In the morning you leave Mérida and drive around 45 minutes to La Mucuy, one of various entrances to the Sierra Nevada National Park. This is the starting point for a 9 km uphill trek into the dense tropical cloud forest of tall trees, huge ferns and thick bamboo stands, full of birds and butterflies. You stop for lunch beside one of the small streams or waterfalls on the trail before eventually arriving at Laguna Coromoto (3200 m), a fresh-water mountain lake filled with trout. At the end of a day of 6-7 hours hiking, here you make camp for the first night and enjoy a hot meal.
After breakfast, you begin the 6 km uphill trek towards the base of two of the other high peaks of the National Park, Pico Humboldt (4942 m) and Pico Bonpland (4883 m). The trail is steeper and rockier than on Day 1, passing over open upland moors filled with local flowers known as paramos. At various points in the ascent you will have to scramble across a terrain of loose stones, and follow a narrow path with a steep drop down one side leading to Laguna Verde. About 1 hour on from here is the Laguna del Suero, a tranquil spot located between the two peaks. Here you have dinner and make camp for the night having completed a hike of 5-6 hours.
Today offers a 7.5 km high mountain hike, heading west towards Laguna Timoncito followed by a scramble on loose rocks on a steep uphill slope known as Chomahoma. The views in both directions from the top of this slope are spectacular. The trail continues on a traverse running along the rear of the range, before arriving at the base of the Pico Bolívar. Here, at an altitude of 4,600 m, you make camp for the night and prepare for your climb to the summit the following day. If time and weather conditions permit, you might scramble on to Pico Espejo (4765 m) and make camp at the top station of the cable car (currently under repair and out of service until Winter 2013).
At any time of year, the ascent to the top of Pico Bolívar is a real challenge, and requires courage, determination and a positive attitude. This is a technical climb, with steep drops, high walls and some difficult situations to negotiate, both on the way up and coming down. The time it takes to complete the climb depends on various factors. These include snow, ice and general weather conditions, and of course the levels of experience and fitness of the climbers. After the day’s exertions, you will return to the same base camp where you will spend another night at high altitude.
After breakfast, you begin your descent. There are two options available. The first of these is to make a 4-6 hour 6 km hike down to an altitude of 3200 m where you can spend the night at a basic farmhouse called Pedro’s Place. The second option is to spend the whole day hiking (an additional 6-7 hours) to arrive at the small village of Los Nevados, where you can spend the night in a comfortable bed in a posada.
If you spent the night at Pedro’s Place, today face the long downhill hike through cloud forest to the village of Mucunutan at the end of La Travesia. From here you return by 4x4 to Mérida. Otherwise if you decided to do the major hike on Day 5, in the morning you can relax in the village of Los Nevados before making the four-hour drive in 4X4 on small mountain roads back to Mérida.