Ecuador's Volcanoes

Ecuador’s Avenue of the Volcanoes provides one of the best introductions to high altitude mountaineering in the world. These monsters rise to over 6,000 meters and offer awesome trekking and mountaineering challenges to novice and experienced climbers alike. This is the perfect place to expand your high altitude mountaineering experience.

The objectives of this expedition are the high Andean peaks of Illiniza Norte and should have done this ages ago!

The Ilinizas

These are the 6th highest and the 8th highest peaks in Ecuador. They were formed when one large volcanic crater was blown in half, leaving two separate peaks. Iliniza Norte is the easier of the two and offers excellent trekking, it's a great peak on which to acclimatise.

The attack on either of the Iliniza's is a two day affair, starting with a 4 hr trek up to the Refugio Nuevos Horizontes. We spend the night here and set off for the summit early the following morning. The route to the summit gives excellent, steep scrambling over exposed and rocky terrain.


This huge volcano lies 35 miles south of Quito and is a stunning 5897m high cone of ice. It is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world.

From the Jose Rivas hut at 4800m (1hr walk from the parking area) climbers have 1100m of moderately angled glacial slopes to cover before reaching the summit.

The glacier is often heavily crevassed and route finding can be difficult. Late in the season, ladders are often required to bridge the larget glaciers.

Don't underestimate this mountain, the climb is long and arduous... 


Day 1. Arrive in Quito (2800m), airport collection and hotel transfer.

Day 2. Free day in Quito.

Day 3. Climb Pasachoa (4230m), then transfer to the Hacienda La Estacion (3300m). We leave Quito early in the morning and drive southeast for about 2 hours through the Andean highlands to reach the trail head (3300m). The trek passes through primary Andean forest and arrives on the summit after about 4hrs. Good views of Antisana, Cayambe, Illinizas, Cotopaxi and Chimborazo (6hr round trip). Overnight in the Hacienda.

Day 4. Climb Corazon (4786m), overnight at La Estacion. We drive south through the Avenue of the Volcanoes to the village of El Chaupi, where the trail head starts (4000m). It’s a 5hr trek over sandy, volcanic terrain with some easy scrambling to the summit. Round trip, 8hrs. Return to La Estacion by late afternoon.

Day 5. Transfer to the Nuevos Horizontes Hut (4750m) on Iliniza Norte. We leave Hacienda and drive to La Virgen (3900m), near El Chaupi. From here it’s a 3 to 4 hours trek up to the Nuevos Horizontes Refuge (4750m). Mules will carry luggage. Overnight at the refuge.

Day 6. Climb Illiniza Norte (5126m), then return to the vehicle at La Virgen. The climb starts at about 5am and covers rocky, sometimes snow covered terrain with patches of steep scrambling (grade I/II) on the Paso del Murte. It takes about 4 hours to reach the summit. After a hot drink at the hut we retrace our steps to La Virgen and transfer to the Tambopaxi Lodge (3700m) in Cotopaxi National Park.

Day 7. Rest day

Day 8. A short drive followed by steep 45 minute yomp gets us to the Jose Rivas refugio (4800m). In the afternoon, we head out to the glacier for basic ice axe, crampon and roped glacier travel training. Overnight at the refugio.

Day 9. Cotopaxi summit climb (5897m) and return to Quito. We set off at midnight for the slog to the summit. It’s a 6 to 8 hour climb over moderately angled but crevassed snow slopes. It’ll take 2 to 3 hours to get back down to the parking area and an hour to drive to Quito.

Day 10. Spare day in case of bad weather.

Day 11. Airport transfer and flight back home. This expedition can be combined with climbs of the Ecuadorian giants Cayambe and Chimborazo on a bespoke basis

If you'd like to spend more time climbing in Ecuador, try these:


This enormous mountain was scaled in 1880 by Edward Whymper and for many years was considered to be the highest mountain on the planet. It's summit is known to be the farthest point from the earths center.

There are many routes up its slopes but only two 'standard' climbs; The Direct Route and the Whymper route, both are relatively straightforward glacier climbs with snow and ice at 30-35 degree’s, route finding and crevasse difficulties and the occasional section of scrambling. In recent years, these routes have become icy and treacherous - and the route changes year-to-year. The main challenge of the climb is not the technicality, it's the effort required to get to the top. From the Wymper Hut at 4800m, it's a brutal 14hr climb to the summit.


This is Ecuadors’s third highest mountain, located 40 miles North of Quito. The route is more complex and steeper than Cotopaxi and Chimborazo. Huge crevasses, complex icefalls, and seracs provide interesting climbing. The ascent of Cayambe follows diverse glacier terrain to the summit crater where challenging route-finding around a gaping bergschrund provides an exciting climax to the climb. It’s a 1200m ascent from the hut to the summit.

Cayambe has the distinction of being the highest point on earth through which the equator line passes.