The Andean Condor’s Trek & Cotopaxi

ECU-18a / 10-day trip / Grade: F

PEAKS: Guagua Pichincha (4784 m) – Cotopaxi (5897 m)

The Andean Condor’s Trek & Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi, at 5897 m, is the second highest volcano in Ecuador. It is situated south of the Equator line and Quito in Ecuador, and is very accessible 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 10-day itinerary we offer you an excellent acclimatization program, including one of the best treks in Ecuador: The Condor’s Trek, an absolutely beautiful, authentic and remote area which is rarely visited by other tourists or mountaineers. We provide excellent professional guides, equipment, good accommodation, transportation, food, etc. Also, we recommend that you take a look at our extension 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 Climb: Guagua-Pichincha volcano (4794 m)
Day 4 Trekking: Laguna Volcan Campsite (3642 m)
Day 5 Trekking: Antisanilla Campsite (4090 m)
Day 6 Trekking: Taracocha lake Campsite (4214 m)
Day 7 Trekking: Rio Pita (3750 m) – End of trek
Day 8 Cotopaxi – Glacier training (4990 m)
Day 9 Climb: Cotopaxi Volcano (5897 m)
Day 10 Departure
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

Climb: Guagua Pichincha volcano (4794 m)
The Pichinchas are three summits located on the Western range just above Quito. The Guagua Pichincha is the highest and the youngest of the summits, the other two are the Rucu Pichincha and the Padre Encantado (Enchanted father) and both of them lower. Guagua is also where the last eruption took place in the year 1999, but it is considered safe to climb by the geologist. The Guagua and the Rucu are very popular ascents, due to their location on the outskirt of the capital and their convenient access.
Pick-up at the hotel in Quito and transfer (2 h) to the head of the trail to a parking place at 4150 m. From the parking place, the hike will ascent by a “paramo” area finding it way through changing vegetation up to the moraine. The ascent is very straight forward, but the distance to cover is anyway considerable. There is a big gain in altitude during the hike, which works great as a preparation for higher summits. The trail back is the same of the ascent. From the parking there is a 3 hours drive across Los Chillos and Tumbaco valley and up over the Andes, down to Papallacta town (3300 m).
Night in hotel.
Ascent: 644 / Descent: 644 m / Highest altitude: 4794 m / Activity duration: 6 h
Included meals: Breakfast, Picnic

Day 4

Trekking: Laguna Volcan Campsite (3642 m)
The transport will pick the group up and drive back up the valley (45 min) until the head of trail called: El Tambo (3638 m). The hike starts by a horseshoe trail over a swampy area and up to the Potrerillos pass (3950 m), then descends by a valley densely cover with “paramo” vegetation down to the Volcano Lake, where the first campsite will be established (3642 m).
Night in tents.
Ascent: 312 m / Descent: 308 m / Highest Altitude: 3950 m / Activity duration: 5 h
Included meals: Breakfast, Picnic, Dinner

Day 5

Trekking: Antisanilla Campsite (4090 m)
Today is the longest ascent of the trek; therefore an early start is a must. Leaving the Volcan Lake, the trail begins a constant ascent between shallow valleys and ridges until reaching the highland’s plateau. Then an eastwards traverse to a volcanic valley that gently ascents passing Santa Lucia Lake and up to Santa Lucia Pass (4380 m) to descent to one of the camping areas around Antisanilla (4090 m).
Night in Tents.
Ascent: 738 m / Descent: 290 m / Highest Altitude: 4380 m / Activity duration: 8 h
Included meals: Breakfast, Picnic, Dinner

Day 6

Trekking: Taracocha lake Campsite (4214 m)
Once again an early departure, due to the long distance to be cover this day. The altitude difference is not that bad, but the hike is close to 20 Km. The first part, from Antisanilla to Hacienda Pullurima (3920 m), is mostly flat and a bit downwards; crossing some of the most beautiful swampy valleys covered with hard vegetation called Cushions “Cojines”. During the hike the view is quite impressive, having the Antisana volcano to the East and in the distance the Sincholagua and Cotopaxi volcanoes. From Hacienda Pullurima, by the way a huge ranch specialized in the breed of bulls, the trail goes in an almost straight line up the slope, aiming to the base of Sincholagua volcano, and just before the Taracocha Lake and the campsite (4214 m).
Night in tents.
Ascent: 170 m / Descent: 294 m / Highest Altitude: 4090 m / Activity duration: 8-9 h
Included meals: Breakfast, Picnic, Dinner

Day 7

Trekking: Rio Pita (3750 m) – End of trek
Sunrise on Taracocha Lake is amazing, having the mighty Cotopaxi just in front and the Antisana behind. After breakfast, the team will head up to the highest point in the trek: Sincholagua mountain Pass (4408 m). The ascent is progressive and will go from “Paramo” vegetation with high grass to a rocky moraine. On the pass there is a great panorama to the Cotopaxi volcano and the valley below. The Rumiñahui, Pasochoa, Ilinizas, Corazon volcanoes are also visible and, in the distance, the city of Quito. Descending is a great walk by a lovely green valley that ends at Pita River’s bed (3750 m). A short 40 minutes hike by the river up to the mountain lodge with a perfect view to Cotopaxi volcano.
Night in tents.
Ascent: 194 m / Descent: 658 m / Highest Altitude: 4408 m / Activity duration: 7-8 h
Included meals: Breakfast, Picnic, Dinner

Day 8

Cotopaxi – Glacier training (4990 m)
After a good rest and a well deserve breakfast, a 2 hours transfer will take the group to the Cotopaxi’s Parking area (4587 m). Then an 1-hour hike to Cotopaxi’s mountain hut (4847 m), a short break, and then continuing the hike for another 45 minutes up to the low part of the glacier (4990 m). Once there, 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 (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: 4 – 5 h
Included meals: Breakfast, Picnic, Dinner

Day 9

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 back to Quito (3 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 10

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

ECU-18 – To request prices, please click on the BOOK TRIP bottom on the right sidebar and fill the information.


  • Local English speaking certified mountain guide during the entire program
  • Trekking assistant guides ratio: 1:5
  • Climbing assistant guides for Cotopaxi climb ratio: 1:2
  • City guide for Quito’s city tour
  • Private transportation throughout the entire program
  • 3 nights in shared double rooms hotels in the city of Quito
  • 1 night in shared double rooms in hotel in the town of Papallacta
  • 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
  • 3 nights in shared tent at campsites
  • Entry fee to the National parks and natural reserves
  • Entry fees to museums and sights mentioned in the program
  • Quality mountain tents – 2 people per tent during the trek
  • Group common campsite equipment
  • Porters and mule/horses for group campsite equipment and personal equipment
  • Cook during the trek
  • Meals as specified in the day to day itinerary


  • Domestic or international flights
  • Separate airport transfers in case of multiple arrival/departures
  • Personal climbing and camping gear
  • Insurance
  • Tips
  • Everything not mentioned in the “Included” list

QUITO: Hostal Fuente de Piedra 1 & 2 or similar

PAPALLACTAHotel Termas de Papallacta or similar

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

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

Tags: Climbing, Ecuador, Quito, Cotopaxi, Pichincha, F, F grade, Cotopaxi’s National Park, Condor