Highest Summits

ECU-13a / 12-day trip / GradePD

PEAKS: Trekking: Cuicocha’s Crater lake trek (3400 m) – Imbabura volcano (4560 m) – Cayambe (5790 m) – Cotopaxi (5897 m) – Chimborazo (6268 m)

Highest Summits
OVERVIEW

Chimborazo (6268 m), the highest, Cotopaxi (5897 m) and Cayambe (5790 m), the second and third highest respectively are situated on the tropical belt close to Quito in Ecuador. Due to their infrastructure in roads and lodging they are very accessible volcanoes to mountaineers.

The surrounding Andes region with its numerous volcanoes at different altitudes, gorgeous nature and exotic indigenous villages and cultures, makes the acclimatization and climb the experience of a lifetime.

On this 12-day itinerary we offer you an excellent acclimatization program, including a trekking in around Cuicocha crater lake and an ascent to Imbabura volcano. We provide excellent professional guides, equipment, good accommodation, transportation, food, etc. Also, we recommend that you take a look at our extensions trips–these will add to your adventure and show you some of the natural wealth and variety a small country like Ecuador has to offer.


Day 1 Arrival to Quito
Day 2 Quito – Full day City Tour (2850 m)
Day 3 Cuicocha lake trek (3400 m) & Otavalo
Day 4 Climb: Imbabura volcano (4560 m)
Day 5 Cayambe – Glacier training (4680 m)
Day 6 Climb: Cayambe Volcano (5790 m)
Day 7 Cotopaxi – High hut (4847 m)
Day 8 Climb: Cotopaxi Volcano (5897 m)
Day 9 Town of Baños de Santa Agua (1820 m) – Rest Day
Day 10 Chimborazo – Carrel hut (4800 m)
Day 11 Climb: Chimborazo Volcano (6268 m)
Day 12 Departure
ITINERARY
Day 1

Arrival in Quito
Reception at the airport and transfer to hotel.

Day 2

Quito: Full day City tour with “Mitad del Mundo”
Full day private city tour in the historical part of Quito, including La Basilica Church, La Compañia Church and El Panecillo Hill. We leave the hotel by our private transport and will see the transformation from the new part of the city to the absolutely beautiful historical and colonial part of Quito. We will make some stops during the tour and visit all the interesting churches, plazas etc., but also will have time to simply soak up the local atmosphere, the many shops and sellers. Afterwards, we continue to “El Panecillo”, the hill in the center of Quito overlooking the city and the historical center. From here, on clear days, we may observe several of the snow-capped volcanoes surrounding Quito.
 After lunch, visit to “Mitad del Mundo” where you can stand on the equatorial line and do some fun experiments.
Included meals: Breakfast

Day 3

Cuicocha lake trek (3400 m) & Otavalo
Pick-up at hotel in Quito and transfer to Cuicocha’s volcanic lake (3 h). About half way, there will be a stop at the Equatorial line, just before reaching the town of Otavalo. The road trip continues until the Cuichocha park entrance, where the hiking starts, following a very good trail that goes around the crater’s rim. The walk will go almost all the way around the lake, but not entirely, as a short section is by dirt road, and it will be here where the transport will be waiting to take the team to Otavalo. Once in Otavalo, there will be time on your own to visit the famous indigenous market, where it is possible to find all sorts of souvenirs while watching the local people and the daily life. There is a wide variety of bars, restaurants and cafes to enjoy the rest of the day.
Night in hotel.
Ascent: 300 m / Descend: 300 m / Highest Altitude: 3400 m / Activity duration: 4 h
Included meals: Breakfast, Picnic

Day 4

Climb: Imbabura volcano (4560 m)
Imbabura volcano is beautifully located at the shores of San Pablo lake just in front of the town of Otavalo. The mountain stands alone and has a privilege view to the neighboring volcanoes of Cotachachi and Cayambe. Early pick up at the hotel and 1,5 h transfer to the trailhead (3165 m) known as La Esperanza. Imbabura has two summits and usually the hikes are done to the first one, which is about 100 lower than the second and more distant one. This is a great activity and not as crowded as other acclimatizations summits. It is important to be aware that even though the ascent is not technical it can be quite long and take your breath away due to its altitude. After the activity, the group will return to Otavalo for a good rest.
Night in hotel.
Ascent: 1365 m / Descend: 1365 m / Highest Altitude: 4560 m / Activity duration: 6-7 h
Included meals: Breakfast, Picnic

Day 5

Cayambe – Glacier training (4680 m)
After a good rest and a well deserve breakfast, a 2 hours transfer will take the group to the Cayambe’s Parking area (4350 m). Then a 1 hour hike to the Cayambe’s mountain hut (4621 m), a short break and then continuing the hike for another 30 minutes, first down and then slightly up, to the low part of the glacier that is located just in front of the hut. Once there (4680 m), the team will gear up and follow the guide’s instruction in the use of crampons, ice axe, rope and all the appropriate technical gear for the climb. This is in no way an alpine course, just a brief introduction into the technics need for the ascent. This activity will also improve the acclimatization due to the physical activity in altitude. After the training, the team will head back down to the hut for the night. The rest of the afternoon is for the climb’s preparations. The guides will do a detailed briefing about all the aspects of the ascent and help with all the gear. An early dinner will be serve and then rest, until the guides call for breakfast, usually around middnight.
Night at the hut in dormitories with bunkbeds.
Ascent: 330 m / Descend: 59 m / Highest Altitude: 4680 m / Activity duration: 4 h
Included meals: Breakfast, Picnic, Dinner

Day 6

Climb: Cayambe Volcano (5790 m)
The summit day starts very early; departure time will be set by the mountain guides, according to the team’s physical condition and the weather-forecast, usually in the range between 11 PM and 2 AM. Breakfast will be served 1 hour before the scheduled departure. The team will begin the ascent from the hut heading up a moraine for about 1.5 -2 hours. Once on the edge of the glacier, the group will gear up and divide, in case of a big group, into smaller teams in a range of 2 clients for 1 guide. The climb of Cayambe is quite long and requires endurance and a good deal mental strength. Cayambe’s glacier is on the biggest ice masses in the country and its climb, even though is not technically difficult, it has a series of crevassed areas and some few icy slopes that make the route interesting. The first section of the glacier is a gentle slope until a rocky formation called Picos Jarrin, from there the route goes by a main ridge that leads up to the summit. There are some few icy sections and passages on the ridge. The main obstacle on the higher part of the mountain is the altitude, so perseverance is the key factor. The weather on Cayambe changes rapidly, as it is located on the Eastern range looking down into the amazon, so this is also a determining factor for a successful ascent. The climb takes an average time of 7-8 hours. The summit is just spectacular and with luck, the view worth every step of the way. The descent is done taking back the same way and it usually takes between 3-4 hours. Once back at the huts and after the whole group reunites, the team will hike down to the parking place and the transport will be waiting to take them to Cotopaxi National Park (3 h).
Night in shared dormitories at mountain hut.
Ascent: 1169 m / Descent: 1440 m / Highest Altitude: 5790 m / Activity duration: 10-12 h
Included meals: Breakfast, Picnic

Day 7

Cotopaxi – High hut (4847 m)
After a good rest and a well deserve breakfast, there will be time to get all the gear organize and enjoy the morning at this lovely location. Around midday, the team will jump into the vehicle and an 1 hour transfer to the Cotopaxi’s Parking area (4587 m). Then an 1-hour hike to Cotopaxi’s mountain hut (4847 m), the rest of the afternoon is for the climb’s preparations. The guides will do a detailed briefing about all the aspects of the ascent and help with all the gear. An early dinner will be serve and then rest, until the guides call for breakfast, usually around midnight.
Night at the hut in dormitories with bunk beds.
Ascent: 403 m / Descend: 143 m / Highest Altitude: 4990 m / Distance: 1.2 km one way / Activity duration: 1 h
Included meals: Breakfast, Picnic, Dinner

Day 8

Climb: Cotopaxi Volcano (5897 m)
The summit day starts very early; departure time will be set by the mountain guides, according to the team’s physical condition and the weather-forecast, usually in the range between 11 PM and 2 AM. Breakfast will be served 1 hour before the scheduled departure. The team will begin the ascent from the hut following a well marked trail that gently ascents over a fine stoned moraine for about 1 hour. Once on the edge of the glacier (4990 m), the group will gear up and divide, in case of a big group, into smaller teams in a range of 2 clients for 1 guide. The Cotopaxi’s climb requires endurance and a good deal mental strength. Cotopaxi’s glacier is quite save and the climb not technically difficult, but there are a few crevassed areas and some few icy slopes that make the route interesting.
The first section of the glacier is a gentle slope that gets steeper as it goes higher, there is a series of switchbacks know as “Heart Breaker”, being the toughest part of the ascent due to its demanding steepness and continuity. After this a very nice ridge gradually gains altitude, passing close to the prominent rock face know as “Yanasacha” at about 5630 m. From this point a relatively long traverse to the right before another set of switchbacks that lead up to the crater’s rim and few meters later to the main summit. The climb takes an average time of 7-8 hours. Cotopaxi’s summit is one of the most spectacular ones, looking down into the double rim crater and, on clear days, it is possible to see most of the neighboring volcanoes as: Antisana, Cayambe, Ilinizas, Chimborazo, El Altar and the active Tunguragua. The descent is done following back the same way, taking between 3-4 hours. Once back at the huts and after the whole group reunites, a short hike down (20 minutes) to the parking place and drive to the town of Baños (3-4 h).
Night in hotel.
Ascent: 1050 m / Descent: 1315 m / Highest Altitude: 5897 m / Distance to the summit: 2.47 Km & Distance from summit to parking place: 3.22 Km / Activity duration: 10-12 h
Included meals: Breakfast, Picnic

Day 9

Town of Baños de Santa Agua (1820 m) – Rest Day
The town of Baños, as it if locally know, lies in the Tunguragua province just at the foothills of the active Tunguragua Volcano (5023 m). Baños is called the “Gateway to the Amazon” as it’s the last andean town before reaching the Amazon basin. Due to its privileged location, this town offers a great deal of activities. The best known are the hot-springs (baños), which one can enjoy many places around town. Adventure sports are also widely spread like mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, etc.
Baños also have some great scenery with the famous waterfalls that lie few kilometers down the valley. The best known are “El Pailon del Diablo” (Devil’s pot) and “El manto de la Novia” (the Bride’s veil), which can be visited taking a local taxi. The “Tarabita” (Cable-car) to cross over the Pastaza River and on the other side of the valley, it is possible to hike through the orchards and gardens of the local peasants.
In few words, there are plenty of options to do or just take a easy going day to enjoy the nice temperature and beautiful surroundings.
Night at hotel.
Included meals: Breakfast

Day 10

Chimborazo – Carrel hut (4800 m)
After a day of leisure and a relaxing morning in the town of Baños, the group will pack and drive (3 h) back to the highland towards Chimborazo National Park. On the way, there will a couple of short stops and time to buy the last snacks before leaving “civilization”. Chimborazo volcano is an impressive mountain that stands out from the “Volcanoes Avenue”. The indigenous farmed land that surrounds the mountains are all traditionally worked and very colorful during the harvest season. While driving up to the main entrance, it is possible to see very dramatic landscapes were the actions of the old eruptions have shaped the geography of the place. After crossing the park borders, the landscape turns very arid, like a desert, where it is possible to see one of the rare South American camelids: Vicuñas. These animal are difficult to see because they life in quiet inaccessible areas. They are master to survive in difficult conditions. The ones living in this park are not originally from the area, but introduced many years ago and over time became permanent residents.
The road goes all the way to the door of the lower hut “Refugio Hermanos Carrel” (4800 m), where an 1 hour acclimatization hike starts by a moraine valley up to the Whymper hut (5000 m) and then back down to the Carrel hut. The rest of the afternoon-evening will be to prepare the climb and have an early dinner. The mountain guides will provide all the information and help to assure the best logistic for such a demanding climb.
Night in dormitories with bunkbends.
Ascent: 200 m / Descent: 200 m / Highest Altitude: 5000 m / Activity duration: 1.5 h
Included meals: Breakfast, Picnic, Dinner

Day 11

Climb: Chimborazo Volcano (6268 m)
Chimborazo is the highest mountain in Ecuador and also the highest in the world measured from the center of the earth, due to is location on the tropical belt. The mountain has five mayor summits all linked by a ridge called the “Arista del Sol” (Sun’s ridge), which probably is the main reason of its Quichua name, which translates “Ice braid”. The main summit is the Whymper (6268 m), named after the British mountaineer Edward Whymper who has the first person to climb it on 1880 along with the Swiss Carrel brothers.
Climbing Chimborazo by its normal Southwest route is a challenging affair, is a long 1468 meters ascent and descent in one push at a considerable altitude. The terrain is also complex, as it changes from an easy moraine trail to ice, snow and rock sections, with some easy scrambling at some specific spots. Even though it is not a technical climb, it is physical demanding. The climb starts between 10 PM to 1 AM, according to the team fitness, acclimatization level and meteorological conditions. The mountain guide will decide the departure time and wake up the clients up, 1 hour before, to have some breakfast and get ready for the activity.
The first part of the route is no longer the normal route, but a variant known as the “Marco Cruz route”, named after the legendary Ecuadorian mountaineer who first ascended it. This variant joins the normal route after “El Castillo” rock pillar, making the ascent much safer and more scenic.
Once on the march, the first part (1 h) is basically a flat moraine until it begins to get steeper, with some few scrambling sections, before reaching the top of the ridge. After a short while walking on the ridge a bit exposed section hiking around the “El Castillo” rock before a flat area where the variant route joins the normal route. The glacier rises on a wide ridge that goes up to an approximate altitude of 5850 m. From this point a gentle traverse elevates westwards reaching 6000 m and then a relative strait up climb to the first summit: the Veintimilla (6230 m), then descend few meters to cross a col and then back up to the main summit: Whymper (6268 m). This is a memorable ascent to a summit above 6000 meters and a test of physical and mental endurance.
The descend is done by the same route back to the Carrel hut and, after packing, there will be a transfer ready to take the group back to Quito (4 h).
Night in hotel.
Ascent: 1468 m / Descent: 1468 m / Highest Altitude: 6268 m / Activity duration: 10-12 h
Included meals: Breakfast, Picnic

Day 12

Departure
Time to leave the volcanoes of Ecuador!
Pick up at hotel and transfer out to Quito’s Airport (1-2 h) – End of services
Included meals: Breakfast

PRICING
ECU-13a – To request prices, please click on the BOOK TRIP bottom on the right sidebar and fill the information.


INCLUDED

  • Local English speaking mountain guide during the entire program
  • Local English speaking assistant mountain guide during the entire program from 5 PAX
  • Private transportation throughout the entire program
  • 3 nights in shared double rooms in hotels in the city of Quito
  • 2 nights in shared double rooms in the town of Otavalo
  • 1 night in shared dormitory at Cayambe’s mountain hut – Ruales-Oleas-Bergé
  • 1 night in shared dormitory at Cotopaxi’s low mountain hut – Tambo-Paxi
  • 1 night in shared dormitory at Cotopaxi’s high mountain hut – Jose Rivas
  • 2 nights in shared double rooms in the town of Baños
  • 1 nights in shared dormitory at Chimborazo’s mountain hut
  • Entry fee to the National parks and natural reserves
  • Entry fees to museums and sights mentioned in the program
  • Climbing assistant guides: for Imbabura ratio 1:5 and for Cayambe, Cotopaxi and Chimborazo ratio: 1:2
  • Meals as specified in the day to day itinerary

NOT INCLUDED

  • Domestic and international flights
  • Separate airport transfers in case of multiple arrival/departures
  • Private porter to/from Cotopaxi’s high hut
  • Personal climbing and camping gear
  • Insurance
  • Tips
  • Everything not mentioned in the “Included” list
HOTEL LIST

QUITO: Hostal Fuente de Piedra 1 & 2 or similar

OTAVALO: Hacienda Cusin or similar

CAYAMBE’S NATIONAL PARK: Mountain Hut Ruales-Oleas-Bergé (no website)

COTOPAXI NATIONAL PARK: Low Mountain Hut Tambo-Paxi  or similar

COTOPAXI NATIONAL PARK: High Mountain Hut Jose Rivas (no website)

BAÑOSHotel Isla de Baños or similar

CHIMBORAZO’S NATIONAL PARK: Mountain Hut Carrel (no website)

MAP
GALLERY
Tags: Climbing, Ecuador, Volcanoes, Cotopaxi, Iliniza, Chimborazo, Cayambe, PD, PD grade, Cotopaxi’s National Park, Baños, Imbabura volcano, Otavalo, Cuicocha, Otavalo market, Imbabura