Alpenglow’s guides have been climbing and guiding in Ecuador since 1994 and believe it is unparalleled for learning the essential skills of high altitude climbing, while also exploring a friendly and interesting culture. On this expedition we focus on education, building technical skills and experience, while our team attempts to summit Cayambe, the third tallest peak in Ecuador. At 18,996 feet (5,790 meters), it is heavily glaciated and remote yet also easily accessible. Instead of taking weeks to reach a peak in Alaska or the Himalaya, we can successfully arrive, learn and practice skills, acclimatize, and summit all in only one week! Our main goal in our “school” programs is to ensure that your mountain skills are up to speed so that you are can be a confident and active participant on this and other climbing teams moving forward.
Our expedition begins in Ecuador’s capital of Quito. The city, surrounded by 4 glaciated peaks, sits at 9,500 feet (2,896 meters), so your acclimatization begins immediately upon arrival. We spend the first day exploring the old colonial center of Quito and enjoying fantastic food and hospitality. We continue our acclimatization, now taking our classroom to the field by riding the local telepherique to 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) on Rucu Pinchincha, and then hiking to the 15,700 foot (4,785 meter)summit. If conditions allow, we will take a technical knife-edge rock ridge to this summit, learning about rock technique and the use of fixed lines.
From there we move to Otovalo and the Hacienda Pinsaqui, stopping along the way at the beautiful Mojanda volcanic lakes and a climb of Fuya Fuya (14,000’/4263m). This extinct volcano has incredible views of the surrounding mountainside and further prepares us for the altitude challenges ahead. After a relaxing night at the historic Hacienda Pinsaqui, we are ready to move to the refuge high on Cayambe.
The refuge provides excellent food, stunning views of the mountain and a perfect place to further acclimatize. Based out of the refuge, the team will discuss and practice climbing skills on Cayambe’s glacier. This education day provides vital information to becoming a competent team-member on Cayambe and future peaks. The team practices crampon and ice axe techniques, traveling on a rope team, snow and ice anchor placement, and crevasse rescue.
At this point, we are ready to utilize our new skills on our climb. We wake at around midnight for the climb, which might take 7-12 hours round trip. The views from the summit are always stunning, and encompass many of the surrounding volcanoes, as well as Cayambe itself.
After descending from the peak, we head back to Otavalo for some much needed pampering. On Saturdays, the day we will be there, Otavalo holds one of the largest indigenous markets in South America. The shopping for friends back at home is incredible, as are the opportunities to explore the local Otavalan culture. And, since we are based out of the garden paradise of our friends Frank and Margaret, it is also an ideal place to rest and recover from our climb.
Heading home after Otavalo is one option, however, we encourage those who have the time, to stay for summit attempts on Cotopaxi and Chimborazo, where you will be able to build on and test all of the training you’ve done leading up to here. Cotopaxi, 19,347 feet (5,897 meters), sits in the Cotopaxi National Park and is heavily glaciated. The route is longer than Cayambe, and is an excellent place to continue building comfort with crampon and ice axe techniques. Chimborazo, with a summit at 20,703 feet (6,310 meters), is the tallest peak in Ecuador, and considerably taller than any peak in North America. Its altitude, the length of the summit day, its technical challenges, and the skills you’ve learned to get there, make it a perfect final peak of the trip, and excellent preparation for big mountains anywhere in the world.
Our Ecuador Climbing Schools 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. Our lead guides have also traveled and climbed extensively in South America and know the Ecuadorian volcanoes intimately. Their knowledge of Andean culture as well as the mountains, combined with their passion for teaching others to become competent mountaineers, guarantees that your experience will be one to remember!
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) will be essential to our experience. 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.