucar can just be seen behind a ridge covered in a mass of tall frailejones, some hundreds of year old. Surprisingly, as the altitude increases, so too does the height of these remarkable plants (up to 3 meters). Now you can easily understand how they got their name- their silhouettes reminded Spanials of procession of friars or frailes. Leaving all but the bare essential back to camp, we hike slowly up, the earth underfoot changing to fine, almost white, stones which so nearly become sand. Abruptly , the frailejones cease to grow, at last defeated by the altitude – but hopefully you are not! Bare rocks stick out of the ground near the summit, providing welcome hand-holds for you and , incredibly, shelter for some tiny mosses and flowering plants. At least, ¡Cumbre! In all directions valleys and mountains, and on a really clear day one can see the shimmering light of Maracaibo Lake to the north. Look south and there are the “5 White Eagles” ( the 5 highest peaks of the country), most notably Pico Bolivar and Pico Humboldt.

Back at the base camp, we pick up our equipment to continue on the way down where the jeep will be waiting for us.

Pico Pan De Azucar 3 days

Day One:
We will take you by jeep for a 40 min. drive out of town and up into the Sierra La Culata, the mountain range on the other side of the valley from the Sierra Nevada. La Culata means butt or rear, so-called because from Lake Maracaibo (some 100km north) it is seen as a backdrop. On the drive up be sure to look out of the window because although your hike hasn’t begun yet, the beautiful scenery has.

The end of the road marks the start of your hike. Crossing carefully over some private farmland, we wave goodbye to civilization for the next 3 days. The trail winds up and around some curious natural ridges in the valley, like the backbone of some huge reptile, and enters El Valle del Muerto (Dead man´s valley), marked by a simple stone grave and a side trail to Laguna Tapada. Don’t be in the least bit surprised if you felt out of breath from the first step – you are already over 3000 meters and rising! “Poco a poco” is the best approach – don’t fight it. The trail alternates between open green meadows and dense frailejon (espeletia) plants with their thick, soft leaves like the ears of a rabbit. This species has adapted to resist the punishment given the sun, ice and evaporation at such altitudes.

After a few hours we reach an old abandoned farmhouse on a wide grassy plain which ca be used as an overnight shelter if necessary. Nearby is a large rectangular area marked by a low dry-stone wall which must once have been a pen for animals. After a break and a snack we continue, onwards and upwards. Look out for the thickets of short, red-trunked coloradito trees next to the river (said to be the highest-growing trees in the world) and also for some horses which roam in this valley.

A crystalline waterfall tumbles from a plateau high above. We set up camp here, or continue up a steep rocky trail to reach another side suitable for camping next to a soft field of damp, green, moss and lichens. The base of Pan de Azucar and our base camp for that night is located at 3800m.

Day Two:
From the higher plateau, the summit of Pan de Azucar can just be seen behind a ridge covered in a mass of tall frailejones, some hundreds of year old. Surprisingly, as the altitude increases, so too does the height of these remarkable plants (up to 3 meters). Now you can easily understand how they got their name- their silhouettes reminded Spaniards of procession of friars or frailes. Leaving all but the bare essential back to camp, we hike slowly up, the earth underfoot changing to fine, almost white, stones which so nearly become sand. Abruptly, the frailejones cease to grow, at last defeated by the altitude – but hopefully you are not! Bare rocks stick out of the ground near the summit, providing welcome hand-holds for you and , incredibly, shelter for some tiny mosses and flowering plants. At least, ¡Cumbre! In all directions valleys and mountains, and on a really clear day one can see the shimmering light of Maracaibo Lake to the north. Look south and there are the “5 White Eagles”(the highest peaks of the country), most notably Pico Bolivar and Pico Humboldt.

Back at the base camp, we pick up our equipment to continue for 4 hours on the way up to the next camp, “La Laguna de la Carbonara”, at 3700m. Wild area. But don’t think that it’s flat! You will go up and down.

Day Three.
3 hours trek to get to the hot springs. So nice to have a warm bath after 3 days trekking. The natural hot springs of La Musui are very peaceful and with amazing view of Pico Humboldt. One more hour walk after the bath to meet the car that takes you back to Merida. It will be 1 to 2 hours (according to the traffic) to get back to Merida.