Cotopaxi Rapid Ascent

5 days in Ecuador / (Skill level: Introductory)

Price per person


About this trip

Five days is all you need! Enjoy an incredible view from the summit of Cotopaxi, one of the world’s highest active volcano, after learning all of the skills it takes to get you there. Gather intimate knowledge of the Andes Mountains, while being lead by senior guide, Jaime Avila, who gives climbers an interactive and authentic experience with Andean culture.


  • skill level


  • Duration

    5 days

This expedition is a combination of our most popular mountaineering school with Alpenglow’s Rapid Ascent system to create the ideal long-weekend climbing trip. It has never before been possible to safely and comfortably climb to over 19,000 feet in less than a week. This has meant that many busy climbers did not have the time to attempt a high altitude peak. We change that by utilizing Hypoxico pre-acclimatization tents at home for 4-weeks prior to the expedition, along with unparalleled logistics in Ecuador perfected over decades of leading expeditions here. This pre-acclimatization system is the same one used by all of our Everest teams since 2012, successfully shortening their climb by 50%, and increasing our safety and success.

Cotopaxi, one of the world’s highest active volcano (19,347 feet/5,897 meters), is heavily glaciated and remote yet also easily accessible. It is the ideal peak to learn and practice the skills essential to high altitude climbing, in a long weekend.

Climbers meet in Ecuador’s capital of Quito. After a night to settle in and meet the team, we move to a luxurious refuge high in Cotopaxi National Park. The lodge provides incredible food and stunning views of Cotopaxi while we practice skills and prepare for our summit push. We spend the afternoon of our arrival and the morning of the next day learning and practicing mountaineering skills: crampon and ice axe techniques, rope team travel, snow and ice anchor placement, and crevasse rescue. This training is essential in becoming a competent team-member on Cotopaxi and other peaks in the future.

At this point, we are ready to climb. We wake around midnight and climb in small rope teams, each led by an Alpenglow guide. The terrain varies from hiking on trails, to moderate crevassed glaciers, to a final steep summit headwall. The views from the summit are stunning, encompassing many of the surrounding volcanoes as well as the active crater of Cotopaxi itself. After enjoying the summit, our descent and arrival back to Quito is quick, in time for a celebration dinner with the team before catching flights home.

Our Cotopaxi Rapid Ascent climbs are guided by one or more of Alpenglow’s AMGA certified lead guides. AMGA (American Mountain Guides Association) certification is the highest possible training available to guides, and only the most experienced and dedicated attain it. 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 also guides with us in Nepal, Peru, Bolivia, and Alaska. Our small team size and low ratio of climbers to guides (2:1) ensures that you stay healthy and strong, and are able to enjoy each component of your experience.

Alpenglow’s combination of pre-acclimatization at home with the best guiding and in- country logistics has revolutionized Himalayan expeditions. The same system has reduced expedition length on peaks like the Seven Summits by 30-50%. On this Ecuadorian expedition, we utilize the same pre-acclimatization, quality of logistics, and guiding team. We work with you not only on the mountain, but also throughout your pre-acclimatization and preparation. Our goal is for each climber to be healthy, strong, and prepared for their summit climb of Cotopaxi. Join Us.


  • Fitness

    Climbers must be in excellent physical shape to join this expedition. This is perhaps the most important aspect of high altitude climbing, and cannot be stressed enough. Regular, challenging exercise for many months in advance of departure is the only way to gain the necessary level of fitness that is needed on big peaks. We highly recommend a structured training regime with a gym or personal trainer to assist you in preparing for climbing at altitude. Please contact us for more information on physical training.

  • Altitude Experience

    No prior experience at altitude required.

  • Technical Experience

    No technical climbing experience required.

    • Day 1 — Arrival

      Arrive into Quito (9,500 feet/2,896 meters) in the evening. Our guides will pick you up and bring you to our hotel, a local family-run place close to excellent restaurants and the tourist center of the city. (Wednesday)

    • Day 2 — Drive to Tombaxi

      After a big breakfast, we drive to Tambopaxi, at about 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) in Cotopaxi National Park. From the dining room of this beautiful lodge, we have a perfect view of our entire route on Cotopaxi. In the afternoon we practice a full gamut of big mountain skills including rope team travel and crevasse rescue. We also prepare all of our equipment for the climb. (Thursday)

    • Day 3 — Skills day on the Glacier

      We wake early to hike about an hour to the toe of the glacier on Cotopaxi. We spend the morning practicing glacier travel skills, most importantly self-arrest with an ice axe and efficient climbing techniques in crampons. We descend back to Tambopaxi for lunch, rest, and to prep for our summit attempt. (Friday)

    • Day 4 — Summit Day

      Summit Day! We wake at around midnight, have a hot drink and perhaps a snack, and then begin our climb. The route takes us across scree to the glacier, and then winds up through progressively steeper slopes and heavily crevassed areas. By dawn, we should be below the final headwall, 800 vertical feet (250 meters) of the steepest climbing on the mountain. In daylight, we work our way up this slope until we are standing on the edge of Cotopaxi’s crater, with stunning views in every direction. After a few photos, we descend back to the refuge, and then continue our descent all the way to our hotel and a well-deserved celebration in Quito. (Saturday)

    • Day 5 — Head Home

      Depart Quito for home. Flights generally leave early in the morning and arrive home in the afternoon. (Sunday)

    • Would you consider doing a custom expedition on Cotopaxi?

      We always consider customs. Custom trips make up more than 50% of our groups.

    • What is the longest day I can expect?

      Your longest, most difficult day will be summit day on Cotopaxi. We wake very early in the morning, using headlamps and warm layers. Climbing steadily through the night, we find ourselves high in the peak when the sun rises. After gaining the summit, we descend all the way back to base camp. You can expect between 12 and 15 hours of steady movement.

    • What is rapid ascent?

      Rapid Ascent is a unique program developed by Alpenglow Expeditions that combines the relatively new application of hypoxic training with precise logistics and small team sizes to greatly increase the chances of success while reducing the overall time spent away from home on an international expedition.

    • What do I need to do to confirm my reservation?

      When an expedition is more than 90 days out, we require a 20% deposit to guarantee your reservation. Within 90 days we require full payment.

Chad Peele

Chad Peele has been guiding for 15 years and works full time as a mountain guide. Based out of Ridgway Colorado, Chad spends his winters instructing and guiding on some of the best ice terrain the U.S. has to offer. Outside of Colorado he has traveled and guided extensively throughout North and South America with several trips to the Himalayas including Everest and Ama Dablam. When not in the Mountains Chad does clothing and equipment design for Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent outdoor line.

Chad is a AMGA certified Rock & Alpine guide.

Guide Certifications
  • AMGA Certified Alpine Guide
  • AMGA Certified Rock Guide

Esteban “Topo” Mena

Topo’s formal name is Esteban Mena, but he goes by his nickname. Esteban Topo Mena is 28 years old and began his guiding career at 19, when he climbed Aconcagua’s South Face and became the youngest person to accomplish this difficult climb. Topo began guiding in Ecuador and Peru. In 2012, Topo summited Manaslu and in 2013, he summited Everest – both without using supplementary oxygen. Topo again summited Everest in 2016 while supporting his wonderful partner Carla as she successfully summited without supplemental oxygen. In 2018 Topo summited both Cho Oyu and Everest with clients in under 30 days. An incredible achievement that only the best guides in the word could attempt. He also has climbed challenging new routes in Kyrgyzstan and China and one of his climbs (Kyzyl Asker) has been nominated for the Piolet d’Or (as part of an Ecuadorian team).

Guide Certifications
  • IVBV IFMGA UIAGM - Mountain Guide

Jaime Avila

Jaime is Alpenglow Expeditions’ senior lead guide. A native Ecuadorian, Jaime has been guiding and climbing throughout South America and the world for twenty years. He has successfully led groups on challenging routes like the Southwest Ridge of Ama Dablam (Nepal), the Shield Route of Huascaran (Peru), the Polish Direct on Aconcagua (Argentina), and El Altar (Ecuador). We have been guiding, climbing, and traveling with Jaime since 1998 and the feedback from members is always the same: there is no better teammate. Whether climbing a tough ice route, humping a huge pack, or stuck in a storm, Jaime will keep you laughing, learning, and glad to be in the mountains. He is an ASEGUIM / IFMGA certified mountain guide.


Guide Certifications
  • IVBV IFMGA UIAGM - Mountain Guide

Logan Talbott

director of operations / chief guide

Logan has been guiding professionally for over a decade in the disciplines of Rock, Alpine and Ski Mountaineering. When not out guiding, Logan keeps things running smoothly as the director of operations at Alpenglow Expeditions. From one day ascents of El Capitan to big Alpine climbs in the Himalaya, from ski descents on Denali to backyard ski tours in Lake Tahoe, he can’t help but smile when out running around the hills. Logan is a fully certified AMGA/IFMGA mountain guide, an Avalanche course leader with AIARE, as well as a wilderness EMT. In addition to guiding, Logan has extensive experience in mountain rescue, having worked for rescue teams in both Yosemite and Denali National Parks, and volunteering locally for Tahoe Nordic SAR. When not out in the hills, he lives in Truckee, CA with his lovely wife Lynette and daughter Maggie.

Guide Certifications
  • AMGA - American Mountain Guide
  • IVBV IFMGA UIAGM - Mountain Guide

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    Cotopaxi Rapid Ascent