Climb the Volcanoes of Ecuador

The smallest of the Andean countries, Ecuador has an extremely rich diversity of culture and geography. From the Pacific coast the land rises sharply to the high central region, lined with two north-south rows of volcanoes, giving it the name of “The Avenue of the Volcanoes,” before dramatically dropping off to the east into the Amazon Basin. The rugged landscape has resulted in the development of regional cultures over the centuries and the traditional clothing of their region often readily identifies indigenous people. This terrain poses the perfect opportunity for backpacking guided tours from our Mountain Trip company.

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The Mountain Trip Difference for International Treks

Our trips begin in the capital of Quito and are designed to provide you with an opportunity to climb glaciated peaks and also experience the rich cultural traditions of this fascinating country. Four of the most iconic volcanoes in the Andes — Antisana (18,714 ft.), Cayambe (18,997 ft.), Cotopaxi (19,348 ft.) and Chimborazo (20,703 ft.), are also the highest in the country. Each provides a great option for climbers looking to acquire high altitude climbing experience.  The peaks we will attempt is often based on a combination of team preference (it’s YOUR trip!), as well as current route conditions at the time of our expedition.

All of these peaks are appropriate for fit, enthusiastic, novice climbers, but also provide plenty of challenge for experienced mountaineers. We offer two programs that build both climbing skills and acclimatization over a period of less than two weeks while we climb one or two of these stunning peaks. Our backpacking guided tours are flexible enough to meet your needs; we ask you please communicate any personal circumstances we might encounter while on this international trek.

Cotopaxi Express

Our Cotopaxi Express Expedition is designed with the time-conscious traveler and adventurer in mind. We have designed a program that combines a good acclimatization schedule and opportunities for enjoying the cultural diversity of Ecuador, with a climb of this 19,348’ peak in a 9 day trip from most home countries. Our acclimatization process begins in Quito, described by Simon Bolivar as a “Cathedral” amongst South American cities.

12-Day Volcanoes Expedition

For climbers with a bit more time, our 12 day round trip Cayambe (or Antisana) and Cotopaxi Expedition is designed to climb two high, glaciated peaks and provide a lot of mountaineering instruction over the course of 10 days in Ecuador. Cayambe is the third highest peak in the country and provides a great primer for climbing the somewhat more challenging Cotopaxi.  As Cayambe lies to the north of the capital city of Quito, we also have the opportunity to visit the fascinating market at the indigenous town of Otovalo, where the local population is world renowned for the quality of their weaving.

Antisana, the fourth highest peak in the country, is a great option as well, as it is more remote and less visited than its neighbor, Cayambe to the north.  Following our first climb, we will travel south to spend two nights resting at one of two very comfortable lodges near the foot of Cotopaxi, where we will take a full day to recuperate from our previous ascent before traveling to the Jose Ribas Hut on the flank of our next objective.

A pre-dawn start will see us high on Cotopaxi when the sun crests the Amazon Basin, stretching off into the east.  The summit crater is a sight to behold, with its active fumaroles and their sulfurous omissions.  There are some steep and somewhat exposed sections of the route.  The glacier is something of a living thing and shifts to change the climbing route year to year.  Recently the route dropped through a huge crevasse ringed with towering seracs making for some great photo opportunities!

Chimborazo Extension

Chimborazo, the highest mountain in the country, can present some rockfall hazard and is perhaps the least appropriate of the four for novice climbers. It is an interesting peak because the summit is the farthest point from the center of the earth due to a bulge along the equator. We offer an ascent of Chimborazo as an extension for climbers who are keen to climb it, so we can attempt it after everyone is well acclimatized.

DAY 1: ARRIVAL IN QUITO (2.800 m/9,186 ft) We will all spend the night at a nice hotel and go out for a welcome dinner after your guides conduct equipment checks for each climber.

DAY 2: ACCLIMATIZATION DAY IN QUITO We’ll take a guided tour of Quito’s old town and a visit the “Mitad del Mundo,” on the equator, where you can literally stand with a foot in each the northern and southern hemispheres.  We’ll spend the night at our hotel in Quito. Included meals: Breakfast

DAY 3: ACCLIMATIZATION HIKE To further our acclimatization, we’ll hike the extinct volcano, Fuya Fuya (4.263 m/13,986 ft), located north of Quito. We’ll spend the night at an old hacienda near the famous market town of Otavalo (2.550 m/8,366 ft).  Included meals: Breakfast, Boxed-lunch on our hike

DAY 4: ACCLIMATIZATION HIKE We’ll hike another interesting, extinct volcano, this one called Imbabura (4.630 m/15,190 ft), before returning to our hacienda near Otovalo for the night.  Included meals: Breakfast, Boxed-lunch on our hike

DAY 5: REST / ACCLIMATIZATION DAY As we’ve been working hard for the past two days, we’ll explore the famous “Plaza de Ponchos,” the market in Otovalo, before driving to another old hacienda near the town of Cayambe (2.800 m/9,186 ft). Included meals: Breakfast

DAY 6: DRIVE TO THE CAYAMBE VOLCANO / GLACIER SKILLS We’ll make the transfer to the Cayambe-Coca Reserva Ecológica, where we will review or conduct instruction in glacier travel skills. At night, we’ll sleep in the Bergé, Ruales, Oleas Refuge (4.650 m/15,257 ft). Included meals: Breakfast, Boxed-lunch, Dinner

DAY 7: CLIMB CAYAMBE An early start will see us on top of Cayambe (5.790 m/18,996 ft) just around sunrise!  After the climb, we’ll drive to the hot springs at Papallacta, where we will spend the night. Included meals: Breakfast, Boxed-lunch

DAY 8: REST DAY AT THE HOT SPRINGS We’ll soak our weary selves in the famous Papallacta hot-springs, where you’ll have the option of doing some horseback riding, if you’d like, before we load up and drive to a lodge near the Cotopaxi Volcano. Included meals: Breakfast

DAY 9: GLACIER SKILLS ON COTOPAXI It is a relatively short transfer to Cotopaxi National Park, where we will conduct more glacier travel skills before getting to bed early at the Jose Rivas Refuge (4.800 m/15,748 ft), in anticipation of a middle of the night departure for the summit.  Included meals: Breakfast, Boxed-lunch, Dinner

DAY 10: CLIMB COTOPAXI Climbing Cotopaxi is a big day, and we’ll leave very early in order to get down before the glacier warms up. Following our ascent, we’ll spend the night in a wonderful, 200 year old hacienda near the mountain.  Included meals: Breakfast, Boxed-lunch


**This Itinerary is subject to change due to weather, logistical or other circumstances.

The following is a general list of required gear for climbing volcanoes in Ecuador with Mountain Trip. Climbers joining us on an expedition will receive an updated, comprehensive equipment list that may supersede this list.

Many of the items on the list need to fit you well in order for you to fully enjoy your experience on the mountain. Please plan ahead with equipment purchased for your trip so you can be certain that your gear fits you well. halfway up Cayambe Volcano is not the place to discover that your pack is too small for your torso, or that your boots give you blisters. Recommended items reflect the opinions of our guides. We have used and have faith in all of our recommendations, but they may not necessarily fit or work for you.

Call or email us with any gear questions. We want you to be as prepared as possible for your expedition.

Please follow this list closely and do not hesitate to call us for clarifications or to solicit an opinion about anything you are considering. There is a very limited selection of gear available in Quito, so please do not plan on purchasing any gear in Ecuador. Lastly, only bring quality gear that is in very good condition on your expedition.


GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Mountaineering Socks3 - 5 pairs of good wool socks. Try a couple of different weights as that will affect the fit of your boot.
Mountain BootsInsulated double boots are a must, triple boots like the Oly Mons are overkill for this trip. It can be warm down low, but remember you'll be climbing to high altitude!
Light Hiking Shoes or BootsThe days spent hiking require waterproof, well broken in boots or hiking shoes. Trail running shoes will work, if you are comfortable using them, as we will only carry daypacks.
GaitersGaiters are required unless your pants fit tightly around your boot, many boots have built in gaiters.

Torso Layers

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Base Layer Top(1 or 2 sets) of Wool or Capilene light weight base layers. Long sleeve or short sleeve base layers work well.
Light Fleece HoodyLight/mid weight fleece (or wool) top with a hood. You will wear this over your light weight base layer.
“Puffy” Light Insulated JacketSize this layer to fit over your light fleece hoody and wind shell, and it is often layered underneath your expedition parka. Synthetic is easier to deal with and not worry about getting wet than a similar down filled layer. A hood on this layer in mandatory! *** Guides Tip! Use two lightweight puffy layers in the early season or if you are worried about being cold. A Micro or Nano Puff jacket with a Ultra Light Down Jacket or Vest allows versatile layering options.
Hard Shell JacketThis jacket should be large enough to go over your light puffy jacket layer. You do not need the burliest/heaviest Gore-Tex jacket you can find, and we prefer the lightest weight versions.
Soft Shell Wind JacketMany high alpine peaks are cold and dry. We are huge fans of very lightweight softshell wind jackets for high, dry, cold peaks. Weighing just a few ounces, these can be carried in your pocket or in the lid of your pack for rapid deployment. This layer is used in addition to your more waterproof hard shell jacket.
T ShirtSynthetic or lightweight Merino wool shirts can be a nice "extra" piece in the mountains and even on glaciers. Consider this optional. Synthetics dry faster than cotton!
Vest (optional)A lightweight down or synthetic filled vest can be a nice addition and add some warmth with little weight. This is an optional layer for most climbers.
Sun Hoody (optional)A Sun Hoody is a great lightweight layer to help protect you from the intense UV at high altitude. It's a go-to layer for our guides, as it both keeps the sun off your skin and helps keeps you cool. Highly recommended, but **OPTIONAL

Leg Layers

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Base Layer Bottoms(1 or 2 sets) of Wool or Capilene light weight base layers.
Light Fleece BottomsAs the air thins and the wind picks up, you'll want a bit more insulation on your legs. This should be a slightly warmer layer that can go over your base layer bottoms when it gets cold.
Soft Shell PantsSoft Shell pants are the workhorse on Denali, you'll be wearing these day in and day out on most expeditions. On peaks like Denali and Aconcagua, you can wear them in lieu of your hard shell pants for much of the expedition.
Hard Shell, Waterproof PantsWhen it's raining a soft shell pant just isn't enough and you'll need a waterproof "hard shell" pant, Gore-Tex or equivalent. These should be as light weight as possible, fully separating side zippers will help to get them on without taking off your boots. On some peaks, you might carry hard shell pants for the lower mountain, but switch to soft shell pants for the colder and drier upper mountain.
UnderwearConsider synthetic or Merino wool for your underwear. Most longer trips, such as Aconcagua or Denali, typically require 3-4 pair, but choose your quantity based on your personal level of comfort.

Head and Hands

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Heavyweight GlovesWarm, insulated gloves are the day-to-day workhorses on cold peaks or for cold days of ice climbing. We prefer gloves with removable liners for ease of drying.
Medium Weight GlovesA Mid-weight glove will generally be a softshell type glove with some light synthetic insulation.
Light Weight GlovesWhen the sun comes out on a glacier, the temperature can soar. Light weight, soft shell gloves are great for keeping the sun off your hands, while still giving you a bit of protection from the wind and cold.
Buff Neck GaiterBuff is a brand of light weight neck gaiters that have grown to become a staple of every guide's kit. These are amazingly versatile, and can be worn as a hat, a neck gaiter or pulled over your face for protection from the wind or sun. They come in many thicknesses nowadays, but we prefer the original weight for its versatility.
Summit MittensThick, warm mittens made from Down, synthetic fill, or a combination of insulation are crucial for summit morning on many big, cold mountains. Most come with some form of retention straps, which can help reduce the chance of losing them to a gust of wind or in the event of a fall. Good mittens are expensive, but how much is one finger worth?
Warm HatBring one warm hat or two hats of different weights. Wool or fleece are fine, but your hat must provide ear protection from the cold.
Face MaskCheeks and the tip of your nose are notoriously difficult to keep warm, especially in a biting wind. Neoprene face masks do a great job of protecting those exposed surfaces.
Sun HatBaseball type or wide brimmed sun hats are required for protection against the intense sunshine found on many peaks. You can combine a baseball hat with a BUFF for good sun protection or go for a wide brimmed version to protect your face, ears and neck.
Hand WarmersBring 4 -6+ sets of these disposable insurance policies, depending on where you are climbing. Make certain that your hand warmers are relatively new, as they do go bad over time.
Glacier GlassesGood, dark (Category 4) glacier glasses are a must for high altitude climbs. They must have side protection and filter 100% UVA and UVB rays.
Ski GogglesThese are necessary for use while traveling during storms or during really cold spells. These must have double lenses and provide full UV protection. Fogging is a real challenge, so goggles that actively vent are worth the investment. Julbo's Aerospace or Airflux have a slick venting system or Smith makes battery-powered "Turbo Fan" models. Select a general purpose lens that will provide some protection in bright light, but not be so dark as to make them useless on a cloudy or flat-light day.
Nose GuardBeko makes nice nose protectors that keep the wind and sun from wreaking havoc on your skin.

Sleeping Gear

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Inflatable Sleeping PadInflatable pads have improved tremendously in recent years. Whether you choose a self inflating pad or one that requires some pumping to inflate, select a pad that is warm and comfortable.
Foam Sleeping PadBringing two sleeping pads, one closed cell foam and the other an inflatable pad, will provide additional comfort and insulation, as well as a bit of insurance in case you have a catastrophic failure of your inflatable pad.
Sleeping BagYou'll want a bag rated to at least 15 degrees Fahrenheit and warmer if you tend to sleep cold. Down or synthetic will work fine, although down is lighter and more compact for traveling and packing.
Compression Stuff SackGranite Gear, Outdoor Research and others are all making nice, lightweight compression sacks. These are essential for sleeping bags and recommended for your summit clothes, such as your parka, mitts and warmest pants, so you might consider bringing two.

Packs and Duffels

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Large Zippered DuffelYou'll want an XL sized (90 – 100L) duffel for your expedition. Lightweight and inexpensive bags work fine, although water resistant bags like the Patagonia Black Hole Bag 100L are nice for their toughness to weight ratio. A quality duffel bag can work for a sled bag on Denali, a mule bag on Aconcagua and a great all around travel bag.
Climbing PackSuitable climbing packs will be 30 - 45 liters in volume and have the capability of easily attaching crampons, and ice axes if used for a day of ice climbing or if needed for a peak ascent. For a day climbs, any pack in the 30 - 45 liter range will work, but we recommend that you consider the weight of the pack carefully. Overnight, alpine routes require larger (45L) packs that also let you strap your sleeping pad to the outside.

Climbing Gear

GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Ski / Trekking PolesAdjustable poles work great and are easier to travel with as they fit better in your duffel bag. The small “trekking” baskets on some poles are not large enough for use on soft snow, so make certain your poles have bigger “snowflake” style baskets for any climb with glacier or snow travel.
Ice AxeA general use, mountaineering axe is sufficient for this climb. Some axes are much lighter than others, so select for weight as well as a size for your height. Most climbers do well with a 60 - 75 cm axe. On less technical routes, a longer axe can act like a walking stick on flatter terrain.
Alpine Climbing HarnessYour harness should be adjustable enough to accommodate several layers of clothing. As with most items on this list, choose a light weight harness.
Climbing HelmetMake certain it fits over your warmest hat and under the hood of your shell. The super-lightweight foam helmets are great, but can get crushed in your duffel bags during travel, so protect your lid!
CramponsSelect a pair 12-point Mountaineering Crampons that fit your boots well. Step-in or strap versions work equally well; just make sure they fit your mountain boots and overboots. You may need to lengthen your crampons to accommodate your overboots, please make sure you can make this adjustment in the field. Aluminum crampons are not acceptable for expeditions.
Primary Attachment Locking CarabinerFor your primary attachment to the rope, we will us a "triple action" locking carabiner. Triple Action (TriAct) carabiners will not come unlocked while you are traveling on the glacier. You only need one of these carabiners.


GearDescriptionGuide's Pick
Stuff SacksWe are fans of the very light stiff sacks made from Sil Nylon fabric. Bring enough for your clothes and personal items. Light, zippered stuff bags are really nice for toiletries.
Two (2) One-Liter Water BottlesYou will need two, 1-liter plastic water bottles. Please bring wide-mouth bottles, such as those from Nalgene, as these are much easier to fill than bottles with small openings.
Lip Balm (2 tubes)Protect your lips! Bring two tubes of high quality lip balm with SPF.
Sun ScreenSmaller tubes work well, as they are easier to keep from freezing than is one big tube. You'll want to bring 3-4 ounces (85 - 110g) for the trip.
Personal Medical KitMountain Trip's guides will have fairly comprehensive medical kits developed by our Medical Director, but we encourage each climber to bring a small, personal kit. Items to consider bringing include: blister treatment and prevention, pain relievers, and antacids. Presctiption medications should be based on consultation with your personal physician. Suggested drugs for altitude expeditions include: Diamox (acetazolomide) 125 mg, Decadron (dexamthazone) 4 mg, Nifedipine XR 30 mg, and a couple of antibiotics for respiratory and gastrointestinal issues.
Journal (and pencil)Expeditions can be a great time for reflection and a journal can be a nice way to wax poetic or just keep track of what you did each day. Keep it small and leave the leather bound version at home.
Book(s) or E-ReaderThere is a lot of "down time" on an expedition, even when you have good weather. An expedition can be a good time to catch up on reading!
CameraSmall, light weight point and shoot cameras are most popular among climbers. Be sure to bring extra memory and batteries!
Altimeter WatchAn altimeter watch can be fun to have on an expedition to keep track of your ascent and to watch for changes in barometric pressure.
Small KnifeA small knife or small multi-tool is also handy to have. One per tent is sufficient. There is emphasis on the word small when it comes to multi-tools!
Personal Music/Video DeviceiPhones or iPods and the like are really nice on a long trip. Consider how you will keep it charged, and bring whatever is necessary to keep you in time to the beat.
Satellite Tracking/Texting DeviceSatellite linked devices such as the Garmin inReach have been increasingly popular, as you can send and receive text messages with it. Again- consider how you will keep it powered over the course of your expedition. These new devices will allow you to send and receive text messages nearly anywhere in the world! It is a fun way to keep in touch with the family and let them follow along on your journey. They are not required, and Mountain Trip guides carry several forms of communication devices including satellite based communications that we can use in case of an emergency situation.
Several Good Jokes!"A Moose walks into a bar..."
SunscreenThe sun can be intense at altitude. Bring one small tube for use while climbing and one larger tube for use while not on route.
HeadlampBring an extra set of batteries, as well. Lithium batteries work the best in cold weather!! For some trips (Carstensz, Everest, Cho Oyu) where we will be frequently climbing at night a second headlamp is a good idea, and always bring extra batteries!
Solar Panel/Battery *optionalIf you are planning to charge your iPhone, inReach, or other electronics on the expedition you will need a good, small solar panel. We recommend using the panel to charge a battery and then charging your devices from the battery. This is definitely some extra weight, so keep it light and maybe share a panel and battery with your tentmate!

Refunds and Cancellations

Mountain Trip recognizes how difficult and disappointing it can be for climbers who must cancel expeditions which they have planned for a long time. Team members must also recognize that, due to the nature of planning expeditions and dealing with governmental permits and regulations, Mountain Trip also accrues significant expenses in the months prior to expedition departure dates. We must therefore adhere to a strict refund policy for all climbers. Trip cancellation and travel insurance is generally available for all expeditions. U.S. and Canadian residents should contact us for more information regarding travel insurance. Our refund and cancellation policy is outlined below.

• All expeditions require a deposit to secure a spot on the team. Your submission of a deposit constitutes your acceptance of this Fee Schedule, Refund and Cancellation Policy.

• All deposits for Ecuador climbs expeditions include a non-refundable $750 administration fee.

• Final payments for expeditions must be received 120 days prior to the Team Meeting Day.

• Failure to pay expedition fees by the date they are due constitutes cancellation of your spot on the team and forfeiture of your deposit.

• Any cancellation 120+ days before your Team Meeting Day will be refunded in full, less the administration fee.

• If you cancel 120-90 days before your Team Meeting Day, you are eligible for a refund of 50% of any monies paid, less the deposit.

• No refunds will be provided for cancellations occurring within the last 89 days prior to an expedition.

• All requests for refunds must be made in writing and received in our Colorado office.

• If you register for a climb within 90 days of the Team Meeting Date, expedition fees will be due in full to secure your spot on the team.

• Mountain Trip reserves the right to cancel an expedition prior to the departure date for any reason. In such an event, all monies collected by Mountain Trip from team members for that expedition shall be promptly refunded. This is the extent of our financial liability.


Inclusions and Exclusions

Included in the Trip Fee:

• Unlimited pre-trip access to our office resources

• US trained, Mountain Trip guide(s)

• Shared lodging in Ecuador, per the itinerary for your expedition

• Welcome dinner in Quito

• Meals per our itinerary

• All group equipment (tents if needed, ropes, climbing protection, med kit, GPS Tracker, satellite phone, etc)

• Custom expedition dispatch blog for your climb, complete with audio posts from the mountain

• Assistance arranging for post-climb activities such as cultural tours, museum visits, Galapagos tours, etc.


Not Included in the Trip Fee:

• Flights to and from Quito

• Personal clothing and equipment (please see our equipment list)

• Meals beyond the welcome dinner in Quito and the meals in country that are included in the itinerary

• Additional nights’ accommodation in Ecuador beyond those outlined above

• Single room supplement


General Agreement Concerning Services to be Provided And Responsibilities of Team Members

When registering for an expedition with Mountain Trip we want to help make sure you understand the services we are providing and the services you are responsible for.

Transportation is incidental

The main purpose of becoming a team member is to join us on an expedition in the mountains. As such any transportation we provide or that you may contract for on your own is incidental to the trip. We suggest that you make sure you have time built into your itinerary for delays.

Transportation to and from your destination

We will designate a specific Team Meeting Day for your expedition. Transportation to the meeting point on your Team Meeting Day is to be provided by you. You must arrive in time to be ready to participate in a team meeting at the appointed time on the Team Meeting Day for your expedition. Expedition climbing is very dynamic and we will provide you with a recommendation as to when you should book your flights to and from your destination. We suggest you book a ticket that allows you to change your flight with little effort or cost.

Lodging off the mountain

Mountain Trip will provide lodging per the Inclusions and Exclusions section above. Any additional lodging is your responsibility. Don’t worry about booking a room after your expedition. We generally don’t know how long we’ll be in the mountains, and we can help arrange lodging when we return to “civilization.”

Responsibilities of Team Members

You are ultimately responsible for your own well-being, including making all necessary preparations to ensure good health and physical conditioning. You are responsible for understanding the conditions that may exist on the climb and choosing a climb that is appropriate for your abilities and interests. You are responsible for having knowledge of all pre-departure information and for assembling the appropriate clothing and equipment for your climb.

While on the expedition, team members are responsible to maintain basic levels of hygiene and to conduct themselves respectfully with other team members and members of the local population. If a guide feels that a team member is putting other members’ health or safety at risk, the guide has the discretion to remove a team member from an expedition.

Use our office staff and your lead guide as pre-trip resources to ensure that all your questions are answered. Travel insurance may help recoup expenses if you need to leave an expedition due to an illness.

Airline Responsibility Passenger/Airline contracts are in effect while team members are on board any aircraft contracted for use in the expedition.

No Guaranteed Outcomes

While it is one of our goals to help every climber on every Mountain Trip expedition reach the summit, Mountain Trip cannot guarantee that you will reach the summit.  Any number of factors, including weather, the conditions encountered on the route, your personal level of fitness or ability, the abilities of your team mate(s) or any number of other circumstances might result in you and/or your team turning around before reaching the summit.  Failure to reach the summit due to any reason associated with mountaineering, such as weather, team dynamics, route conditions, avalanche hazard, rockfall hazard, etc, or due to your lack of fitness or preparation are not the responsibility of Mountain Trip and will not result in a refund or a rescheduling of your expedition.