An exhilarating climb… | Local features

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El Tucuche, our second highest peak, towers over 3,000 feet (914 meters). Groups have consistently rated the hike to the summit as moderate to difficult. It all depends on the trail you use to access it.

In the past, climbers used the Acono Trail which included access from Caura to the trailhead. This route was by far the longest due to the distance involved from semi-circular peaks such as Pena de Juangalo or Needle Point, Piedra Blanca and Naranjo before meeting the destination mountain El Tucuche. Another trail from Acono merged with the original between Piedra Blanca and Naranjo.

For many, the beauty of this original trail was its lack of steep terrain. Hikers built up a gradual height without realizing it as the trail seemed to be on a slope. The views from different vantage points were absolutely breathtaking.

Some hikers took the opportunity to catch the peaks en route to the ultimate as the distance to each was short as the height had already been reached. When El Tucuche’s actual body was finally reached, that same gradual ascent offered more rewarding views.

Over the past two decades, this treasured trail fell into disrepair as fitness groups began to frequent the steep side of Hobal Mountain. This route turned out to be a shorter ascent.

This writer’s favorite access to El Tucuche via the Rincon flank has never been a group favorite due to its rocky challenges. Although the first leg of this trail offers beautiful views and is blessed with a wide variety of songbirds in the canopy, the rest of the route requires climbing narrow passages splitting vertical stone walls.

We also accessed the intimidating Dread Point, the overlap also called North Point, by taking this route. It involves two sets of wall climbs but, for us, this is the shortest route to the top.

El Tucuche is a towering peak as it stands alone over its surroundings. The lower montane vegetation of ferns, bromeliads and mosses that line the roots, branches and trunks of trees thrive here. Swirling mists are the order of day and night.

Reminds me of the night we were camping at the top. We couldn’t see each other through the thick fogs around and it was so cold that one of my sons put his pair of socks on his hands instead of his feet. He put his feet in his backpack. No one dared leave their warm corner at night to answer the call of nature.

A new challenge presented itself in August when the now heavily used Hobal Trace road suffered a carriageway collapse. Where the river crosses the original route to the base of the mountain, it has now taken over the place.

Hikers were quite disappointed when they were unable to cross this point to ascend the rest of the route, and with the weather threatening to continue throughout the weekend, they were forced to turn back as no one wanted to be stranded when the river again rose in flood. Everyone loves coming home after a cold day at the top of the mountain.

There is another access along a road from Loango Junction, but parking can be a challenge here. As things stand, El Tucuche is on its own again, devoid of its climbing visitors.

We join members of the adventure branch of the hiking fraternity in calling for quick repairs to the Hobal access road to one of this country’s most exhilarating mountain climbs, El Tucuche.

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