Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Climbing in Ecuador

Mountains climbed:

Ruminahui 4722 m/15,488 ft,

Iliniza Norte 5016 m/17272 ft

Cotopaxi 5897 m/19,350 ft

Difficulty: Technic: Easy Effort: Challenging

Ecuador is easy to reach in a few hours with direct flights from many U.S. airports to Quito, Ecuador’s capital city. The acclimatization process starts immediately upon arrival because Quito is located at 2850m/9350ft.

This country doesn’t just have beaches, jungles and the Galapagos islands but also pretty volcanic, glaciated mountains going up to +6,000 meters (Chimborazo 6268m/20584ft). The currency used is the U.S. dollar and travel expenses like hotels, lodges and food are very reasonable.

For trail runners and climbers, Ecuador is a paradise.

The climbing guides are excellent. At the foot of the higher mountains, there are conveniently located huts (refuge) for the overnight stay before the summit day.

I used the guiding office of Compania de Guias de Montaina but ultra runners will definitely want to go with Cumber Tours. Karl Egloff, the guide of Cumbre Tours, is also a first class trail runner and beat Kilian Jornet’s speed record, running up and down Aconcagua in 11 hours 52 minutes.

My itinerary was as follows:

Saturday: depart New York/arrive Quito

Sunday: Drive from Quito to Cotopaxi Park and 2-3 hours acclimatization hike

Cotopaxi Park
Cotopaxi Park

Monday: Hike up Ruminahui

Tuesday: Drive to base of Iliniza Norte. It was planned that we hike up to the Iliniza hut but it was full. So we stayed in a nice lodge at the foot of the mountain and left in pre-dawn hours for the climb.

Wednesday: Hike up Iliniza Norte (one section is exposed but guide will use rope for safety). After the climb, we returned to the lodge in Cotopaxi Park.

Iliniza Norte
Iliniza Norte

Thursday: recover and hike up to the Cotopaxi hut (refuge) late in the evening. It’s only a 30-45 minutes hike from the parking lot to the hut which is livable for one very short night. When I was there, drinks could be bought but you had to bring your own food.

Friday: get up shortly after midnight and started climbing early in the morning. We reached the summit just before sunrise. After returning to the hut, we packed up our sleeping bag and other materials and returned to Quito.

Climbing Cotopaxi
Climbing Cotopaxi

Saturday: flight Quito to New York

Because Cotopaxi is glaciated with many crevasses, this is considered a technical climb, using crampons, ice axe and rope.

This is an active volcano and due to occasional eruptions and emissions of smoke and gas, it might be closed for climbing. Cotopaxi’s activities can be reviewed on this website: Volcano Discovery.

Obviously, the guide office will have more information as to whether or not the mountain is climbable. If not, there are many other great climbing options.

The Cotopaxi park has many trails which are very suitable for running. A trip to this park, if accessible due to Cotopaxi’s activities, is a great place for a combined running/climbing vacation. I stayed at the TAMBOPAXI  as well as CHILCAMBAMBA lodes. The former is located inside the park and the latter is located only a short drive from the park entrance.

Both lodges had comfortable accommodations and good food at a reasonable price. Personally, I preferred Chilcabamba because it offered small private rooms.




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