January 31 – February 8, 2020
Lead Guide: Dennis Broadwell


9 days in Ecuador
Grade: Beginner


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Cotopaxi is considered one of the most impressive volcanoes in the South American Andes. As the second highest summit in Ecuador at 19,347 feet (after Chimborazo), Cotopaxi offers an excellent introduction into the world of high altitude mountaineering. The mountain requires intermediate mountaineering skills and offers straight forward glacier climbing at moderately high altitudes. After climbing in the Pacific Northwest, the Ecuador Volcanoes are a great next step for those seeking to expand their international mountaineering experience.

Mountain Gurus offers two itinerary options for our Cotopaxi climb, we will select either option based on the experience and interest of the team. The trek and climb itinerary is better suited for beginner climbers, where as the Illiniza and Cotopaxi itinerary requires previous mountaineering experience as no climbing instruction is provided during the expedition.

Cotopaxi Trek and Climb • 9 Days

Mountain Gurus trek and climb to Cotopaxi offers the opportunity to hike and experience the beautiful Ecuadorian high country as we acclimatize in preparation for our summit climb. During the expedition we spend four days trekking throughout the Andean Forest, camping and staying in Hacienda’s. We hike through a rain forest, hike up Pasochoa and enter Cotopaxi National Park and climb the central summit of Ruminahui. Once at Cotopaxi base camp, we begin the mountaineering phase of our expedition, ascending the mountains glaciated summit with the use of ice axe and crampons. After completing the journey, we return to Quito for flights home.

Illiniza and Cotopaxi Climb • 9 Days

Our Cotopaxi climb first acclimatizes on three trekking peaks within the Ecuadorian highlands before ascending both Illiniza North and Cotopaxi. Pasochoa, Rucu Pichincha, and Corazon are all located within short distance of Quito. We first trek the extinct volcano of Pasochoa at 13,780 ft to the South. The peak offers stunning views of Cotopaxi as well as a chance to view condors and wild horses. The next day we take the cable car from Quito to over 13,000 feet and hike to the summit of Rucu Pichincha at 15,696 feet. Third up, we ascend Corazon at 15,715 ft. and overnight at a nearby Chuquiragua Lodge following our descent.

Our expedition now turns its attention to Illiniza North, after driving to the trailhead, we hike three hours to a rustic refuge at 15,416 ft. located between the north and south peaks of Illiniza. The Illinizas are well suited for acclimatization and are frequently climbed in preparation before climbing higher peaks such as Cotopaxi. The Nuevo Horizontes refuge is located at the northern flanks of Illiniza Sur. It is considered the smallest high-altitude refuge in the Ecuadorian Andes. Climbing Illiniza South (Sur) at 17,218 ft. is another option for experienced climbers with technical expertise.

After summiting Illiniza Norte, we overnight at the lovely Los Mortiños lodge. The next day, we continue to Cotopaxi, hiking less than an hour from the trailhead to the Jose F. Rivas refuge at 15,744 feet. Once at Cotopaxi high camp, we wake early to begin the final phase of our expedition, ascending to 19,347 feet, a top the mountains crater and summit.

Chimborazo Climb • 3 Days

Before departing for home, and acclimatized, consider extending the expedition with a climb of Chimborazo. Twenty thousand foot Chimborazo (20,702 ft / 6,268 meters) is Ecuador’s highest mountain. Chimborazo’s location along the equatorial bulge makes its summit the farthest point on Earth’s surface from the center of the Earth.

What skills are required to attempt the Ecuador Volcanoes?

Cotopaxi is considered a moderately challenging climb that is recommended for those with previous experience at higher altitudes. Advanced climbing skills are not required for this demanding but non-technical climb. You must be in very good physical condition and able to hike 7-9 hours to the summit. Previous climbing experience greatly increases your chance of reaching the summit. Ice axe and crampon skills are needed as the slope can be as great as 40-50 degrees just before the arriving at the summit. Glacier and rope travel skills are essential for a safe and successful climbing adventure. Mountain Gurus will help you refresh your mountaineering skills during the climb training day.

What is included in the Ecuador Volcanoes expedition?

This trip begins in the capital city Quito. From there, we travel less than two hours to Santa Rita and hike to the base of a beautiful waterfall through rain forest. We overnight at a lovely campground in the Santa Rita Ecological Reserve. We begin to acclimatize with increasingly higher altitude hikes each day.

From there, we will hike to the summit of Pasochoa and Ruminahui to further our acclimatization. These non-technical climbs, which include an enjoyable rock scramble are intended to assist you at higher altitudes necessary to summit Cotopaxi. The remainder of the trip is spent pursuing the summit of Cotopaxi. We will hike to basecamp, spending a night at Tambopaxi Lodge or the Cotopaxi Refuge which is situated on the northern flank of the volcano roughly 4,000 feet below the summit. After a night of rest and recovery we will attempt the summit.

What are the risks of climbing Cotopaxi?

Any high altitude adventure has risks. One of the best ways to mitigate these risks is to ensure you are in great physical condition before arriving in Quito. Stamina, training, and experience are required to deal with the challenges of Cotopaxi. Altitude sickness is one of the primary risks on a high altitude climb. It is important to alert your guide if you experience significant altitude illness.

Day to Day Itinerary

Day 1 • Arrive Quito
Day 2 • Santa Rita • 10,758 ft
Day 3 • Pasochoa • 13,780 ft
Day 4 • El Porvenir • 11,808 ft
Day 5 • Summit Ruminahui • 15,489 ft
Day 6 • Cotopaxi • 16,400 ft
Day 7 • Cotopaxi • 15,750 ft
Day 8 • Summit Day • Cotopaxi • 19,347 ft
Day 9 • Depart Quito

Day to Day Itinerary

Day 1 • Arrive Quito
Day 2 • Pasochoa • 13,780 ft
Day 3 • Rucu Pichincha • 15,696 ft
Day 4 • Corazon • 15,715 ft
Day 5 • Iliniza Refuge • 15,416 ft
Day 6 • Summit Day • Iliniza North 16,818 ft
Day 7 • Cotopaxi Refuge • 15,750 ft
Day 8 • Summit Day • Cotopaxi • 19,347 ft
Day 9 • Depart Quito

Chimborazo Climb

Day 9 • Rest day in Quito
Day 10 • Drive to Chimborazo Refuge • Hike to High Camp • 16,564 ft
Day 11 • Summit Day • Chimborazo • 20,702 ft
Day 12 • Depart Quito

My trip to Ecuador with Mountain Gurus was great. The logistics and Itinerary kept our team moving and allowed for acclimatization before our climb of Cotopaxi. Guides were on point the whole trip and overall fun friendly guys. I really enjoyed being able to trek to our different locations and all the places we stayed were clean with great food. Be sure to look these guys up if you are thinking of an international climbing trip.” December 2014, Kate



Expedition begins and ends in Quito, Ecuador

Day 1 • Arrive Quito

Arrive Mariscal Sucre International Airport, Ecuador (UOI). Most flights arrive in Quito (UIO) in the late evening. Upon your arrival in Quito, our driver will be waiting for you at the airport and will take you to the hotel.

Accommodations: Hotel in Quito

Day 2 • Santa Rita • 10,758 ft

We depart Quito, heading south and soon enter the Ecuadorian high country. After driving an hour, we reach our trailhead. We will trek along the Pita river through a lush rain forest, over serval bridges and past waterfalls until we come to large waterfall at the head of the valley. We eat lunch and then hike back to our starting point (hiking about 3 hours round trip). We continue another short hike from the trailhead to our expedition camp. Our camp is complete with a dining area and thatched roofs.

Accommodations: Tented Camp at Santa Rita
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 3 • Pasochoa • 13,780 ft

Today we trek to an extinct volcano located in the Guayllabamba river basin named Pasochoa. Our hike takes about 6 hours over hills and fields. On a clear day there is a chance of seeing condors and wild horses. We eat lunch on the summit and then return to camp.

Accommodations: Tented Camp at Santa Rita
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 4 • Los Mortiños • 11,600 ft

From camp we continue our trek to Hacienda Los Mortiños or Hacienda el Porvenir. El Porvenir is one of the largest farms in Ecuador. After our arrival there is an option for horseback riding (1-2 hours). Or you can just relax and enjoy the views of volcano’s Cotopaxi, Sincholahua, Pasochoa and Ruminahui.

Accommodations: Hacienda Los Mortiños or Hacienda el Porvenir
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 5 • Summit Ruminahui • 15,489 ft

Today, we set our sights on the summit of Ruminahui meaning “the stone face”. After a short transfer to the trailhead, we’re rewarded with great views of Volcan Cotopaxi as we begin our climb. We follow a good path most of the way, before it becomes sandy and loose. The last few hundred feet are bit of rock scrambling using a fixed hand line for support. A summit the views are well worth the effort from the exposed summit block.

Accommodations: Tambopaxi Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 6 • Cotopaxi • 16,400 ft

After our climb of Ruminahui we enjoy a bit of a rest day with a short hike to 5000 meters on Cotopaxi. We enjoy views of the northern Andean highlands, including Antisana, Cayambe, Illinizas, Pasochoa, Corazon, Sincholagua and even Pichinchas in the distance. We return to Hacienda Tambopaxi for the evening. A great little hacienda located in Cotopaxi National Park.

Accommodations: Tambopaxi Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 7 • Cotopaxi • 15,744 ft

After breakfast we gear up and are shuttled to the Cotopaxi parking lot. From here we hike to the Jose F. Rivas refuge at 15,744. We enjoy lunch and continue to the edge of the glacier. We will go over glacier skills during the afternoon. Some of the skills we will cover are crampon techniques, self-arrest, ascending and descending on various slope angles and in various snow conditions and traveling on the rope. We then go on a short climb up the mountain to acclimatize further before heading back to Tambopaxi or the comforts of our mountainside refuge.

Accommodations: Tambopaxi Lodge or Jose F. Rivas Refuge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 8 • Summit Day • Cotopaxi • 19,347 ft

Today is summit day on Cotopaxi. We leave the refuge around 1 am for a six-hour climb. From the hut we ascend moderate glacier slopes. We cross snow bridges and crevasses as the climb steepens. After passing through a heavily crevassed section of the glacier, we reach the final summit slope. Here a challenging section of 35-40 degree snow leads to the abrupt finish of the climb on the crater rim of the world’s highest active volcano. At the top of Cotopaxi you can look inside the crater and see its sulphur fumaroles. The crater rim measures approximately 800 m / 2,600 ft in diameter. The view from the summit is spectacular. Descend and return to the hotel in Quito.

Accommodations: Hotel in Quito
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch (B, L)

*** Day 9 option to depart for home after climbing Cotopaxi ***

Day 9 • Rest day or Depart Quito

We enjoy another rest day before heading to Chimborazo. Or take a short taxi ride and visit Ciudad Mitad del Mundo the Equator line.

Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

Depending on flights home, we may have time to explore some of historic downtown Quito. Transport to Mariscal Sucre International Airport for flights home. Many flights depart Quito (UIO) in the late evening.

Chimborazo Climb

Or continue to Chimborazo for a climb of Ecuador’s highest mountain.

Day 10 • Drive to Chimborazo Refuge • Hike to High Camp • 14,870 ft

We travel south towards Riobamba and Chimborazo. There is a chance to view Ecuador’s big ten volcanoes. Chimborazo’s location along the equatorial bulge makes its summit the farthest point on the Earth’s surface from the Earth’s center. It does not matter from which side you look at Chimborazo, it will impress you by its size and beauty. A short drive takes us to the trail head and Hermanos Carrel refuge where we grab our packs and begin a two hour walk to our high camp, Stubel Camp 16,567 feet / 5,050 meter. Porters will help carrying group gear to high camp. Vertical gain during the day: 650 feet / 200 meters

Accommodations: High Camp at Stubel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

*** We often overnight at Hermanos Carrel refuge instead of staying at high camp depending on group and snow conditions ***

Day 11 • Summit Day • Chimborazo • 20,702 ft

With a midnight alpine start, our route climbs to the west-northwest to reach the base of a rock formation called “El Castillo” (Castle Saddle at 18,044 feet / 5,500 meters). This new route is free from dangerous rock fall making it a much safer ascent. From the Stübel Camp, it normally takes eight hours to get to the Whymper summit from where you will enjoy one of the best views in Ecuador. After returning to camp, we pack and descend to Riobamba town. Vertical gain climbing: 4,135 feet / 1,260 meters. Return to Quito.

Accommodations: Hotel in Quito
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch (B, L)

Day 12 • Depart Quito

Transport to Mariscal Sucre International Airport for flights home. Many flights depart Quito (UIO) in the late evening.

Meals Included: Breakfast (B)

Itinerary Notes
Mountain Gurus makes every effort to uphold the scheduled itinerary, although our guides are given discretion to adapt the itinerary for reasons beyond our control or due to the needs of the group. Meal schedule: (B) Breakfast (L) Lunch (D) Dinner




Chimborazo Climb: $1000

An American guide is based on 4 or more climbers.

Deposit and Payments

$700.00 deposit includes reservation fee, due with application
Balance due 90 days prior to departure

Price Includes

  • Park fees
  • Scheduled land transportation in Ecuador
  • Hotels in Quito
  • Haciendas, refuge and tented accommodations
  • Scheduled meals during the expedition
  • Professional mountain guide
  • All group equipment for the expedition (tents, stoves, group climbing gear)

Price Does Not Include

  • International airfare and meals during travel
  • Non-scheduled airport transfers
  • Non-scheduled meals
  • Snack food during the expedition
  • Personal gear
  • Trip cancellation insurance (highly recommended)
  • Single room supplement (hotels only) $300
  • Medical and evacuation coverage
  • Early departure fees
  • Tips and gratuities


A complete clothing and equipment list specific to your trip will be sent to you in the PreClimb information upon reservation.

Head and Face

  • Warm Hat: Wool/ synthetic, one that covers the ears.
  • Buff or Balaclava
  • Sun Hat or Baseball Cap
  • Glacier Glasses: Essential eye protection at altitude. Wrap around style or side shields.
  • Goggles: Dark lenses to help with snow and wind.
  • Sunscreen: SPF 30+
  • Lip Balm: SPF 30+
  • Climbing LED Headlamp: Bring one extra set of batteries.

Upper Body

  • Baselayer Tops: One synthetic long-sleeve shirt.
  • Mid-layer Top: This is a synthetic or fleece top.
  • Softshell Jacket: This breathable but wind-and-weather resistant jacket. Hoods are highly recommended.
  • Hardshell Jacket: GORE-TEX© or a fully waterproof shell. Hoods are highly recommended.
  • Light Insulated Jacket: Light synthetic insulated jacket
  • Insulated Jacket: 700+ fill down.


  • Lightweight Gloves: One pair (WINDSTOPPER© is recommended)
  • Softshell Gloves: One pair. Leather palms offer durability and grip.
  • Heavyweight Gloves: Insulated glove or mitten with GORE-TEX© or waterproof outer.

Lower Body

  • Baselayer Bottom: One pair. Synthetic, no cotton
  • Softshell Pants: One pair. Synthetic, stretchy, non-insulated
  • Hardshell Pants: One pair of GORE-TEX© pants full-length side zips are required; you may need to take off your Hardshell pants without removing your boots.
  • Insulated Pants: One pair of synthetic insulated pants with full side zips.
  • Gaiters: Full-sized waterproof gaiters that must fit snugly over your mountaineering boots.


  • Mountaineering Boots: Full shank crampon compatible. Double plastic mountaineering boots or Heavy weight synthetic/ hybrid mountaineering boots are required.
  • Mediumweight Socks: Two pair of wool or synthetic socks.
  • Heavyweight Socks: Two pair of wool or synthetic socks for sleeping in and for summit day.

Note: Please read our Mountaineering Boot and Crampon guide for more information.


  • Sleeping Bag: Bring a warm bag (rated to 0ᵒ fahrenheit).
  • Sleeping Pad: A full-length closed-cell foam pad and/ or an inflatable pad.

Packing and Backpack

  • Backpack: One 60-75L pack with good support, adequate to carry personal.
  • Duffel: One large duffel for transporting gear.
  • Liner Bags: Two large plastic contractor bags.

Climbing Gear

  • Ice axe: 55-65cm mountaineering axe.
  • Crampons: 12-point steel with anti-balling plates.
  • Climbing Helmet: Lightweight
  • Alpine Harness: Lightweight alpine harness with adjustable leg loops.
  • Trekking Poles: Adjustable and collapsible with snow baskets.
  • Locking Carabiners: (2) Large pear-shaped, screw gate locking carabiners.
  • Non-locking Carabiners: (2) Wire gate non-locking carabiners.
  • Nylon Sling: (2) 60cm nylon slings


  • Water Bottle: Two, 1L wide-mouth plastic bottles. NALGENE©

Personal Health and First Aid

  • Snacks and drinks
  • Small personal first-aid kit and medications
  • Plastic bowl, insulated mug, and spoon
  • Toilet paper, blue bag or wag bag
  • Earplugs



Program Location:
Begins and ends in Quito, Ecuador

Visa/Entry Information:
A valid passport is required for American citizens to enter Ecuador. American citizens do not need a visa for visits of up to 30 days for tourism.

Health & Immunizations:
Immunizations are not required for entry into Ecuador

Flight Travel Information:
Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UOI), Quito, Ecuador

International Departures:
Itineraries reflect the date and time you will need to arrive in country for a program. Mountain Gurus programs begin and end in the countries destination city. When booking your flight, you will need to account for travel time and crossing the international dateline if needed. It is easiest to give your booking agent the day and time you will need to arrive.

Meals and Food:
All meals are provided as per meal schedule. See itinerary.

A complete clothing and equipment list specific to your program will be sent to you in the pre-departure packet upon reservation. For your safety and comfort, it is extremely important that you adhere strictly to the equipment list.

Ecuador Volcanoes Fitness & Training

Climbing Grade: Beginner   

Our climbs will start at high altitude huts and lodges allowing us to acclimatize and rest between summit climbs. Due to the high altitude nature of these climbs we recommend climbers to be in good physical condition with previous climbing experience.

Prior to the expedition we recommend climbing a Cascade Volcano to master the skills essential to reaching the summit.

Here’s a suggested progression of climbs before attempting the Ecuador Volcanoes:

  • Northwest Climb (Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, Mount Shuksan)
  • Glacier Mountaineering Course
  • Mexico Volcanoes, Mount Elbrus

Frequently Asked Questions

How hard is this climb and what technical skills do I need?

Climbers should have basic snow and mountaineering experience. We recommend taking our 5 Day Mountaineering Course or 4 Day Alpine Skills course.

When is the best season to climb?

The best time to climb in Ecuador is between November – February.

How much will my pack weigh on summit day?

Generally, pack weights will range between 20-25 lbs. This will include extra layers, food, and water for the summit push.

What is the guide to climber ratio?

Our local IFMGA certified guide Henry Moya leads our Ecuador expeditions. We strive to maintain a 2:1 climber to guide ratio. Additional assistant guides or American guides will be present for larger groups.