Ecuador Volcanoes

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The smallest of the Andean countries, Ecuador is possesses an extremely rich diversity of culture and geography.  From the Pacific coast, the land rises sharply to the high central region, lined with two north-south rows of volcanoes, giving it the name of “The Avenue of the Volcanoes”–before dramatically dropping off to the east into the Amazon Basin.  The rugged landscape has resulted in the development of regional cultures over the centuries and the traditional clothing of their region often readily identifies indigenous people.

Our trips begin in the colonial capital of Quito and are designed to provide you with an opportunity to climb glaciated peaks and also experience the rich cultural traditions of this fascinating country.  Three of the most iconic volcanoes in the Andes, Cayambe (18,997 ft.), Cotopaxi (19,348 ft.) and Chimborazo (20,703 ft.), are also the highest in the country.  Each provides a great option for climbers looking to acquire high altitude climbing experience.

These peaks are appropriate for fit, enthusiastic, novice climbers, but also provide plenty of challenge for experienced mountaineers.  We offer two programs that build both climbing skills and acclimatization over a period of less than two weeks while we climb one or both of these stunning peaks.

The highest mountain in the country, Chimborazo, can present some rockfall hazard and is perhaps the least appropriate of the three for novice climbers.  It is an interesting peak, because the summit is the farthest point from the center of the earth due to a bulge along the equator.  We offer an ascent of Chimborazo as an extension for climbers who are keen to climb it.

Cotopaxi Express

Our Cotopaxi Express Expedition is designed with the time-conscious traveler and adventurer in mind. We have designed a program that combines a good acclimatization schedule, opportunities for enjoying the cultural diversity of Ecuador, with a climb of this 19,348’ peak in a 9-day trip from most home countries. Our acclimatization process begins in Quito, described by Simon Bolivar as a “Cathedral” amongst South American cities.

We’ll combine hikes and visits to cultural sites and indigenous markets so as to build a foundation of acclimatization before venturing up the mountain.  Arriving in Cotopaxi National Park, an area rich with alpine lakes, pine forests, and abundant wildlife, we will climb an extinct volcano called Ruminahui to gain additional acclimatization before heading high above the stark and desolate “paramo” landscape to climb the perfect cone of Ecuador’s most recognizable peak.

Cotopaxi and Cayambe

For climbers with a bit more time, our 12 day Cayambe & Cotopaxi Expedition is designed to climb two high, glaciated peaks over the course of 10-days in Ecuador. Cayambe is the third highest peak in the country and provides a great primer for climbing the somewhat more challenging Cotopaxi.  As Cayambe lies to the north of the capital city of Quito, we also have the opportunity to visit the fascinating market at the indigenous town of Otovalo, where the local population is world-renowned for the quality of their weaving.

After spending time reviewing mountaineering and glacier travel skills, our ascent of Cayambe begins in the darkness of night and the route follows moderate glacial slopes up to a summit crater guarded by an often challenging bergschrund. Following the climb, we will travel south to spend two nights resting at one of two very comfortable lodges near the foot of Cotopaxi, where we will take a full day to recuperate from our ascent of Cayambe, before traveling to the Jose Ribas Hut on the flank of our next objective.

A pre-dawn start will see us high on Cotopaxi when the sun crests the Amazon Basin, stretching off into the east.  The summit crater is a sight to behold, with its active fumaroles and their sulfurous omissions.  There are some steep and somewhat exposed sections of the route.  The glacier is something of a living thing, and shifts to change the climbing route year to year.  Recently, the route dropped through a huge crevasse ringed with towering seracs, making for some great photo opportunities!

We build two contingency days into our itinerary, in case weather or conditions warrant waiting a day or two to attempt a summit.  If we do not use those days to climb the volcanoes, we can spend them resting and relaxing in the lush tropical town of Banos, considered the adventure capital of Ecuador!


Day 1: Arrival in Quito (2.800 m/9,186 ft)
Overnight: Quito
Accommodation: Hotel Reina Isabel (
Meal: Welcome Dinner

Day 2: Guided tour of Quito’s old town and a visit to “Mitad del Mundo”
Overnight: Quito
Accommodation: Hotel Reina Isabel
Meals: Breakfast

Day 3: Hike Fuya Fuya (4.263 m/13,986 ft)
Overnight: Otavalo (2.550 m/8,366 ft)
Accommodation: Hacienda Pisaqui (
Meals: Breakfast, Boxed-lunch

Day 4: Hike Imbabura (4.630 m/15,190 ft)
Overnight: Otavalo
Accommodation: Hacienda Pinsaqui
Meals: Breakfast, Boxed-lunch

Day 5: Explore the famous “Plaza de Ponchos”
Overnight: Town of Cayambe (2.800 m/9,186 ft)
Accommodation: Hacienda Guachala (
Meals: Breakfast

Day 6: Transfer to Cayambe-Coca Reserva Ecológica Review glacier travel skills
Overnight: Bergé, Ruales, Oleas Refuge (4.650 m/15,257 ft)
Accommodation: Hut
Meals: Breakfast, Boxed-lunch, Dinner

Day 7: Climbing Cayambe (5.790 m/18,996 ft)
Overnight: Papallacta
Accommodation: Termas Papallacta (
Meals: Breakfast, Boxed-lunch

Day 8: Soak in the famous Papallacta hot-springs (Horseback riding option)
Overnight: Chilcabamba
Accommodation: Lodge Chilcabamba (
Meals: Breakfast

Day 9: Transfer to Cotopaxi National Park more glacier travel skills
Overnight: Jose Rivas Refuge (4.800 m/15,748 ft)
Accommodation: Hut
Meals: Breakfast, Boxed-lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Climb Cotopaxi (5.897 m/ 19,347ft)
Overnight: Lasso
Accommodation: Hosteria la Cienega (
Meals: Breakfast, Boxed-lunch

Day 11: Return to Quito in the morning and fly home.

Chimborazo Extension

Our 3 day Chimborazo Extension can be added to the end of either our Cotopaxi Express or Cayambe and Cotopaxi Expeditions. The climb of Chimborazo is a worthy and rewarding undertaking after acclimatizing on the other volcanoes of Ecuador.  At 20,703 feet this is Ecuador’s highest peak and holds the distinction for being the point farthest from the center of earth and it provides an ideal objective for climbers to test their skills and stamina on a 6000-meter peak.

This extension begins after a restful period in the relatively thick air of Banos (6,500 ft). From Banos, we travel through the bustling city of Riobamba and up through a variety of ecosystems to the stark alpine setting of the Whymper Hut to begin our climb of Chimborazo. From the Whymper Hut (16,400 ft.), the standard route up the western flank makes a gradual ascent (30-35 degree slopes) up a glacial ramp to gain the long summit ridge. The technical challenges involve negotiating crevasses, a couple of short 40 degree headwalls (100-300 ft.), and sustained travel on firm glacial snow for more than 4000 feet! This is a big day, so we depart in the middle of the night, ensuring that our 12-14 hour round-trip is completed before the intense equatorial sunlight softens the glaciers.

*A note about the Normal Route on Chimborazo: In recent years, the Normal Route has at times been impassable due to specific route conditions. Rockfall hazard has been on the increase and this hazard can vary from day to day.  Depending on conditions at the time, we may consider climbing the mountain from the North side or might possibly deem the peak too objectively dangerous to attempt.

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