National Geographic : 1970 Aug
since, R6mulo queried, "What do you do for money when no climbers pass by here?" Apolinar pointed his machete at an ox be ing loaded with mangoes and avocados. "We sell those fruits in Valledupar." A week's travel on oxback to and from market. "For how much?" "Fifty pesos a thousand." Three for a penny-for giant avocados worth a fat sum in U. S. markets! I paid trib ute equal to 3,000 avocados. Through dense forests and cold rain, we climbed to Meollaca, highest village of the pigmy-size Kogi Indians. The populace fled at our approach. Offers of medical aid lured some back. The tribal medicine man gave us shelter in return for our promise to stay away from the totem lodge. Above the timber line, beyond spongy meadows bordered by talus, our trail ended at a necklace of glacial lakes higher than the Matterhorn. While we made base camp, alti tude sickness-nausea and headaches leveled both of us. Snowstorm Catches Climbers at Summit Next day R6mulo scaled a nameless pin nacle to map our route up Crist6bal Col6n (Christopher Columbus), 18,947 feet high. Heartened by granite far safer than the ash of his native volcanoes, he declared we could reach the summit in one day without making a high camp-a risky tactic in the September rains and snows. On September 10 we started up the talus at 2 a.m., reaching ice by daybreak. A condor spiraled up for a look at us. Hour after hour we roped up the southeast face of Col6n. Twice we were blocked by neck-deep drifts that had to be cleared so we could chop foot holds in underlying ice. We marked crevasses with flags and worried about avalanches. A sudden snowstorm blotted the sky. A gale drove us to our knees as we clawed toward the highest point. At 4 p.m. we drove our ice axes into the summit of Crist6bal Col6n, highest point in Colombia, just 22 miles from sunny Caribbean shores. Wind erased our tracks. We followed our flags down in utter darkness and 10 inches of new snow. We stopped and huddled under a poncho to wait for the full moon to show us our way. Within two hours, violent shivering gave way to drowsiness. R6mulo and I quick ened to the danger of freezing to death and roped on down with failing flashlights. A midnight moon broke through, unveiling In tune with a carefree day, Laura Obre g6n sunbathes on a schooner designed by her father, a Bogota architect. The family sails off Cartagena, resort center of Colom bia's 660-mile coastline on the Caribbean. Radiance of an ancient god, according to the Incas, a rainbow ends near the church of CajicA (following pages). Most Colombians are Roman Catholics, but some Indians cling to aboriginal beliefs.