Photographing Cerro Kennedy
After our visit to the Pacific Coast of Colombia we flew up North to Santa Marta and from there made our way into the mountains.
When I was planning this part of the trip I had set one objective for myself: getting up to Cerro Kennedy one morning for sunrise. To be able to do this I had to find an accommodation, which wasn't too far away. This meant staying in Minca wasn't an option.
With a bit of research I found Sierra Alta Finca Boutique. This beautiful little hotel is much farther up in the mountains than Minca. To get there the best option is to let the hotel organize a 4x4 transport, which is what we did. It took around 2 hours to get from Santa Marta up to the hotel.
As we drove past Minca and quickly left it behind I knew it was the right decision to stay in a more remote place. Minca and its surroundings were much too crowded for my taste. The contrast couldn't have been bigger as we arrived at the Finca and learned that for the next four days we would be the only guests.
But despite the long drive up the mountain, there was still quite a way to go to reach Cerro Kennedy - to be more precise: 14,5km with 1350m elevation gain.
There is one hostel farther up on the mountain and, if you are up there only for the hike, Hostal Moncho is an option. You can even camp there, if you bring a tent. If you plan to hike there from Minca though, be prepared for a very long day hike.
For us though, the Finca was the perfect place to stay. We visited Vista Nieve coffee farm where we learned about their production of organic coffee. We did a lot of hikes into the surrounding forests with the dogs of the Finca. And we had some of the best food of our travels through Colombia.
But back to my main objective: hiking up to Cerro Kennedy. If you follow my Blog and Videos regularly, you know that I like to scout a location before I photograph it. This meant that on our first day we did a hike up into the mountains to check out the different viewpoints. As you can see in the video below, this didn't work out as all the views were shrouded in clouds.
So my hike the next morning was a hike into the unknown. Cerro Kennedy hasn't been photographed a lot and there was nearly no information about what to expect up there in terms of photo spots. I also couldn't be sure, if I would see anything at all, as at this time of the year the mountains rarely reveal themselves.
At 2am I started the long slog up the mountain. At a continuous pace I made my way past San Lorenzo, then past Hostal Moncho to finally get a first glimpse of the Sierra Nevada after 2,5 hours of constant hiking. The view was clear and I increased my pace a bit to finish the last 3km before sunrise. The last kilometer gets steeper and after nearly three hours of walking this final slope was a real pain for my tired legs.
I got to the top around 15 minutes before sunrise. Now I had to quickly find some foreground interest for the photo I had in mind. Most of the top of the mountain is occupied by a military base, which doesn't leave many options to explore. Gladly one of the guards pointed me into just the right direction to find the view you see in the photo above. I quickly setup my camera and in pure bliss watched the sun slowly creep above the mountains in the east.
Standing up there above the haze gazing towards the mountains of the Sierra Nevada was my favorite moment of the year so far. The long hike and the work I had to put in to get up there made the whole experience even more intense.
It showed me again that, if you commit to a goal and constantly put in the work, from time to time you'll be rewarded. Surely it doesn't always work out that way and I can remember many hikes I did when I didn't get a photo. But that's just part of the game and without those failure the successes wouldn't be so special.
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