Alpenglow’s guides have been climbing and guiding in Ecuador since 1994. They believe it is an unparalleled destination for learning the essential skills of high altitude climbing. Ecuador also offers a friendly and interesting cultural experience. On this expedition we will focus on education, building technical skills, and gaining mountaineering experience on an attempt to summit Cotopaxi, the second tallest peak in Ecuador. Cotopaxi’s highest point is at 19,347 feet (5,897 meters) and it is heavily glaciated. Although geographically remote, the mountain is easily accessible. As opposed to the weeks it requires to travel to peaks in Alaska or the Himalayas, we arrive, develop skills, acclimatize, and summit Cotopaxi in a single week. The main goal of our “school” programs is to ensure that your mountain skills are up to speed. This will help you grow into a confident and active participant on present and future expeditions.
Our expedition begins in Ecuador’s capital of Quito. Four glaciated peaks surround the city, which tops out at 9,500 feet (2,896 meters). The high elevation jumpstarts your acclimatization process upon arrival. We will spend the first day exploring the old colonial center of Quito and enjoying fantastic food and hospitality. After we spend the day exploring, we’ll regroup in the evening and enjoy a team welcome dinner which is included in the expedition pricing. The next day we continue our acclimatization by taking our classroom out into the field. This entails riding the local telepherique up to 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) on Rucu Pinchincha and then hiking up to the 15,700 foot (4,785 meter) summit. If conditions allow, we will traverse a knife-edge rock ridge to the summit, implementing technical rock climbing techniques and the use of fixed lines.
After our adventures in Quito, we will travel to a luxurious refuge located in Cotopaxi National Park. The lodge features delectable food and a stunning mountain backdrop. Here we will develop and practice techniques necessary for the summit push. We will spend the afternoon of our arrival and the morning of the next day learning and practicing mountaineering skills. These include crampon and ice axe techniques, roped team travel, snow and ice anchor placement, and crevasse rescue. This training is essential for establishing your competence as a team member on Cotopaxi and future expeditions.
Upon completion of our training, we will be ready to climb. A midnight start ensures plenty of time to complete the journey. We will set out in small roped teams, each led by an Alpenglow guide. The terrain will vary from rugged hiking trails to moderately crevassed glaciers. Eventually we will reach the final, steep summit headwall. Enjoy the sensational views from the top, encompassing many of the surrounding volcanoes, miles of rolling hills, and the active crater of Cotopaxi itself. Once we’re finished, we will embark on a quick descent back to Quito, in time for a celebration dinner with the team before flying home.
Our Ecuador expeditions are guided by one or more of Alpenglow’s AMGA certified lead guides. AMGA (American Mountain Guides Association) certification is the most prestigious in the world, attained only by the most experienced and dedicated guides. Our lead guides have traveled and climbed extensively throughout South America and possess intimate knowledge of Ecuadorian volcanoes. A thorough understanding of Andean culture combined with a passion for teaching others guarantees an experience you won’t soon forget.
We combine our guides’ experience with the local expertise of our close friend and expert Ecuadorian logistics operator, Jaime Avila. Jaime is one of Ecuador’s most respected guides and has also guided in Nepal, Peru, Bolivia, and Alaska. His local knowledge (of the mountains, the markets, and the salsa clubs) is essential to the experience. Our small team size and low ratio of climbers to guides (2:1) highlights an attention to detail, ensuring you’re healthy and strong enough to enjoy every aspect of the expedition.