Day 1: Scheduled Flight to Quito
Scheduled flight to Quito. In the afternoon we land in the capital of Ecuador and we immediately continue our trip with a drive to Otavalo. This colourful small town is located 2,500 metres to the north of Quito. Here we check in to a traditional hotel in the proximity of the famous market.
Day 2: Hike along the Lake Cuicocha (3,100 m). (4 hours +350 m / – 350 m)
After breakfast we go for a stroll to the colourful market of Otavalo and we make our first experiences with the culture of the country in the Andes.
After a coffee we drive up to Lake Cuicocha and we hike around the entire lake. We intentionally take our time, because our acclimatisation for the ascents of the summits begins now. We appreciate the diverse flora and we enjoy the wonderful view. After we finished hiking around the lake a very exciting drive, that is about 1.5 hours long, brings us to Pukyu Pamba. In Pukyu Pamba we use a wonderful idyllic estate, that is well kept by a local family with a lot of love for detail, as our accommodation for the next two nights.
Day 3: Ascent of the Volcano Imbaburra (4,609 m, + 1,000 altitude metres / – 1,000 altitude metres)
On today’s tour we ascent the Volcano Imbaburra, which was extinguished a long time ago. The mountain is of mythological significance for the local inhabitants. We start our ascent through the Pàramo, the omnipresent grassland of the highlands of Ecuador. We enjoy the great view on the city Ibarra and the snow covered Cayambe. Afterwards, the path becomes more rocky and more exposed and then via short and easy climbing sections we reach the edge of the crater and then the summit. The following descent follows the same route and we enjoy another night at the estate in Pukyu Pamba.
Day 4: Along the „Avenue of Volcanoes“ to the Cotopaxi
After breakfast we drive along the Avenue of Volcanoes, whose name goes back to Alexander von Humboldt, toward the south in the region of the Cotopaxi National Park. On our way there are many great sceneries that invite us to make stops and take photographs. We surely will take a photo break at the equator, which we will cross during our drive to the south. After checking in to our rooms in the beautiful and traditional Hacienda, the lodge Cuello de Luna, which is at the foot of the Cotopaxi. We visit the rose farm in the area and we stroll through the historic district, which is built from tuff, of Latacunga.
Day 5 – Day 6: Ascent of the Illiniza North 5,126 m and Illiniza South 5,248 m
By now we are quite well acclimatised to the height, thus we direct our attention toward the first 5,000er summits. We drive to the foot of the Illiniza and for the next two to three hours we hike up to the mountain hut Nuevos Horizontes (4,650 m), while only carrying a light daysack. Our equipment is carried by pack animals.
From here on we ascent the rocky but manageable and mostly snow free northern summit of the Illiniza. We spend the night in the suitable, but rather simple, mountain hut Nuevos Horizontes.
The next day, we have our first „real“ summit ahead of us. To ascent the 5,248 m high Illiniza South we require all of our equipment, after all, we have to cross an easy but rather steep corn snow passage. After the descent, we enjoy a wonderful meal at the hut, before we descend all the way back to the Hotel Cuello de Luna.
Day 7 – Day 8: Ascent of the Cotopaxi, 5,897 m
After a short approach to the National Park Cotopaxi and an ascent of about an hour (+ 220 altitude metres) we reach the mountain hut „José Ribas“ at 4,847 m, the starting point for the ascent of the Cotopaxi. An early supper allows us to catch some sleep before we start our trip to the summit at midnight. Depending on the existing circumstances and our shape on that day, we should reach the summit after about six to eight hours. The ascent of 1,050 altitude metres is not very difficult. However, it is long and strenuous. The path through the glacier changes from year to year. Our mountain guides know the current situation and they will lead us on the rope. In case the weather is agreeable, the panorama of the volcanoes surrounding us will be overwhelming and spectacular. Afterwards, we descend and drive back to our quarters at the hotel Cuello de Luna.
Day 9: Salinas de Guaranda
After the strenuous day yesterday, we tackle this day more comfortably.
After breakfast we drive southwards, always along the „Avenida de los Vulcanes“. After about three hours of driving we reach the picturesque mountain village Salinas de Guaranda (3,600 m). We can already see the Cimborazo from here.
We recover in the peaceful surrounding of this mountain village and we get some insight into the lives of the high land Native Americans. Interesting tours are possible, after all, many things are produced here far away from anything. Products like Queso Suizo, chocolate, pottery, jewellery, dry mushrooms, wool products, footballs, salami etc. are produced here. We spend the night in a simple hostel.
Day 10: Salinas de Guaranda – Whymper Hut
After lunch, we drive to the Refugio Carrel (4,800 m) and then we ascend to the Refugio Whymper at 5,000 m. The winding road leads through picturesque landscapes and toward the Chimborazo. We encounter llamas and alpacas and soon we reach a gorgeous and windswept plateau on which free-living vikuñas are grazing. Our driver brings us to the Carrel Hut at 4,800 m, the starting point for the ascent of the Chimborazo. From here, we ascent to the Whymper Hut within about an hour and we carry up all the required luggage. We have the mountaineering highlight of the Chimborazo, an extinct volcano with many craters and five summits, ahead of us. Alexander von Humboldt thought that the Chimborazo is the highest mountain on earth. Indeed it actually is the highest mountain on earth – when measured from the centre of the earth at least. However, when attempting to ascent the Chimborazo, Alexander von Humboldt did not succeed. The first person to tame the Chimborazo and ascend it successfully was Edward Whymper, the first climber of the Matterhorn, in 1880. Due to the ash precipitation of the volcano and the general climate change, there is an increased risk of rock falls on the normal route up to 5,500 m. For this reason, depending on the circumstances of course, we will establish a high camp at El Castillo (5,500 m) and we won’t sleep in the hut.
We spend the night in the mountain hut or the high camp El Castillo.
Day 11: Ascent of the Chimborazo (6,268 m)
Around midnight we start our march to the summit. The ascent route is decided by our mountain guides the evening before. This is, of course, done in consideration of the current weather and snow conditions. In case the circumstances and conditions allow it, we will follow the classic normal route to ascend the Chimborazo. It takes between eight to ten hours to get from the hut to the highest point of Ecuador, the summit of the 6,268 metres high Chimborazo. In case the conditions of this route are bad, we choose the variation that leads over the El Castillo. For this purpose a high camp would be necessary, but it would also make the summit day shorter by three hours. Both routes promise a wonderful and unique summit experience. From up there we have a wonderful view on the Riobamba far below us. For the descent to the Whymper Hut we require about four to five hours. After the successful arrival on the summit we return to the bus in the afternoon and then drive to Baños, a pilgrim location and thermal spring location at the gates of the Amazon.
Day 12: Hike in the Pastaza Valley
Today we go on a trip in the Pastaza Valley. Many waterfalls pour into the tight valley. High above the river we cross over to the other side of the valley with a „Tarabita“, a local cable car, and on the other side we then continue our hike through subtropical gardens and lonely villages. The Pastaza Valley slowly becomes broader and the basaltic rock walls make way for the always green tropical expanse of the Amazon lowlands. After a late lunch we, of course, will pay a visit to the Pailon del Diablo the most famous waterfall of Ecuador. In the evening we return to Baños. We use the remaining time before supper and stroll through the beautiful location.
Day 13: Drive to Quito – Sightseeing in the Colonial Historic District
In the morning we drive back to Quito, where we arrive in the early afternoon.
We check in to a hotel that was built in the colonial style in the centre of the very beautiful historic district. We stroll through the alleys of the historic district, that was pronounced to be a World Cultural Heritage by the UNESCO in 1979. Furthermore, we surely visit churches and squares, the Panecillo, a museum maybe. We spend the night in a hotel.
Day 14: Departure from Quito
The morning in Quito is out our free disposal. We have a little bit of time in order to stroll through the streets and buy some souvenirs. After lunch we are brought to the airport and we depart from Quito in order to get home.
Day 15: Arrival Back Home