Yesterday I reached the summit of Pico Mogoton, the highest point of Nicaragua. Interestingly, this was the 3rd peak where I stood with at least one foot in Honduras, as both El Salvador and Nicaragua high-points are on the Honduras border. That makes Honduras the only country with not just one Panamerican Peak, but actually three!
After doing some Internet research I found a good report done by Pavel Dorosevich, who climbed Mogoton in 2007, and another page summarizing the guide offers – thanks to Pavel for the writeup. Two days earlier I had sent an email to the contact address of one of the two local guides, Roberto Castellanos. Unfortunately he didn’t seem to check his email and so didn’t know about my plans. I went to his parents house – description from the website – and arrived there at 9:30pm after the 4 hr bus ride from Managua. They called Roberto and he showed up, drove me to a nearby hotel and picked me up the next morning at 5:00am. Think about that: He hadn’t been on the mountain since May, and then without notice at 10pm decides to do the tour the next morning 5am. (So much for me planning ahead! But anyway, I’m glad he was available.)
Just the 4-wheel drive to the Finca where the trail starts is an adventure. Once we were on the trail, it quickly became apparent that this is no Gringo trail for the average tourist. It was scrambling up a river bed, around big boulders, through dense under brush, along slippery, rotten tree trunks and mud flats. At least the temperature was quite comfortable, as the trail began around 1300m and led straight up via pine forest into the cloud forest.
Then at around 1500m the trail leaves the riverbed and leads very steeply up to a ridge. You have to use little tree trunks and branches to support yourself or pull yourself along as the trail was quite muddy and slippery and the terrain very steep. On the plus side, very little up & down (not like on Cerro Las Minas in Honduras) and gaining altitude quickly. There are several markers signaling the border between Nicaragua and Honduras. We were soon on the top after just 3 hr, unfortunately with no visibility.
We took some pictures of the summit marker, but it was a bit ominous, dark, light rain, and breezy cold (only 15C). There were signs of (controlled) mine explosions near the summit, with little craters and blackened tree trunks with some roots ripped out of the ground. Also the yellow warning tape about landmines in many places. It’s hard to say how dangerous it was; probably no problem as long as you stayed on the trail, but definitely not a place to wander off the trail… Certainly not as lovely as it was on Tajumulco where I spend time laying barefoot in the grass…
Going down was relatively straightforward; one had to step carefully due to the steep and slippery terrain, often using trees to hold and support yourself. We saw exotic plants and mushrooms; we heard some birds but I didn’t see them. Also we didn’t see any monkeys, which are sometimes visible up here.
Also the boulder hopping in the river bed requires really careful stepping so as to not slip and hurt yourself. After around 6 hrs we were back at the Finca with plenty of time to drive back out to Ocotal and for me to catch the last bus (3:30pm) back to Managua.
A big THANK YOU to Roberto, who served as a perfect mountain and nature guide, despite my extremely short notice. If you enlist his services (I paid $80) you won’t be disappointed.
The bus ride back to Managua was tolerable, with a pretty good bus again. Even though it said Express, it was an older model which went quite slow on some uphill stretches, and we ended up taking a full 4 hr again. I was drifting in and out due to the exercise, the heat in the bus and lack of sleep over the last few days. Getting back to the hotel near the bus terminal Mercado Mayoreo in the hot, dusty and loud city of Managua I thought back to the cool and tranquil environment up on Mogoton – what a difference to experience in a single day!