In collaboration with the Alpenglow Expeditions, this trip was developed specifically for American Alpine Club members. Expedition members will work on and develop the skills to attempt a summit of Cotopaxi. Lead guide, Jaime Avila, helped develop Alpenglow's unparalleled Ecuador program by sharing an intimate knowledge of his home mountain range and providing an in-depth glimpse into Andean culture.

On this expedition we will focus on education, building technical skills, and gaining mountaineering experience on an attempt to summit Cotopaxi, the second tallest peak in Ecuador. Cotopaxi’s highest point is at 19,347 feet (5,897 meters) and it is heavily glaciated.

Expedition Overview:

Our trip begins in Ecuador’s capital of Quito. Four glaciated peaks surround the city, which tops out at 9,500 feet (2,896 meters). The high elevation jumpstarts your acclimatization process upon arrival. We will spend the first day exploring the old colonial center of Quito and enjoying fantastic food and hospitality with a team welcome dinner which is included in the expedition pricing. The next day we continue our acclimatization by going out into the field to Rucu Pinchincha and then hiking up to the 15,700 foot (4,785 meter) summit. If conditions allow, we will traverse a knife-edge rock ridge to the summit, implementing technical rock climbing techniques and the use of fixed lines.

After our adventures in Quito, we will travel to a luxurious refuge located in Cotopaxi National Park. The lodge features delectable food and a stunning mountain backdrop. 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 training, 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.


Trip Itinerary:

Day 1 Leave your home for Ecuador, arriving into Quito (9,500 feet/2,896 meters) in the evening. Our guides will pick you up and bring you to our hotel, a beautiful establishment rising above downtown Quito.

(Saturday) Day 2 Explore the colonial section of Quito. The old city is famous for its beautiful churches, president’s palace, and ever-present views of the glaciated peaks that surround it. After touring for half the day, we spend the afternoon preparing for our climb of Pinchincha, practicing fixed line techniques, and organizing gear.

Day 3 After breakfast at the famed Magic Bean (strong coffee, fresh fruit smoothies, and huge pancakes—the perfect pre-climbing meal) we ride the telepherique from the center of the city to 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) on Rucu Pinchincha. Two hours of hiking brings us to the rock ridge which we climb, conditions permitting, to Pinchincha’s 15,700 foot (4,785 meter) summit. This climb is a proud peak on its own; it is also important for our acclimatization.

Day 4 After a lazy morning, we drive to Tambopaxi, at about 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) in Cotopaxi National Park. From the dining room we have a perfect view of our entire route on Cotopaxi. There are also countless hikes we can take for acclimatization.

Day 5 Today we hike about an hour to the toe of the glacier on Cotopaxi. We spend the day practicing skills, including self arresting with an ice axe, climbing in crampons, traveling on rope teams, and crevasse rescues. We also take time scouting our summit route. After a full day, we descend back to Tambopaxi for another evening.

Day 6 We spend the morning reviewing any skills that need it and then check our gear and hike to the upper refuge at 15,700 feet (4,785 meters) on Cotopaxi. We spend the afternoon resting, hydrating, eating, and trying to get some sleep.

Day 7 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 in Quito.

Day 8 Built in weather day in case we need some time to adjust our summit day.

We hope to see you in Ecuador!