Cotopaxi Rapid Ascent™

5 days in Ecuador / (Skill level: Introductory)

Price per person

  • Next Available: Feb 12, 2020 - Feb 16, 2020
  • Upcoming: Jun 24, 2020 - Jun 28, 2020
  • Nov 25, 2020 - Nov 29, 2020

About this trip

Climb a 19,000' mountain in just five days! On this trip, you will be able to fly from home and be on a high altitude glacier within 2 days. You'll arrive back at home in just five short days. Our highly experienced Ecuadorian guides lead the expedition and will ensure your safety on the mountain while providing climbers with an interactive and authentic cultural Andean experience. The views from the summit are nothing short of breathtaking.


  • skill level


  • Duration

    5 days

This expedition combines our popular mountaineering school with Alpenglow’s Rapid Ascent™ system, resulting in the ultimate long-weekend climbing trip. At Alpenglow, we strive to make the mountains accessible to everyone. Until recently, it has never been possible to safely climb to over 19,000 feet in less than a week. This has deterred busy climbers from attempting to ascend high altitude peaks. Alpenglow solves this problem with the use of innovative Hypoxico pre-acclimatization tents.

Climbers utilize these tents at home for four weeks prior to an expedition, resulting in acclimatization that rivals what you would experience on a mountain. This pre-acclimatization system is the same used by all of our Everest teams dating back to 2012. The system has shortened their climbs by 50% and increased measures of safety and success. Cotopaxi Rapid Ascent™ also draws on geographical logistics perfected over decades of leading expeditions in Ecuador. This makes for an unprecedented mountaineering experience designed for the busiest of climbers.

Cotopaxi is one of the world’s highest active volcanoes, topping out at 19,347 feet (5,897 meters). It’s heavily glaciated, remote, and yet easily accessible to climbers. It serves as the ideal peak to learn and practice skills essential for high altitude climbing — in the time span of a long weekend.

Climbers meet in Ecuador’s capital of Quito. After a night of settling in and getting acquainted, 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 skills day, 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 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 most prestigious in the world, attained only by the most experienced and dedicated guides. 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 you’re healthy and strong enough to enjoy every aspect 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 lengths on peaks like the Seven Summits by 30-50%. On this Ecuadorian expedition, we use 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 process. Our goal is to ensure each climber is healthy, strong, and prepared for their summit climb of Cotopaxi. Join us for a few days and leave with memories that will last a lifetime.


  • Fitness

    Climbers must be in excellent physical shape to join this expedition. We cannot stress this enough -- fitness is the most important aspect of high altitude climbing. To develop the necessary level of fitness needed to climb big mountains, you must adapt a challenging, consistent exercise regime months in advance. We recommend a structured training program at a gym or with a personal trainer. Please contact us for more information on physical training.

  • Altitude Experience

    Rapid Ascent™ expeditions require a minimum altitude experience of 16,400ft/5000m. If you do not have this experience we recommend joining us on one of our traditional expeditions to gain the necessary experience required for Rapid Ascent™.

  • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • Day 5 — Head Home

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

      • Headwear, Eyewear and Gloves

      • Hat

        Bring your favorite baseball hat for shelter from the sun. No white under the brim - the reflection off of it from the sun is blinding.

        Recommended: Alpenglow 5-Panel

        $25.00 Add to cart
      • Beanie

        A comfortable, warm well-fitting hat that covers your ears. Make sure that one of your hats fits under a helmet.

        Recommended: Patagonia Beanie Hat

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      • Balaclava

        We recommend a tight-fitting balaclava that is worn under your hat. Make sure that it covers as much skin as possible, but is comfortable enough to wear for hours.

        Recommend: Patagonia Balaclava

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      • Neck Gaiter (Buff)

        A multi purpose neck gator that can also be worn under your hat. Make sure that it covers as much skin as possible and yet is still comfy.

        Recommended: Alpenglow Expeditions Buff

        $20.00 Add to cart
      • Sunglasses

        Must have dark lenses. Minimal light should come in below, above, or around the sides of the lenses.“Wrap” style is best. Ventilation is important and a retainer strap is very useful (Chums or Croakies).

        Recommended: Revoi Guide II

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      • Goggles

        These will be worn on stormy or windy days. Make sure you are getting a snug fit with lenses for bright sun. Ventilation and anti-fog features are desired.

        Recommended: Smith I/O

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      • Lightweight Gloves

        All-around gloves for mountaineering, backcountry skiing, and hiking. These gloves (and similar options) are warm, wind-resistant, durable and have a sure grip. You will rarely take these gloves off. They should be snug-fitting, and have some sort of reinforced palm.

        Recommended: Eddie Bauer Mountain Glove

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      • Midweight Gloves

        These gloves should be full GORE-TEX®, and insulated. These will be your main glove for the trip until summit days, or when it gets especially cold.

        Recommended: Eddie Bauer Guide Glove

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      • Heavyweight Gloves

        These gloves should be full GORE-TEX®, with a removable fleece liner (so you can take the liner out and dry it at night). These gloves are used at higher altitude and are need to keep your hands dry, and warm. Over the cuff style is desired.

        Recommended: Black Diamond Guide Glove

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      • Technical Equipment

      • Belay Device

        Light, easy to use + simple. Should have teeth/grooves for skinny ropes.

        Recommended: Petzl Reverso

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      • Harness

        Must have belay loop, gear loops and adjustable leg loops so that you can layer up underneath it. Easy to pack, lightweight + comfortable. Recommended: Petzl Altitude *Harnesses are also available to rent at no charge from Alpenglow expeditions on a first come, first serve basis.

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      • Upper Body

      • Alpenglow Pullover Hoodie - Limited Edition

        This Alpenglow hooded pullover is perfect for hanging around after skiing or climbing. It sports a white logo on the front center of the chest and the words "climb, ski, trek" vertically down the back.

        $45.00 Add to cart
    • 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.

    • Do I really need to purchase Travel and Rescue insurance?

      We strongly recommend purchasing trip insurance, and we require rescue insurance on all expeditions. Trip insurance covers issues that would cause you to cancel your trip in advance. Rescue insurance can help cover costs in the event that you decide to end your expedition early. We recommend Global Rescue for both types of insurance .

Chad Peele

Chad Peele has been guiding for over 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 multiple summits of both 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 an AMGA 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

co-owner / 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 spends time in the office helping the team with the day-to-day operations of the business. 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 an 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™

Cotopaxi Rapid Ascent™

Climb a 19,000' mountain in just five days! On this trip, you will be able to fly from home and be on a high altitude glacier within 2 days. You'll arrive back at home in just five short days. Our highly experienced Ecuadorian guides lead the expedition and will ensure your safety on the mountain while providing climbers with an interactive and authentic cultural Andean experience. The views from the summit are nothing short of breathtaking.