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Aconcagua Argentina
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Cotopaxi and Chimborazo

The stunning snow-capped volcanoes of Cotopaxi and Chimbarazo are found in the cordilleras of the Ecuadorian Andes, in an area commonly known as the ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes’. They are two among 55 volcanic peaks rising from the fertile highlands.


The highest of Ecuador’s active volcanoes – and the second highest in the world after the volcano Ojos del Salado (6887m) found on the Chile/Argentina border - is Cotopaxi, reaching 5897m. It is a beautiful, almost symmetrical snow-capped cone rising steeply from a highland plain. Although its activity has been very minor since 1885, it has in the past caused huge and terrible destruction, wiping out the nearby town of Latacunga three times. Nowadays, it is considered a very strenuous but non-technical climb for those with the necessary experience and stamina.


Ecuador’s highest summit is the magnificent inactive Chimborazo volcano, reaching 6268m. It is the earth’s closest point to the sun. Climbing Chimborazo presents a challenge to even the most experienced mountaineer even though it is not a very technical climb, but the long approach leading to its majestic glaciated summit certainly pushes you to your physical limits.


Participants in the Cotopaxi and Chimborazo climbs must be in very good physical condition, and experience in trekking at high altitudes is recommended. No prior mountaineering experience is required, but be aware that the altitude and steep gradient will present a challenge. Basic mountaineering skills will be taught and practiced during the trip, prior to reaching Cotopaxi.

Itinerary

 

Day 1: Quito

Arrive in Quito (2800m). City tour in Quito’s colonial old town, including museums and churches (approx 4 hours).

Day 2: Otavalo

Drive north to the town of Otavalo (2800m). Hike around Cuicocha´s Volcano Crater (3500m) (approx 5 hours).

Day 3: Otavalo - Quito

We visit the Indian Market in Otavalo in the morning, one of the most traditional markets in South America, with many colorful handicrafts. In the afternoon we do a short excursion around the town. Return to Quito.

Day 4: Quito

Acclimatization hike to Pasochoa Peak (4200m)

We leave Quito at 7am and drive southeast for around one hour through Andean highlands until we get to the starting point of our hike. The trail leads us through an amazing primary Andean forest. It is a great place to observe birds such as hummingbirds, which are easily spotted. As we gain elevation we are able to see the surrounding snow-capped peaks of many volcanoes, including Antisana (5752m), Cayambe (5790m), Illiniza (5248m), Cotopaxi (5897m). Even Chimborazo (6268m), which is located far to the south, is visible on a clear day. Once we near the summit, we hike along the ridge of the deep forest covered caldera, which shortly leads us to the true summit. Total hiking time: approx 6 hours. We return to Quito by late afternoon.

Day 5: Quito

Acclimatization hike to Rucu Pichincha Peak (4698m)

Being one of the closest mountains to Quito, Rucu Pichincha is one of the favorite peaks for acclimatization purposes. It takes us only around 20 minutes by car to reach the parking lot (3300m). From here we catch a ride on the cable car, which is one of the highest in the world. It takes around 15 minutes to reach the starting point of our hike (4100m). From this point, we follow a long ridge, which takes us to the base of the summit. After hiking through sandy terrain, we eventually reach the top. Total hiking time: approx 4 hours. We return to Quito by late afternoon.

Day 6: Quito - Iliniza

Acclimatization hike to Iliniza Norte Peak (5126m)

We leave Quito at 7am and drive through the ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes’ until we reach the village of El Chaupi. We continue driving up until we get to the parking lot of ‘La Virgen’ (3900m). From there we start the 3-hour hike up to the ‘Nuevos Horizontes Refuge’ (4150m), where we have lunch and relax for the rest of the afternoon. Dinner will be served by late afternoon. We spend the night in the refuge.

Day 7: Iliniza

Our climbing day starts at 5am. We have a light breakfast, then pack our climbing equipment and leave the refuge an hour later. We continue hiking up towards the saddle formed between both peaks and then to Iliniza Norte summit (5126m) soon after. The approach to the top involves an easy 3-hour scramble. Once at the summit we enjoy a boxed lunch. We have plenty of time to take pictures and admire the beautiful views. We spend the night in an old hacienda.

Day 8:

Rest day, optional visit to a local indigenous market. Overnight in a hacienda.



Day 9: Cotopaxi

Transfer to Cotopaxi National Park. Hike to the Jose Ribas Refuge (4800m).

From the hacienda we drive south through the ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes’ until we reach the Cotopaxi National Park entrance. From here we drive east to the Cotopaxi parking lot (4500m) from where we start hiking up for an hour to the Jose Ribas Refuge (4800m). Once at the refuge we store our belongings in safe lockers. Lunch is served soon after. In the afternoon we head up to the glacier for ice-climbing practice and training (3 hours approx). We learn some basic techniques, which include how to handle the various climbing equipments (crampons, ice axe, rope, etc). We go back to the refuge for dinner and rest.

Day 10: Cotopaxi - Banios

Midnight is our wake up time, and the departure towards the summit (5897m) is around 1am, not before having a light breakfast and get our stuff ready for the ascent, which will take us between 6 and 8 hours. Each climber gets a boxed lunch for the climb. Once at the summit, we have plenty of time to take pictures and admire the crater and surroundings. Then we head back down to the refuge (3 to 4 hours). Transfer to the town of Banios (1800m).

Day 11: Banios

Rest day in Banios. Optional visit to waterfalls.

Day 12: Chimborazo

Transfer to Chimborazo Reserve. Hike to the refuge at Whymper’s Hut (5000m).

From Banios, we drive southwest to the Chimborazo Reserve entrance. Then we drive for another 20 minutes to ‘Hermanos Carrel Refuge’ (4800m). Lunch is served there. In the afternoon we walk up for one hour to the ‘Whymper’s Hut’ (5000m), where we have dinner and get some rest until 11pm, our wake up time. We have an early light breakfast served just before getting ready with our gear and starting the ascent.

Day 13: Chimborazo - Quito

At midnight we start our climb to the top of Ecuador’s highest mountain, Chimborazo, which will take us between 8 and 10 hours. Each climber gets a boxed lunch for the ascent. We get to the summit (6310m) in the early hours of the morning, where we can take our time to rest and take pictures of the beautiful Andean surroundings. Then we start our descent to the refuge, which takes us between 3 and 5 hours. Once back at ‘Whymper’s Hut’, we pack our things and go down to the ‘Hermanos Carrel Refuge’, where we eat lunch before driving back to Quito.

Day 14: Spare day for Chimborazo summit and return to Quito.

Day 15: Quito

Excursion to Papallacta Hot Springs (3300m)

From Quito, we drive northeast towards the Papallacta hot springs, which is one of the best places to relax in Ecuador after the mountain program. Return to Quito.

Day 16: Quito

Transfer to the airport. Fly home.


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