Mountaineering near the equator

Visit us in Ecuador. A country full of contrasts: long sandy beaches, impenetrable jungles and 6000 meter high volcanic mountains. This small country has a lot of attractions, being in size smaller than the old West Germany.

Our travel leads us mainly into regions of the Andes now. For acclimatization we explore the historic center of Quito with the Panecillo as a first "mountain" and finally the center of the world, Mitad del Mundo.

We start some interesting tours in the north of the country. Firstly we will wander around the blue bright crater lagoon Cuicocha, in a national park under the impressive volcano mountain Cotocachi. Here, there live yet Andean bears, wolfs and pumas, but they appear seldom from alone.

From Otavalo we climb then on the 4.263 meter high Fuya Fuya, as a first mountain to start with the mountaineering. He is situated above a magnificent crater lagoon with panoramic views onto Otavalo. Next in the row is the Imbabura, an even larger mountain, followed by the Pasochoa, with respect to his vegetation the most interesting mountain of the entire country and the Rucu Pichincha, located directly in the capital.

With the Illiniza Norte follows then already a 5000 meter mountain, just before approaching two completely big ones. Primarily we plan to ascend the Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano on earth, being slightly less than 6000 meters in height and then, as high point of the tour the 6.273 meter high Chimborazo, the mountain with the largest distance to the geocenter.

Highlights

  • Quito
  • Panechillo
  • Mitad del Mundo
  • Laguna Cuicocha
  • Volcan Fuya Fuya
  • Illiniza Norte
  • Pichincha
  • Cotopaxi
  • Chimborazo

Dates and prices

  • Travel time:  17 Days
  • 1. bis 17. Dezember 2009 Price: 1.395 Euro
  • Ask for other dates, up to 2 Persons we will find a way.

Our services

  • Transfer from the airport
  • Journeys through the country with busses and taxis
  • Accommodation in simple hotels or tents
  • Mountain tours inclusive organization, tour guide and leased equipment
  • Entrance fee national park
  • Travel guide on location
  • Guided mountain tours
  • Food during the guided tours
  • Mountain guide for the high mountains

Not included services

  • Travel accident and sickness insurance
  • Luggage and cancellation insurance
  • Not advertised meals and drinks
  • Gratuities
  • Expenditure of personal needs

Number of participants

  • Minimum: 2
  • High: 10

Tour overview

Day 1: Arrival

For the day of arrival we have scheduled a short stroll around town, as finish to the day we present further information about country and pending tour at a local and characteristic dinner.

Day 2: Panecillo

Already at the second day we plan to climb our first real mountain, namely the Panecillo (small biscuit), only slightly more than 3.000 meters high and with the aluminum stature Virgen de Quito, in my opinion fairly unshapely. Here at the top we plan to visit our first market, of course accompanied by wonderful views over the entire city.

Later we plan to have a look at the colonial Old Town. All places of interest will surely not become visited at once, but highlights like the Plaza de Independencia, the governmental buildings, the cathedral, Casa de Sucre and Iglesia San Augustin we can probably manage to explore. At the end we will drive to the equator memorial " Mitad del Mundo", a falsely measured center of the world.

Day 3: Otavalo

Most of the tourists visit Otavalo because of the Indigena market on Saturdays, the most important one in South America. Here you can buy all kinds of Souvenirs: stones, sculptures, books or cards. In addition there is an extensive range of culinary products as a matter of course, even living animals are sold. But most interesting are certainly the diverse woven products. Ponchos, trousers, pullovers, jackets – everything desirable is traded here, in the Otavalenos’ tradition, an Indian tribe, who could manage to gather some wealth through weaving.

But we venture out of the city into the surrounding regions, where we are awaited by the crater lagoon Cuicocha, one of the most unique nature wonders of this country.

Laguna Cuicocha means see of guinea pigs. Anyhow, this intensely colored crater lagoon is 200 meters deep. In the middle rise two small islands, the Isla Thedoro Wolf and the Isla Yerovi. The walking-tour is not really short, but absolutely not difficult. From the picnic zone you can surround the whole lake, everywhere on orderly arranged paths.

The region belongs to the national park Reserva Ecologica Cotocachi y Cayapas, who consists out of 200.000 ha. With more or less luck, you can sight here rabbits and wolves, even Pumas, but the latter, they are pretty much never observable.

It is possible to book organized boat trips around the islands, further on there is a simple hotel and a small restaurant for buying fresh trouts.

This magnificent walking-tour in the nature protection area is a tour for a complete day from Otavalo. You can surround the deep blue crater lagoon on good paths in soft up and downs, with grand views across the lake.

From above there are not only spectacular insights; direct in front of our visual field raises the massive shape of the volcano. The extinct Cotocachi volcano belongs with his 4939 meter height to the country’s very big ones. One feels nearly reminded on landscapes of African velds. An exciting path leads directly above the lake between characteristic highland vegetation and fantastic steep cliffs to the main entrance.

Day 4: Volcano Fuya Fuya

Otavalo is the initial point for our first larger mountain tour to the volcano Fuya Fuya (4.293 m). Therefore we drive with the car from Otavalo to the nearby located Laguna Mojanda, a deep blue crater lake, being the starting point for some very interesting walking-tours. Our aim is the extinct volcano Fuya Fuya, only 500 meter higher on the right side, above the lakes surface. The biggest part of the slope uses orderly paths, but at the stony summit ridge the path's shape grows more complicated and the hands must help occasionally. After climbing the peak and enjoying the fanciful views we walk round a part of the lake, the entire lagoon would be a little to much. Especially the black rock formations of the Jana Urku, towering on the lake’s other side, impress the eye.

Day 5: Taita Imbabura

Now we move our starting point into the idyllic small mountain village La Esperanza, amidst fields of green corn and potatoes, above Ibarra, the biggest city in the country’s North. The most interesting tour around La Esperanza is without doubt the 4.682 meter Volcano Imbabura.

In the early morning we move firstly in the direction of Zuleta and shortly before the bridge to the right side into a small street. A part of this route we might choose to accomplish in an all-terrain taxi. A small parking lot, respectively a turning place defines the end of the passable track, past this the path is significantly smaller, but keeps his direction and is simple to find. Little later the path turns left and rises in some serpentines across a ridge to the crater’s rim. The trails grow here slightly undistinguishable. Some rocky passages can be evaded quite simple, always when it seems to grow difficult; it changes to an easier track very soon. After an exhaustingly steep passage to the crater’s rim, direct soft rocky steps to the fore summit. Usually the tourists think that their tour has already ended here, the main summit is hid in the mist on the crater’s other side, but the trails of the path direct further along the crater. However the way moves plainly downhill and thereby through rocky, dangerously fractured appearing terrain. It is not too much track downhill; the climbing passages are absolutely unproblematic, at maximum first level of difficulty. Soon we stand in front of the rocky summit’s superstructure. Again everything looks more difficult than it is. Every now and then there will be a small way through and roughly 30 to 50 meters of altitude difference later we reach the summit, rich on promising views. The insights from here into the city of Ibarra with about 100.000 inhabitants are interesting above all.

We descend from the mountain completely on the same path. To suffer no shortage of time, we spend the night again in La Esperanza, were we will eat dinner, too.

Day 6: La Esperanza

Day of rest, we stay on the country in the idyllic La Esperanza. Nice walking-tours through the surprisingly green fields might be undertaken from here, as an alternative to simple relaxation. Who wants to, might obtain a description of the road to the thermal baths at Ibarra from our tour guide.

Day 7: Pasochoa

Despite his height of „only" about 4.200 meters, the Pasochoa is more than worthwhile as a destination for a tour. In the national park with the same name grow gigantic many different sorts of plants and lots of small animals live there. We wander through a passage of old-growth mountain forest, found rather rarely these days. At the top we find then fabulous views onto the nearby located Cotopaxi, the Sincholagua and the countless roofs of Quito. Afterwards we return by car to Quito.

Day 8: Rucu Pichincha

One of the most known mountains in this small Andes country is surely the Rucu Pichincha, who rises directly above the capital. In difference to earlier years, the danger of eruption is now limited and since there works a cable car in the proximity, the problem with the raids is practically over.

By means of the already mentioned cable car " Teleferico" we can hover up towards the mountain onto comfortable 700 height meters from Quito. Now follows a fantastic walk above the never ending capital, later through colored and impressive rock formations to the top. On the normal path there are little difficulties, on clear days the perspectives and views are only more compelling, anyway we have reached so already Mont Blanc height.

Day 9: Illiniza Norte

After having spent now some days in higher regions, follows now one of the highlights of this travel, one of the real big mountains, for many of the tourists probably the first 5000 meter mountain at all. Illiniza Norte is the name of our tour destination, with impressive 5.116 meters above sea level. To travel there we have the help of an all-terrain vehicle. We will drive onto significantly more than 4.000 meters. Just before we venture through barren Paramo landscapes and finally across steep sand paths, we climb up to the Refugio Nuevos Horizontes, where we will spend the night, on 4.700 meters height, thus only 100 meters less than the Mont Blanc’s peak. The climbing will take about 2 to 3 hours, in the afternoon it grows rainy here at the top usually. If this is not so, we can explore the surroundings around the mountain hut. At least a stove to cook a portion Spaghetti for us stands here.

Day 10: Paso de la Muerte

After a cold and uncomfortable night the weather seems usually again better on the next morning, at least it is dry and there remain only 500 meters of height difference to climb up. We feel attracted by the simpler north summit. Our tour guide takes care to carry a rope at least. This will not proof wrong, because often, a thin snow layer covers the rocks and makes the passages through the rock significantly more difficult. Fortunately, the climbing passages are very short. Firstly we move on path trails to the saddle La Ensillada between both of the Illiniza summits. From there raises a steep streak out of sand and rubble up to the south ridge, directing us further to the foot of the south tip of the summit ridge. Now we have to descend for some meters to accomplish a sensitive crossing, the so called Paso de la Muerte, the passage of death. This way we will reach one of the side ridges of the summit ridge, stretching downward to the east. Here upon, you can climb directly to the peak or evade the ridge and ascend after a short crossing in a small rocky gorge, leading straight up to the main summit.

Back in the mountain hut we just fetch our sleeping bags and descend then directly to our vehicle, which will bring us back to Quinto.

Day 11: Day of rest

On this day we plan to sleep long and then visit an Ecuadorian partner agency, to arrange everything for the mountaineering onto the Cotopaxi. We are going to assemble all equipment for the tour. Shoes and climbing irons might be tried. Thereafter we will look around in the North city of Quito, on request, and test the countless alternatives for shopping. Particularly the famous Avenida Amazonas will be examined more carefully by us. On the broad promenade stroll many tourists and rich Ecuadorians. And also the bad sides of the city do not remain in the dark. Begging children, old or ill locals try to better their low earnings a little here. Also this is South America.

12 Day: Cotopaxi national park

The journey has begun now – towards the harmoniously proportioned ice volcano.

We start now finally with an off-road vehicle and indigenous tour guide, first in the direction Machcachi, from where we turn then off into the Cotopaxi national park. After paying the necessary fine at the entrance, we drive through natural landscapes with varied flora and countless vicuñas, towards our big objective, the Cotopaxi. The sandy track winds itself in the direction of a hut, onto a height, comparable with the Mont Blanc, in narrow serpentines. A small parking lot on 4.440 meters height displays the end of the driving route. Now it is becoming strenuous, the equipment’s weightiness and the great height, being reached by car, make themselves felt. The trail consists out of extremely slippery sand and therefore proves to be very exhausting to wander at. Fortunately there are only 300 meters of altitude difference to the mountain hut, the Refugio Jose Ribas on 4.800 meters height and we have surely sufficient time for this way. Anyway, we reach the mountain hut quite fast. Many day visitors move along here, too, but the larger number belongs to the aspirants of the Cotopaxi. The rest of the day remains for small exploration tours through the multicolored stone formations of the steep volcano’s cone. Who wants to, has the possibility to relax simply, because there is no further program scheduled for today, except for dinner and arranging the equipment. Early we go to bed, respectively to the simple wooden plank beds, where we try to sleep a little.

Day 13: Cotopaxi

Exactly at midnight we wake up and latest at 1 o’clock, after the breakfast, we start our tour to the top. This is relevant, because of the hot sun at the equator, making soft the ice and the rock crevices’ snow bridges soon.

Cotopaxi and Ojos de Salado maintain a debate for the title of highest volcano on earth. In every case significantly more active than the other one is the Cotopaxi. Some years ago, parts of the ice cap melted away, in an eruption, and a massive mudslide destroyed big parts of the nearby small town Latacunga with some death casualties.

Meanwhile the Cotopaxi’s height has been corrected on 5.895 m by a survey. In former times he was classified with 6.005 m as a real 6000 m mountain. But who sees this harmoniously proportioned ice cap for the first time, will have few thoughts for such games with numbers, facing practically an ideal picture of an ice covered volcano. He can be seen from the capital Quito at good weather conditions and forms therefore one of the town’s landmarks.

We climb the first ice fields in the light of our headlamps. Initially the slope goes moderately up. Further up the terrain grows steeper, up to 45° steep icy flanks wait to be crossed. About 8 hours later we stand on the spacious crater’s rim, at good weather conditions, whole Ecuador lies under us. But we have to go yet the entire way back. Now we can realize the white shining firn areas correctly and enjoy this grand beauty. From the hut we move back to the vehicle and then onward to Quito. The rest of the day is for relaxation.

Day 14: Day of rest

After a hard tour day we relax and gather energy.

Day 15: Chimborazo

A real 6000 m mountain is now our next destination, a highlight of the travel is the climbing of the 6.268 m high Chimborazo, the highest mountain in Ecuador. We stay overnight in the Whymper hut, located slightly above 5.000 m. For the climbing of the summit remain yet 1.300 strenuous meters of height, some basic condition is advisable now. With an all-terrain vehicle, the hut can be nearly reached. Meanwhile we should be acclimatized sufficiently. Anyhow, a small walking tour is advisable, so we are able to explore the first part of the ascent. Again we dinner early and prepare the equipment. Also here the sleep is only uneasily, because of the height and cold, and again we stand up at midnight.

Day 16: Climbing of the summit

The highest of the extinct volcanoes in Ecuador, and since the new surveying of the Cotopaxi also the only remaining 6.000 m mountain, is surely one of the most favored mountainous destinations of the country, if not of the entire Andes. No wonder, considering that only few mountains of this size can be reached thus fast and without too big alpine difficulties. For a long time the Chimborazo was considered to be the highest mountain of the world, until yet greater mountains where discovered in Asia. If the distance to the geocenter would serve as the measure, he would be the highest mountain of the world indeed, because of the elliptic shape of earth there is nothing more distant to the geocenter than the Chimborazo’s summit. The first serious summit aspirant was no less than the famous explorer Alexander von Humboldt in the year of 1802. He reportedly arrived at more than 5.800 meters of height, thus far in the glaciers’ zones, before he was forced to turn back by weather and large crevices. Even if he had to return from a point further below, by means of these former times this is an impressive achievement. Later, Simon Bolivar tried the Chimborazo, but he returned at the snow line. The first real summiteer was than in fact a little less famed, but in every case, everything else than an unknown one. Edward Whymper and Antoine Carrel worked together, to climb onto the icy top of the Chimborazo on 4 January 1880. Today, the main summit and one of the two huts at the mountain have become named, according to the famous Englishman.

We cross long ice passages and some crevices in the light of our headlamps. But the 1.300 meters of altitude difference between 5.000 and 6.300 meters bear a challenge, the climbing reveals to be exhausting and long-winded. The more beautiful the view from the highest point. The panorama stretches over hundreds of kilometers, a truly lofty experience. But we have to climb down again, so that we must not sleep in the mountain hut once more. Thereafter we drive back to Quito. There awaits us a shower, a good meal and a cool beer.

Day 17: Return flight

Sad but unavoidable we must return home some when. Anyhow, we fly above gigantic Andes mountain ranges and outstretched landscapes of primeval forest. This might be the beginning of new dreams. Maybe you are not for the last time in South America now.

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