Nevado del Tolima

Elevation (feet): 17,109
Elevation (meters): 5,215
Continent: South America
Country: Colombia
Range/Region: Colombian Andes
Latitude: 4.67
Longitude: -75.33
Difficulty: Basic Snow/Ice Climb
Best months for climbing: Jan, Feb, Dec
Volcanic status: Dormant
Year first climbed: 1928
First successful climber(s): A French team
Nearest major airport: Bogota/Ibague
Convenient Center: Ibague

Thanks to Alberto Molano for adding this peak.

Nevado del Tolima is a volcano shaped much like Mt. Fujiyama in Japan. Usual route is from the south, starting in juntas. Hiking starts at ~2,650 meters above sea level, so it is a pretty long hike to the top, requiring something like 9-12 hours in total. Halfway there is a cave where people can set up camp. Snowline starts at ~4,900-5,000 meters. Loose rocks are frequent above the snowline. View from the top is magnificent.

The height is usually published as 5215 mts but this may be inaccurate. Some maps published during WW2 "lowered" many Andes peaks for strategic purposes.

Little is known (in Colombia) of the first ascent (1928). The second (in 1942) was by a Colombian team which included the seismologist/vulcanologist Padre Jesus Emilio Ramirez (later Rector of the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota). He described the ascent as passing round many active fumerols and, upon arriving at the top, he was met with the vista of an almost flat (slightly sloping) rectangular area about the size of the Plaza de Bolivar in Bogota with no sign of a crater.

When I climbed it in 1966 I was on the lookout for the fumerols but saw none. Coming to the top of the glacier, I saw the high point and began to set off in that direction. To my amazement, I was starting to look down into an enormouse crater with steam rising from it. Somewhat fearful (being on my own at this stage), I retreated to the rim and, skirting the crater, shortly arrived at the high point (northeast corner if memory serves).

During a debriefing with Padre Ramirez I was told that areal photos taken in 1959 by the USAF showed the peak without the crater. Thus some significant activity must have taken place between 1959 and 1966. When I climbed it again in 1968 (with a companion this time) the crater was still there and a bit larger.

Back in the '60s, there was much more snow and ice on the mountain than in the photo you publish. Climate change or volcanic activity? Remember that close-by El Nevado del Ruiz errupted in the 1980s causing many deaths and much destruction in a valley below.

Thanks to Alberto Molano for this description.