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Exploring Venezuela’s Majestic Sierra Nevada de Mérida: A Memorable Hiking Adventure in 1991

After the successful Cambridge Columbus Botanical Survey expedition, Peter and the team embarked on a thrilling backpacking journey in the Andes. The expedition was recommended by Hilary Branch, the author of the No Frills Guide to Venezuela. Their destination was El Morro, but instead of taking the easy Cablecar route, they chose a more challenging path, following the route of Merida’s Teleferico, the highest cable car system in the world.

The hike promised to be a five-day adventure, leading them from the vibrant city of Merida up towards Pico Espejo, ascending to a breathtaking altitude of 4200m/13780ft before descending to Los Nevados and El Morro. Along the way, they experienced remarkable changes in vegetation, starting at 1630m/5348ft in Merida and witnessing the transformation as they reached the high pass.

Their journey began with eagerness and anticipation, but challenges awaited them. Mark had caught a cold during their rough bus journey, making the hike even more demanding. On the first day, they trekked past the first cable car station, “La Montana,” and found a picturesque campsite by the “Quebrada La Fria” river. An refreshing but freezing dip left Mark suffering from mild hypothermia. Their resourcefulness, camaraderie, and sharing of warmth helped him recover.

Recognizing Mark’s need for rest, they took a day off at the same campsite, surrounded by the serene beauty of the forest and a glistening stream.

As they continued their ascent, Mark’s health was closely monitored, but they pressed on towards La Aguada station. Altitude began to affect them, making progress slow. Yet, they were warmly received by the station operator, who offered them coffee and guidance for their campsite.

Climbing further, the altitude took a greater toll, but they managed to explore mountain lakes and the unique alpine “paramo” vegetation. Though they dreamt of climbing Pico Espejo, the altitude sapped their energy, and the freezing night left them with ice-covered tents.

Despite the hardships, they pushed ahead, reaching the quaint village of Los Nevados. Exhausted but elated, they managed to stock up on essentials before descending towards El Morro.

Reflecting on the demanding hike, they admit to a lack of vivid memories, possibly due to the effects of altitude and dehydration. Nevertheless, the journey was a rewarding experience, and the proximity to the cable car provided a safety net in case of emergencies. The hike may have been challenging, but their youthful resilience carried them through.

The memories of this extraordinary adventure may have faded, but it remains an unforgettable chapter in their lives. With this hike in their hearts, they went on to face further thrilling adventures, knowing that the Quasar tent had proven its worth, even in the most inhospitable of places.

Limited Edition 40th Anniversary Quasar is available to purchase directly from the Terra Nova Equipment website.

Story and photos with thanks to Peter Ireland.