Avenue of the Volcanoes
If flying on Continental or Iberia, we recommend planning to arrive on the evening of this day.
Those on KLM flights will arrive this morning. An orientation tour of the old colonial city is included in the trip, prior to or following the trip briefing by the tour leader (weather dependent). Quito is probably the most attractive of all the colonial capitals of South America - it is very small by South American standards, and it's easy to wander around the streets of the colonial part without getting hopelessly lost or put off by the distances involved. As the city is at an altitude of approx 2850m, you should take it easy on the first day. Today we will also do the main briefing and check everyone's mountaineering equipment for the later parts of the trip. We will need a list of any required equipment for rental at least 1 week before arrival to prepare it for you.
We head north from Quito along the Pan American Highway and after two and a half hours will reach Cuicocha Lake. This beautiful caldera (volcanic crater) is about 2 miles wide (3 km) and was formed about 3100 years ago by a massive volcanic explosion. The undulating trek around this lake will take about 5 hours and at approx 3150m – 3500m altitude it provides excellent acclimatisation. We then head on northwards to Pantavi where we overnight in a stunning converted hacienda at the much more comfortable altitude of 2050m
Please note that occasionally, we walk the Pinan Trek in the opposite direction when we know that another group is scheduled to walk the trek in the regular direction at the same time. From a small village at 2,500m we start our first walk towards the next village at 2,900m. An easy path leads us to our campsite, where we should have the opportunity to meet some of the local population. Today's walk is around 3-4 hours, and a packed lunch is included.
Today our path goes uphill, passing mountain forests and paramo landscape. With a bit of luck we may even spot a condor. After 6-7 hours we should have walked over the pass at 4000m. Overnight at Yanacocha Lake at 3930m.
Today we start our 6-7 hour trek to the top of the extinct volcano of Yanaurco. We pass very interesting sections with unique highland vegetation. The ascent is relatively easy but rather steep. The final part is a rocky ridge and the summit (4,535m) is a natural garden. We descend toward the south and continue around the mountain toward the next campsite at 4000m.
From our camp at the Cucharo crater we walk over an oasis at 3960m to drop down to a valley. We trek through evergreen Polylepis forests and continue descending to the next villages, passing through farmland. The final altitude of our trek is about 2500m where our bus will meet us for the drive to the small village of Tumbabiro. The trek will take 7-8 hours and there is optional late afternoon visit to the lovely medicinal hot springs of Chachimbiro where we can relax and soothe any aching limbs.
An early start as we drive back south to the cloudforest and farms at the foot of the Imbabura Volcano. This 4,630m peak towers over the city of Ibarra and the peak can occasionally be snowclad. Nonetheless, the ascent is straightforward and only involves a little light scramble towards the top where it becomes rocky. After the ascent we head onto Otavalo to make a brief return to civilisation. Total hiking time is approximately eight hours.
Free time today to rest, catch up on some laundry or chose from the many local options for activities or just explore the famous Indian market of the Otavalo. Optional side trips to Peguche and Cotacachi provide cultural interest, or those who simply can't stop walking can take the hike to Peguche Waterfalls.
We have a leisurely start before driving in the late morning to Cayambe Volcano. This 5,790m extinct volcano is Ecuador's 3rd highest peak and while a little lower than Cotopaxi, the climb is considerably more difficult and dangerous due to the very active glaciers. We spend the afternoon hiking up to the lower glaciers on which we start honing our ice-skills. We'll be practicing on the ice at about 5000m and this combined with spending the night at the refuge (about 4,800m) will give our lungs a good test and provide excellent acclimatisation.
After breakfast in the refuge, we'll head back out onto the ice to continue to practice ice-skills and explore a little of the peak's beautiful but treacherous glaciers. We'll then walk back down to the refuge for lunch and afterwards descend and drive back to Quito and the comparatively low altitude of a mere 2,850m! After a tough couple of days at about 5000m, this will give our bodies time to rest, recover and prepare for the final push in a couple of days
Today is a free day in Quito. There are many possible optional day excursions in and around the city, please speak to your guide earlier in the trip for advice on the possibilities, but the museums, cathedrals and old town can easily keep you occupied inside the city, or you may want to consider trips to the equator line or the cloud forest reserves (these will require prior organisation with your leader).
We drive south to Cotopaxi National Park today. From the Cotopaxi Plateau on a clear day the mountain is clearly visible, and with binoculars we can pick out the route of the climb. We drive up to the end of the vehicle track at 4,600m, after which a 45-minute walk brings us to the Cotopaxi refuge at 4,800m. We have some final time to practice walking on the glacier for any who still feel they need it, then return to Jose Rivas Hut, for supper and an early night! Any clients choosing not to climb will accompany the climbing group until the afternoon and then walk down to the hut and transfer to the lower and more comfortable Tambopaxi Mountain Lodge.
We start around 0h30 a.m. after a light breakfast and begin the 6-8 hour climb to the summit (5897 metres). The first hour is on scree, after which we climb onto the glacier itself, probably the most difficult part. It is then a long, steep slog on snow, with the final 200m becoming more steep and challenging. There are some impressive crevasses on the way, and a massive rock face known as Yanasacha, around which the trail bends. After a short (and often very cold) stay on the summit to admire the remarkable views into the 500-metre-wide smouldering crater and out across the highlands, it takes about three to four hours to descend to the hut. We rejoin our vehicle and drive down the mountain to Quito. Any clients who chose not to climb will have a guided hike amongst the beautiful scenery and lakes of Cotopaxi National Park at the foot of the volcano before returning to Quito with the group.
The trekking on this trip is suitable for people in good physical condition who are able to walk 5 to 8 hours a day. Part of the trek is off-trail, and most of the walking is at altitudes between 2500 and 4500 metres. Participants in the Cotopaxi climb must be in very good physical condition and experience in trekking at high altitudes will offer an advantage.
You do not need experience in climbing, but the altitude and steep gradient are a challenge. Ice-skills are taught and practiced during the trip, prior to reaching Cotopaxi and this really will enhance your chance of success. According to statistics from Ecuador, the success rate of summit attempts on Cotopaxi is about 70% for those with ice experience prior to their summit attempt and only 30-50% for those without.
The success rate for non-experienced people in difficult weather and ice conditions is only 0-10%. With the training and acclimatisation provided on this trip, the success rate is high and is mainly determined by the weather.
The 'Avenue of the Volcanoes' is liberally sprinkled with some of the world's highest volcanic peaks. This comprehensive trek combines serious volcano climbing with some cultural highlights. We acclimatise with the Pinan Trek amongst the rolling highlands of the Cotacachi-Cayapas Reserve and ascend Yanaurco (4530m) before heading south to climb Imbabura Volcano. We visit the Indian market at Otavalo before practicing our ice-skills on Cayambe Volcano's glaciers, the only ones in the world that cross the equator. The focus of this trek is the tough but non-technical ascent of Cotopaxi (5897m), the world's second highest active volcano. Our acclimatisation is carefully planned and along with thorough ice-skill training and a client to guide ratio of 2:1 on Cotoapaxi, we have the best chance of reaching this spectacular summit.
Note: Whilst this trip is graded C, please note that the Cotopaxi climb (included in the price, but optional for all clients) is Grade D - Tough.
+ (Grade C + D) - Difficulty ratings explained
All breakfasts, 11 lunches and 9 dinners
Day 1 - Fly to Quito.
Day 2 - Morning city tour; afternoon briefing and equipment check.
Day 3 - Acclimatisation hike around stunning Cuicocha Crater Lake.
Day 4 - Start Pinan trek; walk to a small Indian village.
Day 5 - Camp besides Yanacoca Lake.
Day 6 - Climb the extinct volcano of Yanaurco (4530m).
Day 7 - End trek; relax in hot springs.
Day 8 - Summit our second volcano, Imbabura (4630m); drive to Otovalo.
Day 9 - Rest day; visit Otavalo Indian Market.
Day 10 - To Cayambe Volcano; ice-skills class on glacier (approx 5000m), overnight at 4,800m.
Day 11 - Further ice-skill training; pm return to Quito.
Day 12 - Free day in World Heritage City of Quito.
Day 13 - Drive to Cotopaxi N.P.; Hike to mountain hut (4800m).
Day 14 - Climb Cotopaxi (non climbers hike in the National Park); drive to Quito.
Day 15 - Depart Quito.
Day 16 - Arrive London.
9 nights hotels, 3 nights camping and 2 nights mountain hut.
5 days walking with full support, 5 days climbing and practice; altitude maximum 5897m, average 4000m. Ice climbing experience not required as full training provided. Grade C (Cotopaxi climb D).
Min. 4, max. 16, plus leader and appropriate local staff. For the ascent of Cotopaxi Volcano; ratio of 1 guide to 2 clients. Minimum age 18.
|Sat 26 Feb - Sun 13 Mar 2011|
|Sat 23 Jul - Sun 7 Aug 2011|
|Sat 12 Nov - Sun 27 Nov 2011|
|Sat 11 Feb - Sun 26 Feb 2012|
|Sat 31 Mar - Sun 15 Apr 2012|