Saturday, February 18, 2012

Live from Calarca

Well, I had not planned on riding La Linea this week, but it turns out that our hotel tonight in Calarca is just 2km from the foot of this legendary climb. Colombian ciclistas describe La Linea as Colombia's "second most mythical climb" after Letras. It is imposible for me to ignore this opportunity. We had planned a river rafting trip for tomorrow (click here for pictures), but common sense prevailed, so instead I'll subject myself to several hours of pain and suffering in the Andes. 

La Linea is a mountain pass between Calarca and Ibague approximately 100km south of Letras and also in the Los Nevados National Park. The more famous route over Alto de La Linea is from the west side, starting in Calarca. The climb is 22km and rises 1650 meters to an altitude of 3265 meters. I should complete the climb in about 2 hours. Depending on how I feel, and the weather, I'll descend to Ibague for the return trip. Climbing from east to west is a 1400 meter elevation gain over 23km. 

La Linea from east to west

La Linea from west to east

I've had two days to recover since Letras. I am not in great form, but 2 days should be enough. On Friday, Camila and I took a guided tour to Nevado del Ruiz. It is a volcano with its peak at 5,321 meters.  The tour bus took us to a refuge at 4,800 meters. The volcano's peak is the highest point in Colombia, while the road at 4,800 meters is the 3rd highest road in Latin America. The volcano erupted in 1985 causing lahars that buried 25,000 people.

The high altitude was very noticeable. We felt somewhat dizzy and it was hard to do anything more than walk. The temperature was about 0 celsius.

One of the highlights was a series of very attractive switchbacks at 4500 meters. These were the first tight Euro-style switchbacks I have seen in Colombia. Sadly, cyclists are not allowed beyond the checkpoint at 4,000 meters. Even if we were allowed, a road bike couldn't attack each hairpin bend over the rough gravel, so it wouldn't be the same. (See pictures below). 

Euro style switchbacks. Each traverse is approximately 100 meters in length. 

The switchbacks photographed from a distance

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