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On our 13-day volcano climbing expedition in Ecuador, we combine some guided warm up treks on volcanoes near Quito such as Pasochoa and Pichincha.
After the warm up trekking days we head to the higher peaks of Ecuador. Our guides dedicate some time to help with practising our mountaineering skills, brushing up on the use of ropes, crampons and ice-axes.
Once comfortable we head off to climb higher Andean peaks. The high altitude volcanoes of Cayambe, Cotopaxi and Chimborazo are our ultimate objectives on this Ecuador mountaineering and climbing trip.
Expert local walking and mountaineering guides accompany you throughout.
The mountain areas we visit on our volcano climbing trip are stunning. Once acclimatised to the high altitudes we climb three of Ecuador’s biggest and most beautiful volcanoes: Cayambe, Cotopaxi and Chimborazo.
We have picked the best accommodation in each place that provide good access to the mountains. Cosy haciendas and mountain lodges offer us excellent Ecuadorean food and hospitality throughout the trip.
Our expert mountaineering guides are qualified and experienced. They know the mountains well and will also fill you in on the history and culture of this fascinating Andean country. This will help you make the most of your Ecuador trekking and volcano climbing trip.
Pasochoa volcano, wonderful warm-up trek
Climb Pichincha to help acclimatisation
Cayambe volcano, glacier covered peak
Climb the conical volcano of Cotopaxi.
Relax in cosy haciendas and mountain lodges after a great day out.
Expert guides accompany you throughout
Climb Chimborazo, the highest volcano of all
The guides on the mainland were fantastic, well informed, excellent English and enthusiastic - especially Andres. Such a beautiful and varied country. The itinerary was perfect and all the arrangements worked well.
L. Course, Ecuador hike, UK
Today our local staff will meet you at 0900 in the morning for a trip briefing, talking through the programme for the next 13 days.
Then we set off on a gentle walking tour to see some of the main colonial churches in the old part of Quito such as Santo Domingo, the Basilica and the beautiful San Francisco. This was one of the first religious buildings constructed in South America by the Spanish, in 1538.
We will also visit the hill of El Panecillo where an impressive statue of the Virgin looks over Quito, and we have fabulous views of this extensive city. Getting out and about and exploring the city is a good way to begin the acclimatisation process. Overnight in Quito, at Casa Helbling or similar.
Today we set off to the south of the city to climb the fabulous collapsed volcanic crater of Pasochoa.
At 4,200m/13,780ft Pasochoa is a challenge that will get our legs warmed up nicely in anticipation of the adventure ahead. The walk will take us through high altitude pastures, climbing steadily upwards for 3 hours more or less.
From the summit, we have a spectacular view of the mountains around Quito as well as the inspiring scenery of the Pasochoa crater itself. We should be able to see the peaks of: Antisana, Sincholagua, Quilindana, Cotopaxi, Ruminahui, Corazon and the twin Iliniza peaks, north and south.
Today we set off for the nearby peak of Rucu Pichincha, that towers over the city of Quito.
Using the cable car we rise gently above the city, until the top station, to an altitude of 4,000m / 13,200ft from where we start today´s hike.
Rucu Pichincha (4,690m / 15,400 ft) is an excellent second acclimatization hike. Rucu is just one of the three major peaks that make up the Pichincha massive. Quito is built on the slopes of the eastern side of this massif.
The hike is straightforward and will take us 4 to 5 hours in total.
After the walk we return to our hotel in Quito for the night.
We leave Quito after breakfast at 0830 and drive northwards towards Cayambe (5,790m /18,996ft).
Cayambe is a massive glaciated extinct volcano. It is located about 70km north east of Quito and is the highest point on the surface of the earth through which the Equator directly passes, and the third highest mountain in Ecuador.
Cayambe is the perfect peak for us to practise ice climbing skills on the glaciers. There is excellent access to the glaciers from the comfortable mountain hut which is at 4,600m / 15,088 ft. We will settle in then head out and practise our skills. The crevasses, complex icefalls and seracs provide an ideal setting for learning some ice climbing, crevasse rescue, and a variety of other basic skills. Night at the Cayambe hut, shared rooms.
Today is spent on the Cayambe glaciers, learning and revising some essential mountaineering skills.
During the glacier training on Cayambe we will look at the following:
After our session on the mountain we head back to the hut for some hot food and rest. Night at Cayambe hut
If conditions are good today we have the opportunity to attempt the climb to the summit of Cayambe.
The route we take to the summit follows diverse glacier terrain to near the summit crater. Conditions on the mountain change and sometimes a gaping bergschrund presents a challenge in route finding and an exciting extra obstacle. The ascent normally takes seven hours and the descent three hours.
After our summit day on Cayambe we descend to Hacienda Guachala for the night, or similar.
Today is an easy day as we pack up then set off southwards to drive to the Cotopaxi area.
We will stop on off the way for lunch in a restaurant .
Overnight Tambopaxi lodge. Shared rooms.
Today we set of up the mountainside. We drive to 4,600m /15,091 ft and then walk to the Cotopaxi mountain hut at 4,800m / 15,700 ft.
Having arrived at the hut at lunchtime, we rest for the afternoon and evening, preparing ourselves for the night time climb.
Cotopaxi is one of the most beautiful mountains of the Andes of Ecuador, a classic conical volcano. The Cotopaxi national park is known for its rich wildlife and high altitude remote plains and peaks. Cotopaxi is a popular peak for climber and has the largest number of clear days amongst the high peaks of Ecuador.
Night at Jose Rivas refuge, the Cotopaxi hut at 4,800 m / 15,700 ft. Shared dorm room.
Today is Cotopaxi summit day 5,897 m / 19,300 ft.
After a short sleep we have breakfast then leave the hut at around 0100. We set off with head torches, starting with a walk over morrine to the start of the glacier. We stop and put our crampons and harnesses on, and rope up.
We are now on Cotopaxi’s large featureless glacier and we weave our way steadily upwards, around crevasses.
The final section is tougher as it gets steeper. We arrive at the summit crater at dawn.
We rope up for protection and safety from crevasses and also to provide protection on the steeper sections. The ascent normally takes between six to seven hours and the descent, two to three hours.
Night at Chuquiragua Lodge or similar.
Today is an easy day and allows us some recovery. We set off southwards along the avenue of volcanoes.
We arrive at the flanks of the mighty Chimborazo where we spend an evening in a Lodge.
This lodge sits in grassy plains below Chimborazo and allows us to rest and enjoy views of Chimborazo and the smaller rocky peak of Carihuayrazo.
Night at Urbina Lodge (3,500m / 11,480 ft) or similar.
Today we continue by vehicle to the Plaza Roja (4,852m / 15,914 ft) located high on the side of Chimborazo, very close to the Carrel hut.
From the hut it takes us about two hours to walk to our camp at 5,050m /16,564ft, where we spend the afternoon preparing for the climb the next day.
We will all help with carrying equipment to the camp. Porters will help carrying the tents and water. Night camping.
Today is Chimborazo summit day (6,310m/ 20,696ft).
We start the climb at about midnight and follow upwards on the glacier until it joins Castle ridge (5,450m / 17,876 ft.).
We take this variation on the normal Castle route as it is generally free from rock fall, making it a much safer line to the top.
From camp it normally takes eight hours or so to get to the main Whymper summit. The scene from the top is the most amazing view of Ecuador.
Descent to camp takes from two to three hours. After returning to camp we rest a little before continuing on downwards to Plaza Roja. Night camping or at the mountain hut.
This is a buffer day. In case of bad weather, we have added this day to allow a second chance at the summit.
Tour ends Quito.
Important note: This itinerary is a guide line and in the case of unforeseen circumstances we may have to make changes.
Prices From $2,850 / £2,280 per person
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All transport by private vehicles during the programme as and when needed.
All breakfasts and all other meals once out of Quito.
Permits and park fees.
One guide for acclimatisation hikes.
One English speaking qualified mountain guide per two climbers on: Cayambe, Cotopaxi and Chimborazo
One porter per two climbers on Chimborazo
Some climbing gear: crampons, harness, helmet, ice axe and group gear such as ropes
( boots available for rent at USD $10 per day)
Accommodation: 5 hotel nights in Quito (Bed & Breakfast style), haciendas and mountain huts. Some shared dorm some double / triple rooms.
Lunch and evening meals in Quito.
Extras, laundry, tips.
Other items of climbing gear
Hotel nights if you return to Quito earlier.
Locally owned mountain lodges and haciendas.
Most offer private rooms with private bathrooms with flush toilets and warm water showers.
In more remote areas facilities are more basic and you may need to share a room / shared toilets.
Throughout the tour, a local, English speaking Ecuadorian mountain guide with many years’ experience will accompany you.
Our local drivers and support staff have worked with us for many years.
Staff employed at the lodges are generally from the local communities.
Almost all dietary requirements can be catered for – please ask us for more information.
Breakfasts at hotels will feature teas, coffees and juices to drink, plus cereals, fruit, eggs, toast and jams etc.
While out on tours, we either supply a packed lunch of sandwiches, snacks, soup, fruit etc, or we eat at a local restaurant/hacienda. These are often buffet style with soups, rice, pasta, potatoes and then puddings/fruit.
Our accommodation will provide evening meals. In general, it’s a soup for starters followed by an Ecuador inspired main dish – some international meals may be available at certain lodges.
The tour is open to people of good mobility and health with some experience of trekking.
We build in acclimatisation and our walks aim to be 5-7 hours in length.
We grade this as as strenuous because of the high altitude and consecutive hiking days.
Trekkers ideally need to be used to walking while carrying a daypack and ideally accustomed to walking for 4-7 hours on consecutive days.
Ecuador is the second smallest South American country, and one of the most varied.
It comprises three main geographical areas: the coast, highlands and Amazon plus is home to the Galapagos Islands.
Because of its relatively compact size, it makes a great holiday destination as you can move from highlight to highlight fairly easily and rapidly.
Landscapes vary from the drier south to the more humid north.
The Highlands, or sierra, encompass two Andean Cordilleras (the Central and Western), which run north to south through the country. Ecuador’s largest volcano is Chimborazo (6,310m) whose summit, because of its proximity to the equator, is the closest point on earth to the sun. Several of Ecuador’s volcanoes are still active, and it’s a great area for trekking.
Descending the steep, east-facing slopes of the eastern Cordillera, one passes through a transition zone comprising dense cloud forest and humid high jungle, before entering the Amazon lowlands.
This mainly primary rainforest covers a third of the country, accounts for 5% of the population and stretches across Ecuador, from its Colombian to its Peruvian borders.
The Galapagos Islands are simply unique. Lying 600 miles off the mainland, the archipelago comprises the summits of gigantic equatorial volcanoes.
The flora and fauna of the Galapagos, long separated from their continental cousins, have evolved differently. Charles Darwin used his observations there to develop his theory of Evolution.
Ecuador lies between latitudes 4º south and 2º north. Overall, climate varies according to time of year, altitude and region.
In the Ecuadorian highlands, there is little temperature variation by season; this depends largely on altitude.
In Quito, shade temperatures range from 6 to 10ºC in the morning and from 19 to 23ºC in the afternoon, with cool nights. In the lower intermontane basins, it gets significantly warmer.
Rainfall depends on whether an area lies closer to the eastern or western Andes. To the west, June to Sept is the dry period and Oct to May the wet (with often a short, dry spell in Dec or Jan).
The best period to visit Quito and trek and climb volcanoes such as Cotopaxi is the west Andean dry season of June to Sept and Dec/Jan. This is also Ecuador’s high season. During the Oct to May wet season, most rainfall is in the afternoons.
To the east, Oct to Feb are dry and March to Sept are wet. Overall, the southern highlands are drier than the northern highlands.
Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with South America holidays.
We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.
We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.
When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.
You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.
What is ATOL?
The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.
And ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.
Who is covered?
To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).
If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.
If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.
Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.
For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.
I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?
If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.
We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.
If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.
You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.
In large cities such as Quito and Guayaquil, you should guard against bag snatching, bag slashing and pick-pocketing.
Highway robbery should also be guarded against. We strongly recommend you take the following precautions:
Good kit is vital for every trip.
Book with Andean Trails and get 15% off Páramo’s fantastic ethical and high performance outdoor gear.
We provide all technical equipment on activities.
During the day hopefully it will be generally sunny enough for shorts and T-shirts though having a fleece and rain gear handy is advisable. It can and will get cold in the highland areas, especially in the evenings so bring a warm fleece jacket, a good waterproof and some warm clothes including thermal underwear, gloves, scarf and woolly hat as well as one set of smarter clothes for Quito.
In the cloud and rainforest we recommend you wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers to avoid the strong tropical sun and persistent sand flies.
Extras: Biking gloves, water Bottle / camel-bak, bike shorts, biking T-shirts (long-sleeved), biking trousers, raincoat / rain trousers / poncho, smart clothes for nightlife, Comfortable clothes for journeys, After trip shoes (Sandals), After trip trousers & t-shirt, Small Towel, Sunglasses with attaching string, Peaked cap, Torch & Spare Batteries, Socks / underwear, Swim suit, Lip balm, Suntan lotion Factor 25+, After sun, Personal toilet kit, Camera and spare film/memory cards, Book, Notepaper & Pen, Insect Repellent, Money belt, Spare Glasses / Lenses, Warm fleece or down jacket, Thermal underwear, Warm hat, gloves, scarf.
Personal first aid kit to include: painkillers, plasters (band-aids), moleskin, anti-septic cream, after-bite, anti-diarrhoea tablets, throat lozenges, re-hydration salts & personal medication. (We carry a first aid kit but these are generally for emergencies only)
These peaks are non-technical and are suitable for acclimatizing on prior to tackling one of Ecuador’s big volcanoes. We recommend several days in Quito and at least two peaks before doing our mountaineering course or attempting peaks over 5,000m/16,404ft.
Guagua Pichincha: 4,794m/15,728ft. An active volcano on the outskirts of Quito that last erupted in October 1999. This is a readily accessible and scenic acclimatisation climb that offers fabulous views from the crater’s rim.
Ruminahui: 4,634m/15,203ft. Named after Atahualpa’s general who led the fight against the Spanish conquistadors after Atahualpa was murdered. Legend has it that Ruminahui hid a large cache of the Inca ruler’s gold in an undisclosed, and still unknown, location. This climb is a good acclimatisation warm up climb in Cotopaxi National Park and offers magnificent views of Cotopaxi.
Imbabura: 4,630m/15,190ft. The peak overlooking Otavalo. It is a long walk up, with a short scramble near the summit. The summit ridge offers great views of Imbabura’s impressive open crater and Lago San Pablo.
Illinizas Norte: 5,126m/16,818ft. An excellent acclimatisation peak with a bit of a scramble to reach the summit and magnificent views. Although it looks like a large pile of rock rubble, the rock is pretty good by Ecuadorian standards.
Pasachoa: 4,199m/13,776ft. An ancient, severely eroded volcano inactive since the last ice age. It is 30km south of Quito. There is a short scramble from the top of the grassy ridge to the summit.
Carihuayrazo: 5,100m/16,732ft. An ideal acclimatisation peak in conjunction with the Abraspungo trek. It is also a good place to practice basic glacier skills, use of crampons and ice-axe self arrest. Loose rock and scree to cross above the glacier and then a scramble to reach the summit.
Cubilche: 3,800m/12,467ft. Some 14km from Otavalo, a dormant volcano with five small craters on the top, an ideal acclimatisation peak.
Ecuador’s big volcanoes
Cotopaxi: 5,897m/19.347ft. This is Ecuador’s second-highest peak and one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. It is a nearly perfect snow-capped volcanic cone, situated 55 kilometres south of Quito in Cotopaxi National Park. We drive to just below the refuge (4,800m/15,748ft) and from there it is a 6-8 hour climb to the summit, mostly on steep snow and ice slopes. First climbed in November 1872 by Angel Maria Escobar (Colombia) and Wilhelm Reiss (Germany). Currently active.
Cayambe: 5,790m/18,996ft. Thisis the highest and coldest point on the equator. It is the only place on earth where the latitude is zero degrees and so is the temperature. Long thought extinct, Cayambe is now deemed to be active and is closely monitored.
Chimborazo: 6,310m/20,702ft. This is Ecuador’s highest peak, and is one of the most impressive in all the Andes. Measured from the centre of the earth it is the highest mountain in the world. Chimborazo is the southern-most peak in the Cordillera Occidental chain of mountains. It was first climbed in 1880 by Jean Antoine and Louis Carrel (Italy) and Edward Whymper (UK). Best time for climbing is during late January and early February.
Antisana: 5,758m/18,891ft. This is big, high and covered in crevasses. This peak is also wild and remote, offering some of the most interesting climbing in Ecuador. Climbing Antisana is serious business and is as technically difficult as Cayambe. This peak has seen relatively few ascents.
Illinizas Sur: 5,263m/17,267ft. This peak is a technical climb – a steep route requiring use of crampons and ice axe as well as knowledge of self-arrest and glacier travel and crevasse rescue skills. The route is suffering from glacial retreat.
2020 / 2021 price, per person, shared room basis
Based on a minimum of two people
Single supplement applies (USD 550)
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