There is a lot of potential landmines lying around on Cerro Mogoton (2107m), but Roberto from Nicaragua safely guided us to the tallest mountain in Nicaragua.
Getting from El Salvador to Nicaragua
Ticabus is the best way to go from San Salvador to Nicaragua. We crossed into Honduras after 3-4 hours, then to Nicaragua after a few more hours. Ticabus makes the border crossings very easy, and is a good idea to speed up any travels in Central America. We jumped off the bus 20 minutes south of the border, at the junction south of Somoto. From here we easily got a taxi (6 USD) to Ocotal, a nice town at the foot of Mogoton. The taxi dropped us of at Hotel Frontera, where we got a twinbed room for USD 32. They even had a swimming pool there, a very tempting place to spend the hottest hours of the day.
Trouble finding our local guide
We had been in touch with Roberto on e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) a week before we arrived in Ocotal. This is the guy who knows Cerro Mogoton best, and he has been to the summit more than 40 times. Unfortunately he don't speak or write English but he has a website in English. Now we only had to find his house in Ocotal and make a deal for Mogoton so we could hike it the next morning. But finding Roberto was not easy, his phone was dead and his house was empty. A neighbor told us that he would be back later, around 7 PM. Eventually we got in touch with him on the phone and we asked him to meet us at the restaurant outside of Hotel Frontera.
Over a few beers we discussed the hike to Mogoton and negotiated the price down to USD 45 per person (90 in total). That still sounds pretty expensive, but it's not if you take into consideration that it will take a 4WD vehicle almost 1.5 hour to reach the trailhead. Hence the major part of the expenses is the vehicle.
Next morning Roberto and his assistant picked us up at 5:00 outside of Hotel Frontera. We arrived at the trailhead 6:15. There is a Finca (house) where we had our breakfast. Roberto offered us coffee, and we ate the bread we brought from Ocotal.
Traverse of Cerro Mogoton
We set out at 6:35 and took a different route up, because Roberto wanted us to do the traverse. After a short stretch along a dirt road, we started to ascend a wet gully. There is no clear trail here, we mainly walked up beside a small stream. The route is fairly steep, partly blocked by big boulders, and of course very wet because a stream is coming down here. Higher up we eventually left the gully/stream and started to gain the east ridge. The trail improved, but it was still very overgrown. It also started to rain and we were wet to our bones when we arrived the summit at 9:00, after 2.5 hours of hiking.
It was wet and cold so we had no desire to hang around more than a few minutes to take the summit photos next to the Nicaraguan flag. We didn't see anything from the summit because of the dense jungle, but a flag and border marker between Nicaragua and Honduras indicated that we were on the right place.
We descended using the normal trail. We immediately noticed that it was much better than the trail we came up. We passed a few warning signs and a lot of yellow tape with a dead man skull. Roberto explained us that it would be dangerous to move outside of the yellow tape. Sticking to the trail, within the yellow tape, is supposed to be pretty safe though. No need to worry.
We came out of the wet cloud and eventually out of the forest, ending the hike with a few kilometers on a dirt road. Three aggressive geese attacked us and we had to run to avoid a nasty hit from their open "jaws". We arrived back at the car well before lunch time (11:15) and soon after started on the 1+ hour drive to Ocotal.
Now we're off to Somoto to swim through the awesome canyon there.