Our acclimatization for Cotopaxi begins the moment we step off of the plane in Quito. Perched at over 9000’, the capital city of Ecuador is the hub from which we begin our mountaineering adventure. Our own itinerary can be adjusted to accommodate your personal interests, objectives, and timeline, but a typical adventure is as follows:
The first day we will adjust ourselves to the altitude—and to the rhythm of a different land and culture—by exploring the hilly city of Quito and its many neighborhoods, cathedrals, parks, and other attractions. The next day we’ll head higher, toward the summit of Pichincha (15,696’) which flanks the city. Traversing its slopes and then pushing up through a rocky scramble—or even trying a few technical pitches—we’ll arrive at the summit, looking way, way down at the hubbub below.
The next day we’ll set off for Cotopaxi, taking a 4x4 over a long and rough road through Ecuador’s spectacular “paramo”—highland grasslands. The grasslands end abruptly at the base of Cotopaxi and we will begin a steep drive to the refuge at 15,000’. The following day we’ll practice the mountaineering skills we’ll need for the summit push, then return to the refuge to rest up for the day ahead.
Our summit day will begin at about 1am, rising, suiting up, and heading out the door under the glow of our headlamps. Up and up we’ll push into the darkness, first on volcanic ash and rock, then onto snow, and then the glacier. Rising toward the summit cone, as the sun rises, you’ll see spectacular ice walls, seracs, crevasses, and steam vents. The top often requires crossing a fixed ladder before pushing up over the snow cap to “La Cumbre”—the summit. On one side of us, the summit falls away into an immense volcanic hole, on the other, a field of snow drops away thousands of feet to the paramo below.
Coming back down, we’ll see the territory we passed in the darkness, marveling at the mechanical forces contained within this mountain and displayed on its slopes. Once back at the hut, we’ll pack up and depart for Quito. As our schedule and inclinations allow, any days left can be enjoyed in Ecuador’s renowned cultural center, Otavalo, or considering other outdoor pursuits…either provides a satisfying finish to a summit adventure whose rewards you’ll carry with you long after the backpack has been put away.
*This is only a sample/suggested itinerary. We are happy to work with you to customize a trip to your own personal priorities and objectives. Feel free to connect with us if you’ve got any questions about the nature of the trip, the elements involved, or any other aspects. We do look forward to sharing this unique, international climbing experience with you!
For a look at our suggested clothing and gear for the Ecuador Volcano Mountaineering experience, click here.
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