Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Alto de Minas

I climbed Colombia's '3rd most mythical climb' (as the locals describe it) yesterday. Alto de Minas is located 30 km south of Medellin. Its a 42km climb rising from 600 meters to 2,450 meters. The problem is that I prefer loop rides and the climb is on the southern side of the mountain. Somehow, I had to get 72km south of Medellin without a simple out-and-back route. My friend Mauricio mapped a route that circumnavigates Minas by riding southwest from Medellin to Bolombolo, and then southeast following the Rio Cauca to La Pintada.

The day started out just great. I was up at 5.30am and left my apartment an hour later with clear skies and dry roads.

The 60km ride to Bolombolo took me up to 1800 meters followed by a long, gradual descent through lush green hills. A piece of glass punctured my rear tyre just outside of Bolombolo. I average one puncture per year so I wasn't too worried. I quickly changed the inner tube and inflated the tire with a Co2 cartridge. No problem. I shouldn't puncture again until sometime in 2012. 

About 50km later, I punctured again. Technically, it wasn't a puncture but rather a faulty inner tube. Either way, it didn't really matter because this time I was slightly screwed. With my one spare inner tube and Co2 cartridge used, I was out of ammo and in the middle of pretty much nowhere. I had two options: 1) walk 15km to La Pintada and look for a bike shop, or 2) try hitchhiking.

I didn't even have to try. Within a minute or two, and before I even stuck out my hand, a local on a motorcycle stopped to offer help. I had no idea what he was saying, but he was basically motioning for me to jump on the back of his motorbike. "Ummm...what about my bicycle?" I motioned in response. And then he imitated slinging the bike over my shoulder. 

I'm not too experienced on the back of a motorbike. And certainly not with a bicycle awkwardly balancing on my shoulder as we sped through remote and partially washed-out Colombian backroads. Fifteen kilometers later, Alex Restrepo delivered me to a bike shop in La Pintada. 

I hit the southern slope of Alto de Minas at about 1pm. It was hot and muggy but a nice climb. The slopes are gentle (5-8%) and the views across the valley are scenic. Sure enough, about half way up the mountain it started to rain. I am actually getting use to riding in the rain. I used to hate it, and I still dislike it, but I don't let it stop me anymore. Rain is par for the course in the Andes. 

I really enjoyed climbing Alto de Minas. On paper, its somewhat similar to Col du Galibier (including Col de Telegraph) in length and elevation gain, although Galibier is steeper because of the Telegraph descent. The road up Minas winds and winds and winds. You can't see beyond the next turn, only left and right across the valleys.

En route to Bolombolo

I fixed the first puncture in this little roadside cafe.

Crossing Rio Cauca. I followed Cauca from Bolombolo towards La Pintada.

Arepa con quesito e cafe tinto. Typical Colombian food. 

Just before my second puncture.

Alex Restrepo.

70km to Medellin (42km of it is uphill).

You can see rain showers approaching in the background.

Smooth Colombian roads.

Panorama taken on the way up Minas. The road can be seen winding up the ridge.

Alto de Minas, Colombia's 3rd most mythical climb.

1 comment:

  1. Dude! Always carry 2 spare tubes and 2 CO2 cartridges. A patch kit (weighs 1 gram tops) is also good insurance. The climb and entire route looks wicked awesome. I bet you are getting skinny again.