The 8 toughest Colombian climbs

Colombia is a lucky country! Being in the middle of three mountain ranges gives the privilege of having spectacular ascents to mountains that other countries could only dream about.

Some of these mountain passes have a hardness that catapults them to be cataloged as huge, and this makes them a challenge that few can overcome. Whether it’s the route, the weather, the altitude, the state of the roads, these climbs are at another level and are part of the legends of Colombian Escarabajos.

Making a list of the 8 toughest Colombian climbs is not easy. For many it may be missing one or believe that it must be in a different position, the truth is that the ones I will show you below are the hardest mountain passes in Colombia:

Páramo de Letras

Páramo de Letras

Location: Tolima
Longitude: 80.7 Km
Height: 3677 meters above sea level
Maximum slope: 11%
Elevation: 3187 meters

The alto de Letras pass can’t  be missed on the list of the 8 toughest Colombian climbs, nobody will disagree with me on that one. To climb to the alto de Letras there are two slopes, that of Mariquita and Manizales. The ascent to Páramo de Letras, by Mariquita, may be one of the most complicated mountain passes in the world.

Completing this tour is a real challenge for cycling enthusiasts. The beginning of the climb is in the outskirts of Mariquita, where the temperatures reach up to 40ºC, with a humidity of 100%.

The first 5 kilometers of the climb have an average slope of 7%. But the real test comes in the 80 kilometers that follow and that are composed of continuous ups and downs, some with a slope of 8%. With more than 80 kilometers the crossing seems endless and the small sections of descent will thank your legs.

Shortly after passing through Padua, the hardest section of the route to the Paramo de Letras begins. A ramp of 300 meters with an average difference between 10% and 11% that will surely bruise your legs in an extreme way.

The weather becomes more beneficial as you go up. Further on there are two horseshoes of difficult route, a stretch of up and down and a slight descent to reach the last kilometers, the desired goal, but with an ascent of 2.4 kilometers to 7.6% that crowns the Páramo de Letras.

Alto de La Línea

Alto de La Línea

Location: Quindío
Longitude: 21.7 Km
Height: 3265 meters above sea level
Maximum slope: 13%
Elevation: 1643 meters

The Alto de La Linea or the Colombian “Stelvio” as many call it, has two great attractions: it is an ideal mountain pass for experienced climbers and has an incomparable natural beauty.

The route begins in the vicinity of Calarcá, an ascent with an average slope between 6% and 8%, flat terrain and gentle descents. Up to the La Línea tunnel, the whole route has a moderate demand, but judging by what follows, it turns out to be just a warm up.

The final 9 kilometers are an authentic crossing. The route has several horseshoe corners and in the middle of the journey you will be immersed in a pine forest that is the mouthpiece of the toughest ascents. Hard ramps, you will find them everywhere. One of them, not very long, reaches 18% of unevenness. No cyclist will feel the legs in the final two kilometers, when they reach 3,200 meters of altitude and oxygen begins to be scarce in your body.

The altimetry and APM coefficient of 394 say it very clearly. The alto de la Linea has it all to be cataloged as a Special climb: length, altitude, average slope, maximum ramps, beauty, legend … Holds perfectly the comparison with the mythical French Cols of La Madeleine, the Croix de Fer by Glandon, Mont Ventoux. Or the eastern and western slopes of the imposing Passo dello Stelvio, in Italy.

Puerto de Bocademonte

Puerto de Bocademonte

Location: Boyacá
Longitude: 35.65 Km
Height: 2902 meters above sea level
Maximum slope: 13%
Elevation: 2106 meters

The Alto de Bocademonte is located in a beautiful spot of Boyacá, near the Esmeraldero municipality of Muzo and is one of the favorites for fans of road cycling in Colombia. The route covers a territory that goes from 800 to 2,900 meters of altitude. All climates are experienced and, of course, different types of vegetation and landscapes.

The route starts with several zigzags and at the exit of the town of Pauna comes a climb of 150 meters at a 13% gradient. Then you will come across small stretches of rest, from then on you will face 18 kilometers at 6% gradient.

Then follows a zone of vertigo: no less than 24 horseshoe curves, through 9 kilometers. Two unpaved stretches later, and the last 10 kilometers pass between an average gradient of 6% and 7%. In the end, everything is surrounded by fog and there is very little visibility.The Puerto de Bocademonte can be classified as a Special Category port of 2100 meters of height. Bocademonte is comparable with the climb to Sierra Nevada in the south of the Iberian Peninsula; Highly known for the times that there have completed stages of the Tour of Spain.

Alto del Vino

Puerto del Vino

Location: Cundinamarca
Longitude: 38.5 Km
Height: 2835 meters above sea level
Maximum slope: 10%
Slope: 1984 meters

El Alto del Vino is a very difficult climb, not so much because of the percentage of the ramps, but because it comprises a strenuous run of ups and downs, on slopes ranging between 6% and 2%. For that reason, it has made it onto the list of the toughest Colombian climbs.

This climb is located in the eastern mountain range, west of Bogotá, on the road that goes to the Caribbean coast and that in the sense that rises from the Magdalena River presents us this rise of almost 2000 meters of altitude to overcome in a little less of 40 kilometers of constant pedaling.

The route begins in the municipality of Villeta and after La Vega has 18 kilometers of ascent to 6%, which in its central part includes a stretch of 2 kilometers to 7.5%.

The temperature and excessive humidity complicate this journey very much. Then a broad horseshoe appears and then a descent of 1 kilometer, before 2 kilometers of ascent to more than 7%. Further ahead there are another 8 kilometers of ascent to more than 6%, with some peaks that reach 10% and up to 11%. Another 4 kilometers of suffering on the rise take place before reaching the finish line.

El Alto del Vino is without a doubt a climb of special category. The typical Colombian port. Very long and without scandalous percentages, but after 38 and a half kilometers of climbing you will be touched by the heat, the humidity at the beginning, the maintenance of the slopes, the continued effort during pedaling hours and the altitude.

Boquerón de Chipaque

Boquerón de Chipaque

Location: Cundinamarca
Longitude: 27.7 Km
Height: 3207 meters above sea level
Maximum slope: 14%
Elevation: 1688 meters

There are some climbs that, because of the width of their roads and their good condition, do not seem to have much difficulty. This is the case of Boquerón de Chipaque, which is a road that at times becomes double carriageway and with wide curves in horseshoes, one tends to think that the legs will not suffer with more than 6% and a maximum of 7% of unevenness in some points. Big mistake!!

This route begins east of the town of Cáqueza, well known for fried foods, cheeses and milk sweets. The first 4 kilometers are very smooth and then a pair of ascents to 6% of unevenness appear, interspersed with long breaks. Then comes the unexpected: a slope that is almost 9%.

At kilometer 10 you will find an 18-kilometer climb, with a medial slope of 7.2%. There are a couple of kilometers of rest and then another climb. The final part of the route is the hardest. There are 3 kilometers up to 8.7%, and then come ramps of 11%, 13% and 14%. The last 5 kilometers are softer and take place in the middle of a truly overwhelming and peaceful landscape.

Puerto de La Tribuna

Puerto de La Tribuna

Location: Cundinamarca
Longitude: 37.5 Km
Height: 2714 meters above sea level
Maximum slope: 10%
Slope: 1930 meters

Puerto de La Tribuna is a large climb of Special Category, mostly in constant ascent, which bears a lot of similarity with the climbing to el Vino. The start of this port is in Villeta, municipality of Cundinamarca 91 kilometers from Bogotá, which due to its climate is a tourist destination famous for the production of panela.

The first pedal strokes is given at 784 meters of altitude. The heat and humidity are felt from the first kilometer. The start is relatively smooth, until kilometer 6, when it starts as a continuous climb. There are 5 kilometers at 6.8%, which include a 10% ramp, then 2 milder kilometers come.

When the route passes through the town of Albán there is an ascent with an average slope of 6.8%. The last 2 kilometers are quite difficult, due to the accumulated wear and at its 6% drop.

The large differences are not the characteristic of this climb. The difficulty lies in its extension. It is recommended to climb the diesel style as do the countless trucks that travel this road daily, as far as possible to regulate forces, forcing from less to more, with good cadence and with a lot of patience.

Páramo del Verjón

Páramo del Verjón

Location: Cundinamarca
Longitude: 37.5 Km
Height: 2714 meters above sea level
Maximum slope: 10%
Slope: 1930 meters

Yet another climb in the Cundinamarca region on the list of toughest Colombian climbs. The ascent to this long climb that crosses the eastern mountain range of the Colombian Andes begins when crossing the bridge over the Rio negro, on the road that joins the towns of Fómeque, Choachí and Bogotá.

The route begins in the center of Fomeque, by an irregular section with ramps and breaks until you take the detour to Choachí. Then come 5 kilometers of a hard climb at 7.5% elevation. Then you will come across a flat kilometer and then 2 kilometers of strong climb, between 7% and 8% slope.

What follows are 5.5 kilometers of slides, in which the weather makes both the ascents and the descents difficult. Before facing the descent we return some 200 meters that will put an end to your last pedal strokes up to the top, in it you will be able to taste a well-deserved hot aguapanela with cheese and almojábanas on the farm.

Alto de Minas

Alto de Minas

Location: Antioquia
Longitude: 42.25 Km
Height: 2466 meters above sea level
Maximum slope: 11%
Elevation: 1819 meters

A beauty of a climb in the Medellin region finishes our list of toughest Colombian climbs. The Alto de Minas are more than 40 kilometers of complete torture. This brutal Colombian climb has slopes of up to 11% in several sectors. This mountain ascent has been widely used in prestigious races such as the Vuelta a Colombia and Clásico RCN.

The hardness of the climb focuses on the length, 42 kilometers where cyclists will face a lot of humidity and heat, in addition to the heavy traffic that regularly transits this way. So we must take extreme precautions before passing by the noisy trucks, especially in curves.

The difficult stretches begin when La Quiebra passes, a natural bridge between two mountainous mounds, in which the abysses delight us on both sides of the road. From there we come 8.1 kilometers to almost 7% of average slope, with the ravine always on the right. Halfway through the hard section we take a wide curve of the valley and from there to the town of Santa Bárbara we can see the winding road that we have ascended.

After Santa Bárbara, continuous slides come with more ‘up’ than ‘down’. At the end we are waiting for two more sections that are quite hard for all the accumulated unevenness. For 6 kilometers we will have a first stretch of 2 kilometers to 6.9%, the descent to the town of Versailles and finally 3 kilometers to 7.6% to finish off in the Alto de Minas restaurants. After so much pedaling a good stew or a casserole of beans with their respective sausages and pork rinds will be quite good if we are not in a hurry to go down to Caldas and Medellin on the other side.

So, that’s it! The 8 toughest Colombian climbs to be found around the country. For sure, there are many more tough ones, such as short walls in every town but we focussed on the combination of length, slope and heat.

Which one have you climbed by bike, and how was it? Share your experience with a reply below.

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