Ecuador is a treat for ice climbers with the Andes range running through it and dividing the tropical rainforest basin of the Amazon from the coastal plains. The Andes are a relatively young mountain range and almost all major peaks are of volcanic origin. Ecuador boasts of 10 peaks over 5000m with Chimborazo, the highest one at almost 6300m and numerous summits over 4000m. The Ecuadorian Andes are divided in the Eastern and Western Cordilleras, which run close to each other and are separated by valleys of no more than 15km across. They are mostly smooth and grass covered with volcanoes rising separately out of them and standing alone by themselves. Permanent ice starts presently at around 5000m.
In our climbing programs we offer a good mixture of mountains for beginners to advanced climbers with various degrees of technical difficulties.
A key to enjoying the mountains of Ecuador is proper acclimatization, it is not just helpfull but necessary before attempting any of the summits due to the high altitude of the Andes. In case that you are afflicted by altitude sickness on a climb or you are physically exhausted, there will be no refund.
All climbing tours start and end in Quito and are accompanied and guided by Ecuadorian professional mountain guides, who are trained in rescue and all other aspects of mountain climbing. They are all members and certified by ASEGUIM, Ecuador's association of mountain guides. We also carry on those excursions modern communications, like two-way radio and/or cellular telephones with us in case of emergencies.
In the price of the tours are included all the transport from Quito to the mountains and back, all the refuge and hotel stays, the food provisions while climbing and of course guiding. The usual ratio on the glaciers is one guide for two climbers, extending it in some cases to three climbers.
Below is a sample itinerary that includes the very best glacier climbs in Ecuador with several days of acclimatizing before the first climb.
Arrival at airport and transfer in at a historic hacienda well located near Pasochoa volcano.
On our first day we drive to Pasochoa Forest Reserve to loosen a little up after your long flight to Ecuador. Although the peak is no more that 4200m it is a long hike from the entrance to it and back. Part of the hike is spent in a mountain forest and part in the open paramo along the edge of an old eroded crater rim.
We start our excursion in earnest by going to the starting point of the Sangay trek. First we drive to Riobamba, where we arrive after 3 and 1/2 hours and stop for lunch. From there on, we continue on a secondary road to Guargualla, a small agricultural community located at 3200m and our start of the trek. This stretch of the drive takes another 2 hours time and we spend our first night there in a hut.
n the first day we begin hiking early in the morning because we need 8 to 9 hours to reach our first night site, a straw thatched shelter, which is located on a high plateau called Plaza Pampa. To get there, we have to hike the first 5 hours up the Guargalla valley to reach the pass, called Escaleras at 3900m. Reaching the pass gives us our first views of Sangay, assuming of course rare good weather and which stays then in sight for most of the remaining 4 hours of hike. The hike of our first day is mostly on good mountain trails with some crossing of smaller rivers.
The next morning we continue our trek towards the foot of the volcano, to our base camp, called Campamento Playas. The trails change from dry to muddy and the area from the higher paramo grounds to more forested areas. Right in the beginning we also have to crisscross the river, named Rio Negro, several times and therefore rubber boots are a must for this second day of our trek. We reach our camp site in around 5 hours and spend the afternoon resting for the intended midnight climb.
If the volcanic activity of Sangay is low, we start out at midnight and reach the summit in approximately 7 hours. The climb is not technically difficult but the volcano is steep sided and frozen at night. If there is snow cover we also have to use crampons and ice axes. Another risk are flying stones ejected with a great force from the crater and loose rocks, falling from the flanks. Therefore head protection is a must for the climb and we need of course a headlamp. The descent back to base camp takes another 3 hours and we should be there again for lunch. After that we pack up and hike back to Plaza Pampa.
In the morning we start our walk back towards Guargualla, which we should reach early afternoon. After a quick lunch we begin our drive back to Quito, where we arrive later in the evening around 8 pm. and spend the night at our hacienda in the Chillo valley.
Today we put in an easy day with some sightseeing of Quito and surrounding areas like Middle of the world and the colonial downtown.
Early in the morning we leave our hacienda and head south on the Pan American Highway towards the Ilinizas. After 2 hours we arrive at the parking area called La Virgen and then make our way up to the refuge, where we arrive around noon. After lunch and a small rest we start our climb of Iliniza Norte, which we reach after 2 hours. Another hour back to the refuge where we have dinner and go to sleep for next day climb of Iliniza Sur.
After breakfast we start our climb at 3 a.m. of this beautiful ice covered peak. With normal conditions we reach the summit at about daybreak. After spending time on top we descend back to the refuge and then to the car park. We arrive back in our hacienda in the Chillo valley in the middle of the afternoon. We can enjoy the inhouse spa facilities swimming pool, jacuzzi and steam room.
We put in a rest day in the Chillo valley which also serves as an extra weather day if a climb to the southern peak was not possible.
At 9 a.m. we head from our historic hacienda to Cotopaxi National Park where we visit the on-site museum and have lunch at noon. Afterwards we continue on to the car park and embark on a 45-minute hike up to the refuge. At 6 p.m. dinner is served and then everyone heads upstairs for a pre-climbing rest/sleep.
After an early midnight breakfast we begin our climb of Cotopaxi. After a 1-hour hike on gravel and rocks to the glacier, we put on our ice-climbing gear and get ready for a 5-hour hike on ice to the top. Reaching the peak at dawn, we admire the grand views it offers and head then back down to the refuge. After a short rest we pack up and move back to Quito, where we spend the next night.
We leave Quito at 9 a.m. and head north on the Pan-American Highway to Cayambe. We arrive at the refuge at 4600m at around noon and have lunch. After a 6 p.m. dinner we rest for the midnight climb.
We start out at 1 a.m. after a midnight breakfast and reach the top at around 8 p.m. After enjoying the views, weather permitting, we descend to the refuge arriving around 11 a.m. Then back to Quito where we arrive in the middle of the afternoon.
We put in a rest day in Quito which also serves as an extra weather day if needed for either Cotopaxi or Cayambe.
We leave for Riobamba and drive to the lower refuge of Chimborazo mountain. We have lunch there and afterwards hike 30 min. up to the second refuge at 5000m. The afternoon is spent around the refuge, preparing for the midnight climb. After a 6 p.m. dinner we rest/sleep in preparation for the climb.
We begin our climb at midnight and reach the summit in 7 to 8 hours. Depending on weather conditions we spend up to half an hour on top and then begin the 4-hour descent back to the refuge. After a short rest we drive back to Quito, where we end our climbing expedition.
Today we visit the Hot Springs of Papallacta for a well-deserved ending to our climbing excursion. Relaxing in the hot waters of Ecuador's most famous spa, it let us forget about the efforts it took and relive the beautiful aspects of our climbs. In case it is needed, this day also serves as an extra weather day.
The above is a sample itinerary prepared for a ice climbing trip. It can be customized to fit the needs and special interests of your travellers.