Chronological oversight

To our knowledge Hettner (1892) and Ancizar (1852) are the first authors who described the nature of the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy.

1928. Prior to 1945 the Cocuy Range was explored by the Swiss diplomat Walter Röthlisberger, who in 1928 together with Hans Weber made the first climb of Pan de Anzúcar in the southern part of the Sierra.

1930. In September 1930 two American geologists triangulated peaks and gathered information on topography and glaciation which was published two years later (Notestein & King 1932).

1931. In 1931 Dr. Hermann Hoeck (geologist and father of the biologist Hendrik Hoeck) climbed with friends and guides the southern sector up to the snow-covered watershed above the Laguna Grande of the Cóncavo páramo. The first photographs from the Cocuy Range were taken during this expedition.

1934. In 1934 Röthlisberger returned with Arthur P. Coleman, a British geologist who carried out glaciological studies around the Laguna de la Sierra in the Cóncavo valley.

1938. In 1938 the Swiss geologist Agusto Gansser and his wife Linda Biaggi (nicknamed Toti) climbed the highest peak above El Púlpito. On their return  she slipped but luckily was saved. Because of this, the highest peak was named 'Pico Toti' (5074 m) (Markus & Eschenberger 2008) although today it is mainly known as Pico Púlpito.

1938 and 1942. The Colombian Erwin Kraus climbed Pan de Azúcar in 1938 with Anton Lampse, and in 1942 the Ritacuba Negro with Herberto Hublitz.

1943. In January 1943 independently from each other Augusto Gansser and Georges H. Cuénet on one side, and Erwin Kraus (together with the Swiss couple Frédéric and Dorly Marmillod) on the other, were heading for the Pico Castillo (5123 m) in the Eastern Chain following different ways of access. The Kraus-Marmillod party reached just a few days earlier the Pico Castillo.

During the second World War Erwin Kraus and the two Swiss, Augusto Gansser and Georges-Henri Cuénet, made a major effort in climbing the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy.

All these climbers really were the pioneers of the high Cocuy peaks with a substantial number of high summits reached by them.

Botanical activities  between 1938 and 1980

1938. José Cuatrecasas & Hernando García Barriga arrived on horseback in Valle Lagunillas, they made the first botanical collections there and were the first botanists in the Cocuy.

1947. The Jesuit botanist Lorenzo Uribe Uribe collected the famous Draba litamo between 4500 and 4800 m in the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy. The species epithet refers to the vernacular name for this medicinal species (Uribe 1948). Uribe’s route in the Cocuy is still unknown.

1955. Harriet Barclay & Pedro Juajibioy collected botanic material in the Cocuy Range; they made subsequent collecting trips in 1957 and in 1959.

1957. Peter J. Grubb, B.A.B. Curry & Alvaro Fernández Pérez made the first Cambridge expedition to the area. They crossed the northernmost Cardenal pass and descended to Río Ratón passing the Valle Cojines and arriving finally at El Playón to return crossing the Cusirí pass. B.A.B. Curry and R. Perry also climbed the Puntiagudo peak.

1957. In this 'International Geophysical Year' Thomas van der Hammen and Erwin Kraus marked glacier fronts in El Cóncavo, Valle Bocatoma and La Plaza area in the southern part of the Cocuy Range (Kraus & van der Hammen 1960).

1959. Thomas van der Hammen, Enrique González and Robert F. Flint studied lake sediments, glacial deposits and vegetation in the Valle Lagunillas area (González et al. 1965) and visited Laguna La Plaza. F. Lucas also sampled lake sediments here and studied the position of moraines. This finally resulted in a large publication including pollen diagrams and a glacio-morphological map (Van der Hammen et al. 1980/1981).

1959. Helene Bischler collected in 1959 around Ritacuba and Las Playitas.

1959. Second Cambridge expedition under command of D.R. Stoddart who carried out glaciological research on the San Paulino glacier and ethnobotanical studies with the Uwa or Tunebo. On that occasion two British also climbed the Pico Los Portones.

1967. Thomas van der Hammen and Roberto Jaramillo Mejía explored the Casanare páramo and forests from Chita down to the Llanos.

1972-1973. Antoine M. Cleef and Mieke (Anna Maria) van Rens (in 1972 with Peter A. Florschütz, bryologist) made páramo vegetation studies and plant collections in the southern part of the Cocuy Range, in total three missions.

1977. Thomas and Maria Clara van der Hammen, and Antoine M. Cleef explored down to Quebrada de los Osos at about 2700 m in the headwaters of Río Casanare, SSE of the Cocuy Range. The Upper Forest Line shifted here along the 3200 m contour line. Support from the Lagunillas valley by Roberto & Inés Jaramillo M.

1978. Orlando Rangel Churio, Helmut Sturm and Orlando Vargas Rios studied vegetation and insect fauna on the western side of Sierra Nevada del Cocuy, SE and NW of Guicán (Sturm & Rangel 1985).

1979. Bert (E.G.B.) Kieft. Lachemilla (Rosaceae) specialist climbs the concave paramo up to 4500 m, together with A. Becerra.

1979. Orlando Rangel Churio repeated his visit with students.

1985. The British botanist J.R. I. Wood collected in the Cocuy Range and discovered a new genus and species of páramo grass, Agrostopoa woodii, at the Cusirí pass.

In the course of the eighties the FARC guerrilla arrived in the National Park and murdered its first Director, Ricardo Antonio Elías in the Lagunillas valley in November 1987. Research and tourism were almost impossible during their presence in the area. In the Quebrada El Playón valley there has been a massive cut of Espeletia stem rosettes.


Botanical activities since the 1990’s

1996 and 2002. José Luis Fernández Alonso (Universidad Nacional de Colombia, now Jardin Botánico Madrid).

1996. Peter Kuhry & Karin Helmens with F.W. Rutter (moraines  Concavo, San Pablin and Lagunillas)

1997. Jason Rauscher (Washington University).

1998. Daniel Stancík (Charles University of Prague).

2000. Julio Betancur (Universidad Nacional de Colombia)..

2005, 2006 and 2008. Betsy Viviana Rodriguez Cabeza collected Espeletiinae in the Cocuy area (including the Pisba páramo) and described quite a number of new species of Espeletia and Espeletiopsis (Díaz Piedrahita & Rodriguez Cabeza 2010, 2011).

2008. Petr Sklenář (Charles University of Prague) and Diana Aparicio (Charles University of Prague) collected in the Laguna Pintada area.

2009-2010. Juan Carlos Benavides: humedales y briofitas.

2010. Jorge Jácome & Tatiana Menjura (Pontificia Universidad Javeriana) made 4 permanent GLORIA plots between 4056 and 4411 m in the headwaters of Lagunillas as part of the GLORIA project (

2011. Limnology and vegetation course in the western part of the El Cocuy National Park.

2012. Diana Aparicio (Charles University of Prague) made a roundtrip around the Cocuy range to study population genetics of the Lupinus alopecuroides complex.

2012. Antoine M. Cleef (páramo flora and vegetation ecology) and Hendrik N. Hoeck (mammal specialist, nature conservation) together with the botanists Guido B.A. van Reenen (bryology, GIS expert), Rodrigo Cámara Leret (vascular flora, ethnobotany), Vinzenz Bickel (photographer, Siemens engineer) and by René Montero Serrano (biologist, tour operator) and Erica Tovar (biologist and guide) made a north to south roundtrip around the Cocuy Range. Later the botanists Santiago Madriñan and Alfredo Navas of the Universidad de Los Andes, Bogotá joined them. Some 600 collections have been deposited at the Herbarium of the Museo de Historia Natural of the Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá. In this expedition Don Gilberto Castro participated as the local guide, along with seven local porters from Güicán. They carried the equipment and personal luggage from Valle Cojines to Laguna La Plaza where the horses arrived again for the luggage. Their names are: Jorge Mendidelso, Mauricio Leal, Anibal Muñoz, Carlos Medrano, Oscar Leal, Juan Carlos Muñoz and Javier Leal. We are most grateful to all of them.

This visit has been decisive for the action to organize this website and our plea for an upgrade of this National Park to the level of World Heritage Site (UNESCO).