Balham mountaineer completes ground-breaking climb of Colombian volcano

A Balham mountaineer has completed a world-first climb up Colombia’s tallest active volcano.

Filmmaker Thomas Palmer conquered Nevado del Huila’s four peaks in February while mapping the area and filming for a documentary with Alex Torres, Timothee Callec, and Luis Silva Pete.

Colombia’s tallest volcano had been inaccessible for decades due to the Government’s armed conflict with FARC rebels.

Palmer said: “When we summitted the southern peak, it was a mixture of emotions.

“I felt a massive sense of gratitude and relief as well. I could only describe it as a heaviness being lifted from my shoulders.”

The expedition involved scaling four peaks of the volcano: the north, central, south and La Cresta peaks.

The team abandoned their first attempt to scale the heights in 2019 due to logistical difficulties.

Their second attempt was successful despite monumental challenges faced during the hike.

MOUNTAINEER: Timothee Callec looks out over Huila as the sun sets on the eve of the expedition.
Credit: Jose Luis Alvarez, GoneRogueAdventures

The adventurers survived an avalanche during the 39-hour journey, alongside the expected physical and mental tolls.

Callec praised Torres’ reactions to save him after an ice shelf the four were traversing collapsed.

Torres secured his three friends by tying a safety device to a large boulder, preventing them from falling.

Palmer said: “What stays with me is the horrific scream that Timothee made as he was caught in this avalanche.

“I can only describe it as a cry of death or something.”

Callec said: “I will never forget the reaction of my heroic friends to save me.”

EXPLORATION: Sun sets at base camp. Credit: Jose Luis Alvarez, GoneRogueAdventures

After the initial abandonment, the mountaineers experienced more upheaval due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group had to test themselves before embarking to not carry the virus to the mountain and spread it to the indigenous population.

The Herculean expedition began at 3:15am on 13 February and the team arrived at the mountain’s north peak at 8:30am.

The area around the mountain is home to the Nasa indigenous community and Luis Silva Pete, the group’s guide, hailed from this land.

Many sections of the volcano remain unseen and unrecorded.

The active volcano’s last recorded eruption was just 12 years ago in November 2008, which upended thousands who had to evacuate but no injuries were reported.

Balham mountaineer Palmer stayed tight-lipped when asked about his next adventure but did let slip that something was in the works.

Featured image credit: GoneRogueAdventures

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