Sierra Nevada de Güicán, El Cocuy and Chita: Mountain Range and National Park (Colombia)

Sierra Nevada de Güicán, El Cocuy and Chita: Mountain Range and National Park (Colombia)

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The Sierra Nevada de Güicán, El Cocuy and Chita are located within the Cordillera Oriental range of the Colombian Andes.  El Cocuy National Natural Park protects its extraordinary biodiversity and endemism and its function as a corridor for migratory species.

Sierra Nevada de Güicán, El Cocuy and Chita

The Sierra Nevada de Güicán, El Cocuy and Chita comprise more than 25 snow and ice-covered peaks in two mountain ranges approximately 25 km (15.5 mi) long and 4 km (2.5 mi) wide. Located within the Cordillera Oriental range of the Colombian Andes, it is the largest glacial mass in Colombia and the largest in South America north of the equator.

The succession of peaks (from 4,800 - 5,330 m or 15,750 - 17,500 ft) asl begins with Campanillas Blanco and continues with the Pan de Azúcar, Púlpito del Diablo, Cóncavos, Ritakuwas and Güicán (among others); forming a row that reaches the Laguna Grande de los Verdes.

The Sierra Nevada de Güicán, El Cocuy and Chita is sacred territory for the U'wa (Tunebos) indigenous peoples. The territory of their reservation is closed to tourism and travel.

Sierra Nevada del Cocuy, Chita o Guican National Natural Park

Sierra Nevada del Cocuy, Chita o Guican National Natural Park (or El Cocuy National Natural Park) is located in the Department of Boyacá, near the villages of El Cocuy and Güicán. It protects an area of 306,000 ha (756,000 acres).

Since 1977, this region has been protected due to its fragile páramos, extraordinary biodiversity and endemism, and function as a corridor for migratory species.

Because of its high altitude, El Cocuy is characterized by post-glacial geological morphology, including steep slopes, cirques (hollows formed by glacial erosion), moraines (masses of rock sediment) and the glacier-gouged lakes La Pintada and La Cuadrada.

The park's topography covers 4,500 m (15,000 ft) from its lowest point to its highest point and is popular with mountain climbers and rock climbers of all skill levels. El Cocuy National Park is popular with hikers and has several hiking trails.

The U'wa indigenous reservation overlaps the park area; because of this, part of the park is closed to tourism. Travel is forbidden on the area's eastern flank. It is dedicated to their farming, grazing, hunting and fishing activities.

Most of the area surrounding the glaciated peaks of the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy and over half of the entire area of the National Park is dominated by páramo ecosystems. These are high mountain tundra ecosystems, characteristic of the tropical South American Andes. Because of the "island" effect of páramo distribution on separate mountain ranges, they harbor unique flora and fauna.

One of the most characteristic plants of the páramo ecosystem, widely spread within the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy, is the yellow-flowered Frailejón (Espeletia lopezii), which dominates the landscapes below the ice line. However, many others belonging to the Compositae, Lamiaceae, Poaceae, and Rosaceae families can be found.

Fauna, such as tapirs, brown bears, Andean condors, eagles, páramo deer and the iconic Spectacled Bear (or Andean Bear) can be found here.