Front Range Mountain Guides of Colorado
Chimborazo : 20,701 ', Cotopaxi : 19,346 ', Iliniza Norte : 16,818 '
Cotopaxi : 19,346 ', Iliniza Norte : 16,818 '
Beautiful volcanic snowcapped high altitude peaks with great snow climbing opportunities
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Ecuador is a beautiful country with a diversity of landscape that is equal to any place we have ever traveled. With snow covered peaks reaching to over 20,000 feet in elevation and great accessibility from the city of Quito, it is a great place to experience high altitude mountaineering as it’s a slight step up in climbing difficulty from the Mexican volcanoes.
We offer a nine day/two summit trip climbing Iliniza Norte and finishing with 19,346’ Cotopaxi, or an extended twelve day/three mountain trip with the third peak being the climb of 20,701’ Chimborazo.
Our gradual acclimating schedule is very sensitive and designed for people coming from low altitudes, allowing them plenty of time to gradually ascend and retain the red blood cells they have acquired while hiking and climbing the first mountain.
On the first day in Quito, we purchase some supplies for the trip and then a 4WD transport takes us for a 2 hour ride to “the Virgin”, the name of the trailhead area where we make our first camp. Here, we are treated to the sights of hills with quilted patchworks of tilled fields in various hues of green making a wonderful sight for the eyes. In the morning, this camp gives us a spectacular view of Cotopaxi’s near perfectly formed cone protruding from the blanket of clouds to our east, while to the west we see the flanks of 16,818’ Iliniza Norte and 17,268’ Iliniza Sur beckoning us.
We spend the second day at this camp acclimating with light hiking from 12,000’ to 14,400 feet in preparation for our climb of Iliniza Norte, a great peak that only has an elevation gain of less than 1,700 feet from the hut to its summit, at 16,818’ . After a night at the Iliniza hut at 15,250’, we climb Norte, and return to” the Virgin” area where we are transported to a hacienda lower in the valley. We have a night there to get a hot shower, a great Ecuadorian home cooked meal, relax by the huge fireplace, chat with locals and then repack for our trip to Cotopaxi.
The next day, after a quick stop for supplies in the quaint little town of Machachi, we drive through Cotopaxi National Park. Here, the terrain changes from forests filled with alpacas (a gift to Ecuador from Peru’s past president) to vast open expanses resembling a moonlike landscape. The boulders were actually strewn everywhere by a long ago eruption of Cotopaxi and range in size up to that of a large truck! As we drive higher to our drop off point, the air thins, gets cloudier and colder. From the drop off point, We have a short hike to the Jose Ribas hut on Cotopaxi, where we have a great meal served in a dining area, comfortable beds and plenty of room for a rest before an early morning wake up to climb Cotopaxi.
Our summit day begins very early with breakfast in the hut. After filling our thermoses and water bottles we head out into the brisk night air under a roof of countless stars. Our early start, together with being roped as a team, allow us to safely cross over crevasses on still frozen snow bridges. Around 8 hours later we are standing on the summit of the second highest mountain in Ecuador and a beautifully formed volcanic cone covered in snow is before us. The climb takes us up thru extensively crevassed snowfields, with interesting snow and ice formations all along the way. We climb thru the night into the early morning light and get our first glimpse of this beautiful mountain. Along the way, we stop briefly several times to rope up, get pictures, and change out water bottles as we finish them off. The final 900 feet or so of this climb is very steep and give us plenty of opportunity to front point our way up its side. The cold, clear air and the spectacular views of the Ilinizas, Cayambe, and Chimborazo in the distance make this summit a special place.
For those of us who are climbing two mountains, we head back to Quito that afternoon where we have
time to visit some of the historical colonial district and do some shopping in town. We often have
an extra day that we can visit Otavalo, a historically interesting area where the Quechua people live
and work making all sorts of leather and woolen (llama and alpaca) products. We stop on the way
and grab some photos standing on the equator, where the Ecuadorians erected a monument to the
French scientific team who came to locate it several hundred years ago.
Our final evening in Quito is marked with a dinner and lots of stories to share!
For those who are attempting all three mountains, upon descending Cotopaxi we take a three hour ride to
Ambato where we stay in a nice hotel and relax for the evening, taking a short walk for a nice evening meal.
The next day we drive to the high parking area of Chimborazo and after a 45 minute hike we reach the hut. The hut is expansive and comfortable and allows us lots of room to find a quiet place to sleep before we begin our midnight ascent of Chimborazo.
Our ascent begins at midnight and will take up to twelve hours or more to complete. The climbing ranges
from low sloped snowfields to short, steeper sections and a final long push to the true summit. Here we
find ourselves standing on the point that is the farthest place on the planet from the earth’s center!
(the earth bulges at the equator so that this is farther from the earth’s center than even the summit
of Everest!) After several hours of descent, we drive back down to town to eat, relax, and then head back to
Quito for a final night in Ecuador with plenty of choices of places to eat our final meal together before
flying home with lots of treasured memories.
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