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Ecuador's Volcanoes General Info

Overview

Bisected by the equator, one part lying in the southern hemisphere and the other in the northern, Ecuador is a land divided into three distinct geological regions - Sierra, Oriente and Costa. These regions seem like three different planets squeezed into one tiny country. In addition, Ecuador controls the Galapagos Islands, which is even more like a distant universe.

Sierra - The Andes range runs through the centre of the country, with the highest peak towering well above 6,000m. The landscape is dominated by volcanoes, half of them active. Ecuador's main cities are located in the wide valley dubbed the Avenue of Volcanoes.

Oriente - East of the Sierra, this area of wet lowlands is covered by dense jungle and an intricate network of rivers, all of which carry water from the Andes into the Amazon River. This region is lauded for its extreme biodiversity.

Costa - Ecuador's Pacific coast is home to lush tropical forests, attractive beaches and the country's commercial capital, Guayaquil.

Galapagos Islands - Far out in the Pacific Ocean, this lost world is full of unique creatures that are not shy to show themselves to travellers. Explored by Charles Darwin in the 19th century, it is now of the world's top wildlife viewing destinations.

Quito

This expedition is based out of Quito and a mountain hostelria in the mountains nearby.

Quito is a modern city, located at an altitude of 2080m. This makes it a great place to start your acclimatisation. There are two areas of interest to the tourist; the Old Town (churches, plazas and ice cream) and Mariscal (beer, bars, restuarants, beer and more beer). There are no shortage of gear shops and supermarkets for last minute supplies.

The airport is located centrally, 20 mins from the city centre.

As with all South American cities, take care on the streets. Travel by taxi after dark, avoid displays of wealth and bling and leave your cash and bank cards in the hotel wherever possible. Robbery and theft is uncommon, but not unheard of.

Currency The US Dollar is the currency of choice in Ecuador. There are ATM's all over the place which accept 'western' bank cards.

Foreign currencies can be exchanged at banks and at casas de cambio (exchange houses), the latter being generally the best option. It may be difficult to exchange money in the Oriente. The rate of commission varies between 1 to 4%, so it is worth shopping around.

Major credit/debit cards are accepted in most businesses. ATMs are available at most banks in urban areas. On the Galápagos Islands, currently only Mastercard is accepted.

Traveller's cheques are generally accepted in the larger cities and can be exchanged into currency at most banks and casas de cambio.

Language

Spanish is the most commonly spoken tongue in Ecuador

Weather/ when to go

The weather in Ecuador is best in June-August or November-January. If you are planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands after the climbing, December-January is the best season.

The only thing that is reliable about the mountain weather in Ecuador is it's unreliability. Even during the climbing seasons, you can expect to experience snow, rain and high winds.

There are two dominant seasons: dry and wet. Ecuador's high peaks can be climbed at any time of year, but conditions on the volcanoes are usually best during the dry seasons of November to January and June to August. During these months, storms are usually less intense and less frequent. Many dry season storms are minor and do not prevent the high volcanoes from being climbed, since they typically don't dump enough snow to create avalanche hazards. But these are only generalizations, and nothing concerning weather can ever be guaranteed

The dominant winds in Ecuador blow from east to west, moisture collects from the Amazon basin, and is then deposited over the Andes to the west. Thus, the eastern chain of the Andes, the Cordillera Oriental, typically gets more snow and moisture than the western Cordillera Occidental.
In the tropics, there are two dominant seasons: dry and wet. Ecuador's high peaks can be climbed at any time of year, but conditions on the volcanoes are usually most ideal during the dry seasons of November to January and June to August. During these months, storms are usually less intense and less frequent. Many dry season storms are minor and do not prevent the high volcanoes from being climbed, since they typically don't dump enough snow to create avalanche hazards. But these are only generalizations, and nothing concerning weather can ever be guaranteed.

Mountain Huts

Most of our climbs involve a drive/ walk to a high mountain hut from which the summit can be reached. Mountain huts in Ecuador are surprisingly plush. They usually have fully-stocked kitchens #9propane stoves, eating utensils, plates, cookware and plates), running water, reasonably comfortable mattresses, and caretakers to watch over your stuff while you climb are all available.

Flights

From most UK airports to Quito via Madrid, Amsterdam or Miami usually cost £600 - £750.

To reach the Galapagos fly from Quito for an extra US$400 - US500 (plus a US$100 entrance fee).

Visa and Passports

Passport valid for at least six months required by all nationals. Visa’s are not required for British, Australian, Canadian, USA and EU citizens.

Food and Drink

It is advisable to drink only bottled or sterilised water in Ecuador. Avoid unpasteurised dairy products. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.

Health Care

There are plenty of pharmacies in urban areas. Good medical care is available in Quito, Guayaquil, and most of the big cities. Medical facilities outside the major towns are limited. Acute surgical and cardiac services are not available on the Galápagos Islands; therefore, for more serious illnesses, patients may be evacuated to the USA. Health insurance (to include emergency repatriation) is essential.