Ecuador Volcanoes Mountaineering
The high-altitude peaks in Ecuador’s “Avenida de los Volcanes” offer a unique opportunity to climb glaciated mountains up 6,200 meters amidst a lush rainforest backdrop. Approximately the size of the state of Oregon, Ecuador is tightly packed with Pacific coastline, high-altitude active volcanoes, and the richly bio-diverse Amazon rainforest. Climbing with Splitter Alpine Adventures in Ecuador is not only a safe, adventurous, and challenging mountaineering expedition, but also an exploration into unique and fascinating ecosystems and cultures. We offer 11 and 15 day itineraries to ensure proper acclimatization and weather windows.
Illiniza Norte (16,818 ft/5,126 m)
Illiniza Norte is a great acclimatization climb located outside of the small farming town of El Chaupi. The approach starts from the La Virgen trailhead at 3,900 m and ascends through the ‘páramo’, or alpine tundra. It is approximately 3-4 hours to the refugio, where some climbers will spend an evening resting for an ‘alpine start’ early the next morning. From the refugio, the climb’s exposed rocky ridgeline can be seen clearly. The climb is mostly a moderately steep ridge ascent to ‘Paso de la Muerte’, where climbers traverse an exposed rocky section that may require use of a rope for security, though no technical rock climbing skills are needed. Illiniza Norte may be a rocky ridge or covered in snow depending on conditions, but there is no glacier travel required. The climb and summit have great views of neighboring peak, Illiniza Sur as well as Cotopaxi.
Illiniza Sur (17,267 ft/5,263 m)
This southern peak of the Illinizas is a more technical climb than it’s neighbor, with steep snow and ice climbing on glaciated terrain. Depending on conditions, there may be a short pitch of moderate rock required to access the glacier. Due to the more technical nature of this climb, it is only appropriate for climbers with previous mountaineering experience, requiring technical skills such as: belaying, crampon and ice axe technique, self-arrest, and rappelling. This climb is not a component of our normal itinerary but can be scheduled for custom climbs.
Cotopaxi (19,347 ft/5,897 m)
The second tallest volcano in Ecuador and third highest active volcano in the world, Cotopaxi is the most popular high altitude climb in Ecuador. Located only 50 km from Ecuador’s capitol, Quito, and seen easily from the city, Cotopaxi is the quintessential high-altitude mountain to climb in the country. The climb starts after a 45 minute hike up a volcanic debris slope to the refugio, at 4,800 m, where climbers can prepare for the climb over the next days. The normal route on Cotopaxi can be heavily crevassed with breathtaking snow bridges and beautiful views of a large rock band below the summit, ‘Yanasacha’. The majority of the climb does not involve technical difficulty and is generally not steeper than 35 degrees. Once at the summit, climbers are rewarded with views into the summit crater and in the distance, surrounding peaks such as Cayambe and Chimborazo are visible.
Chimborazo (20,564 ft/6,268 m)
The tallest mountain in Ecuador also claims the title of the tallest mountain in the world when measured from the Earth's center, due to an equatorial bulge. The climbing begins from the Whymper refugio, at 5,000 m, on the west side of the mountain. The El Castillo route is the most popular with switchbacks through a mix of frozen rock and snow to the base of the glaciated ridgeline. The slope angle is fairly consistent at 35 degrees to the false summit of Veintimilla. To reach the true summit, climbers must ascend another 30-45 minutes across a low angle basin to the Whymper summit. The weather and snow conditions on Chimborazo can be more temperamental than other peaks in the region. As a result, we may opt for other options such as the Whymper route on Chimborazo or an alternative climb of Cayambe (19,000 ft/5,790 m).
COST: $3,200/climber - 11 days
$4,000/climber - 15 days
DATES: December - February
INCLUDES: Professional guides (3:1 climber to guide ratio), in-country transportation, meals during the expedition, lodging during the expedition, all group climbing equipment (ropes, anchors, etc.), and climbing permits & fees
DOES NOT INCLUDE: Transportation to/from Quito, lodging before/after the expedtion, meals before/after the expedtion, alcoholic/bottled beverages, extra snacks, travel insurance, departure tax, personal climbing equipment, personal clothing, guide gratuity, and any extra fees incurred from early departure
DIFFICULTY: Intermediate; previous mountaineering experience required
Quito is an international airport with daily flights, most arrive in the evening to avoid heavy fog. Your guide will meet you at the airport and provide transportation to your hotel.
Day 1: Flights arrive in Quito.
Day 2: Tour of Quito's historic Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy a day of culture and local food.
Day 3: Acclimatization hike on Ruku Pichincha (15, 413 ft/4,698 m).
Day 4: Transport to the town of El Chaupi, at the base of Los Illinizas. Enjoy a home cooked local dinner.
Day 5: Hike to Refugio Nuevos Horizontes, at the saddle between Los Illinizas, with mule support.
Day 6: Climb Illiniza Norte, return to El Chaupi for a delicious local dinner.
Day 7: Transport to Cotopaxi, hike to refugio.
Day 8: Climbing skills review on toe of glacier.
Day 9: Climb Cotopaxi
Day 10: Extra day for summit attempt. Return to Quito (11 day itinerary) or transport to the town of Baños (16 day itinerary).
Day 11: Flights home (11 day itinerary). Enjoy a relaxing day at the hot springs in Baños de Agua Santa and hiking in the lush cloud forest.
Day 12: Transport to the refugio at the base of Chimborazo.
Day 13: Climb Chimborazo.
Day 14: Extra day for summit attempt. Return to Quito.
Day 15: Flights home.