Volcán El Azufral, Colombia – Our first mountain over 4,000 metres / 13,000 ft

The wool hat on the head, the fleece jacket and the thick winter rain jacket at the top, the warm rain hiking pants down: that’s how we start today’s hike. Oh yes, we are still in Colombia. But even on the equator it is chilly in 13,000 ft. The average temperature here is 6° C / 43° F, plus there are deep clouds and rain that reliably starts in the afternoon. The hike is still worth it. It brings us onto the quiet Volcán El Azufral, what means sulphur volcano, of which the highest point is 4,070 m / 13,350 ft. It has three lakes in its crater: Laguna Verde that got its green colour from the sulphur, the deeply dark Laguna Negra and Laguna Blanca, which has more green than clear water.

Laguna Verde has snow-white beaches and bare rocks that are covered with a yellowish white sulphur layer. It is possible to partially walk around the lake. The chilly, constantly bubbling poison water is not suited to swim in. From holes in the ground stinky steams escape. The surroundings of the volcano are densely grown over with thick moss pillows, lichen, grasses, and low brush. 70 creeks shall rise from here what I believe straight away. The almost 5 km / good 3 mi ascend from the parking lot at 3,670 m / 12,000 ft to the sign on the summit at 4,000 m / 13,125 ft are wet and muddy.

We manage the trail that is apart from the last stretch mildly steep in a nippy hour and fifteen, despite the elevation. Then it takes half an hour to descend the 200 m / 656 ft of elevation in almost one kilometre / 1000 yards down to the lagoons, fist through a rocky brook bed, then over steps partially broken off in an extremely slippery upland moor. This is equally the most difficult part of the hike. It came in useful to us that we already slept the last night on the parking lot what helped us to become acclimatized.

The access to volcano Azufral is two kilometres / 1.25 mi behind the city of Túquerres on the road to Olaya (turnoff at N 01°05’43.1’’ W 77°41’08.4’’). From there it is 7 km / 4.5 mi continuously worsening and partially narrow gravel trail. Parking is at the side of the road at the ranger station (N 01°05’41.7’’ W 77°41’08.4’’), for camping we have to use the upper part of the trail. Levelling is difficult but possible (only for AWD). Volcano access is 1,000 COP pp, parking 5,000 COP once only. We don’t pay anything for two nights camping. The hike is worth the effort, it is a simple mountain over 4,000 m / 13,000 ft, and a great habituation to higher elevation.

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