Tres Cruces Medellin – I’ve been telling myself “when…. then….” regarding making this difficult hike.
I made this popular Medellín hike conditional on healing a foot injury, losing weight and being in better shape.
When viewed from my balcony, the challenging Tres Cruces hike, looks like a yellow, ribbon, snaking up to the summit
From my hammock, in a safe, gated community in a quiet Medellin suburb this hike has a beckoning allure.
I’ve been looking at the horizon, to this this huge hill, beyond the tower blocks of Loma del Bernal, for about 4 months now.
I imagined attempting to climb the Tres Cruces hill and wondered if it would be a step too far for me in my recovery from a painful sports injury.
But now I’ve ‘conquered’ it, it is almost disappointing as it has lost some of its mystique.
Having now hiked that yellow ribbon upto the Tres Cruces (3 crosses), the horizon seems to have adopted a more human scale.
But before the hike last Monday, it was a giant question mark, plonked defiantly in the middle of my view. Like a gauntlet it demanded I rise to the challenge.
So, last Monday, a bank holiday, we decided to take it on.
The decision was rather spontaneous and foolishly in the heat of mid afternoon. I was given the impetus by two Germans. One my brother in law who has just summited a Swiss peak up in he snow line and the other whobhad posted photos on Watsap Los Tres Cruces.
I congratulated the former and asked the latter for advice as to how difficult it was and whether it was safe from gangs.
He said best not to go in the heat as it gets very hot and is a difficult climb. When asked how fast he had made it upto the peak he said, inimically Germanic, roughly 48mins.
So we had our target to beat and I embarked, plastered in sun cream, carrying 4.5 litres of water and several sun hats.
We headed out to ‘base camp’ by taxi, arriving at a nondescript bend in the road at the back of a housing complex.
It was rather sudden and uninspiring after months of imagining. The cutting into the side of the hill where the trail begins almost imperceptible.
Barring a Madonna guarding the entrance you would not have blinked and missed it.
Once out of the cab, the climb started immediately.
The steep incline becomes apparent straight away. You are thrust into it from the very first step. For steps they are, rudimentary ledges carved into the sandy earth that rise sharply, up and up.
All sorts of people take on the challenge, from the super fit who jog up the vértice, to grannies, 5 year olds and families on a cheap day out.
As we climbed we had no idea what we were in for. I started out chatty, but soon had to save my breath for the hike upto the famous Tres Cruces.
It is one of about 9 such cercos (parks) in and around the tower blocks of Medellín.
The Tres Cruces Medellin is locates on a private land, with public access imposed by the town council.
Back to the hike, there I was sun beating down, teeth gritting and wishing I’d not bought the rucksack.
At some point I was literally just looking down at the slope in front of me and taking one step at a time.
At times I scrabbled for purchase on the uneven, dusty earthen steps underfoot.
By half way up the Tres Cruces Medellin, it was a relief to take a short rest. We sat on rickety home made wooden benches, set around a tin awning, held together by a few rusty nails.
This would be the point where the wise turn back and live to fight another day.
The hillside opened up into a brief plateau and I gazed open mouthed, up at the summit.
I knew then I was going to soldier on but was under no illusions I was going to beat the German’s time.
My girlfriend said, hey look it’s going to be easier now we can see he summit.
However after my experience of the Camino de Santiago by the challenging northern route, I knew summits have a strange habit of receding as you tire.
I said, I don’t think so, this is going to be the hardest bit.
And sure enough, an old man on his way down, stopped and pointing at my sweat drenched paunch advised me to head back down.
My pride, was put out by this, but as as a gringo, I guess I must have made quite a sorry sight on the exposed, sun baked slopes.
The second half was gruelling, at times I wanted to give up.
I stopped every 30 meters or so gasping for air. Often pretending to stop to admire the view.
My GF, like a mountain goat, got up there a full 10 minutes ahead of me.
However after girding my loins, I finally made it up to the summit.
I arrived relieved, dehydrated and exhausted. It had been one of the most taxing climbs of my life.
There is a lot of hype about muggings on this ascent. There are rumours that the Madonna is favoured as a place of worship by Sicarios (hit-men), before they go on a mission.
However at the top, you are greeted by a gorgeous breeze.
There is a rudimentary open air gymn, with punch bag and pull up bars.
There is also a small shack selling juices and beers.
Young families and tattooed youth mingle as marijuana wafts on the breeze alarmingly big dogs roam the summit unmuzzled.
The bottom line for safety, is that if you go between 07:30-16:30, you should be fine.
Going up at night however is not advised.
The descent was not as gruelling as the ascent. It did however require constant concentration. One had to select the route least likely to cause you to slide and break your ankle, as it is very very steep.
On our way down we spotted a rainbow on the other side of the valley, as dark clouds gathered above over the summit.
It was around 17:00, in the afternoon, but despite the rain, nobody was deterred and it seemed like rush hour on Los Tres Cruces hill in Medellin.
Once home, I put my feet in a bucket of ice cubes to reduce the swelling feet and then slept like a log.
The Tres Cruces hike is now something we plan to do each Sunday. It is a great way to blow the cobwebs away before the week ahead. But be warned it is no picnic climbing upto the 1950m high summit, though well worth it!