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January 8 – January 16, 2025
January 7 – January 15, 2026


9 days in Ecuador
Activity Levels: Beginner Mountaineering


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Cotopaxi is one of the most impressive volcanoes in the Andes of South America. It towers nearly 8,000 feet above the Ecuadorian Highlands, capped with one of the world’s few equatorial glaciers. At 19,347 feet, it is the second-highest peak in Ecuador, and it offers an excellent introduction to the world of high-altitude mountaineering. The mountain requires intermediate mountaineering skills and offers straightforward climbing at moderately high altitudes. After climbing in the Pacific Northwest, our Cotopaxi expeditions are a great next step for those seeking to expand their international mountaineering experience.

Our Illiniza and Cotopaxi Climb can be extended with a climb to the summit of Chimborazo (20,702 ft), the farthest point on the earth’s surface from the center of the earth.

Cotopaxi and Illiniza Norte Climb • 9 Days

Our Illiniza and Cotopaxi Climb begins with acclimatization ascents up three trekking peaks in the Ecuadorian Highlands near Quito before climbing both Illiniza North (16,818 ft) and Cotopaxi. First, we trek to the summit of the extinct volcano Pasochoa at 13,780 feet, where we enjoy stunning views of Cotopaxi and possibly condors and wild horses. The next day we take a cable car from Quito to roughly 13,000 feet and hike to the summit of Rucu Pichincha at 15,407 feet. Third up, we ascend Corazon (15,715 ft.) and then descend to sleep at the nearby Chuquiragua Lodge.

Our expedition now turns to Illiniza Norte, the eighth highest peak in Ecuador. After driving to the trailhead 30 miles south of Quito, we hike three hours to the Nuevo Horizontes Refuge at 15,416 feet. Perched between the north and south peaks of Illiniza, the refuge is known as the smallest high mountain hut in the Ecuadorian Andes. It is an ideal high camp for ascents of the Illinizas, which are frequently climbed to acclimatize for higher peaks such as Cotopaxi. Illiniza South (17,218 feet) is another option for experienced climbers with technical expertise.

After summiting Illiniza Norte, we overnight at the lovely Los Mortiños lodge. The next day, we continue to Cotopaxi, hiking less than an hour from the trailhead to the Jose F. Rivas refuge at 15,744 feet. After a night at the refuge, we wake early to complete the final phase of our expedition, ascending to the rim of Cotopaxi’s massive summit crater at 19,347 feet.

Related climbs and treks: Ecuador Mountaineering, Ecuador Highlands Trek

Chimborazo Climb • 3 Days

Before departing for home, consider making the most of your hard-earned acclimatization by climbing the famous Chimborazo. At 20,702 feet, Chimborazo is Ecuador’s highest mountain. Its location on Earth’s equatorial bulge makes its summit the farthest point on Earth’s surface from the center of the Earth.

Need help choosing a trip?
Read our Four-Legged Stool blog post for tips on finding the right adventure for you.

What skills are required to attempt the Ecuador Volcanoes?

Cotopaxi is a moderately challenging climb recommended for those with without previous experience at higher altitudes. Advanced climbing skills are not required, but the route is physically demanding. You must be in very good aerobic condition and able to hike for 7 to 9 hours on summit day while carrying a 20 to 25-pound pack. Previous climbing experience will greatly increase your chances of reaching the summit. Ice axe and crampon skills are needed because the final snow slopes before the summit can be as steep as 35-45 degrees. Glacier and rope travel skills are essential for a safe and successful climbing adventure. Mountain Gurus will help you refresh your mountaineering skills before the climb.

What is included in the Cotopaxi Expedition?

Our Cotopaxi climbs feature the services you will need to safely and successfully ascend one of the tallest active volcanoes in the world. Our expeditions progress through a series of carefully planned acclimatization summits to help you adapt to the conditions you will encounter on Cotopaxi. Our itineraries include all scheduled meals and land transportation while in Ecuador. Between ascents, you will stay in comfortable lodges and haciendas at the feet of the peaks, and idyllic campgrounds and mountain refuges while in the backcountry. Our climbs are led by highly experienced, certified mountain guides outfitted with professional mountaineering equipment. All group expedition gear – including tents, stove, fuel, and communal climbing equipment – will be provided. American guides may accompany teams of four or more climbers. International airfare, and non-scheduled transportation, lodging and meals are not included. Personal climbing equipment is not included.

What are the risks of climbing Cotopaxi?

Any high-altitude adventure has risks. One of the best ways to mitigate these risks is to ensure you are in excellent physical condition before arriving in Quito. Stamina, training, and experience will help you tackle the challenges of Cotopaxi. Altitude sickness is one of the primary risks on a high-altitude climb. It is important to alert your guide if you experience significant altitude illness.

Day to Day Climb Itinerary

Day 1 • Arrive Quito
Day 2 • Pasochoa • 13,780 ft
Day 3 • Rucu Pichincha • 15,696 ft
Day 4 • Corazon • 15,715 ft
Day 5 • Iliniza Refuge • 15,416 ft
Day 6 • Summit Iliniza North 16,818 ft
Day 7 • Cotopaxi Refuge • 15,750 ft
Day 8 • Summit Cotopaxi • 19,347 ft
Day 9 • Depart Quito

Chimborazo Climb

Day 9 • Rest day in Banos
Day 10 • Chimborazo High Camp • 17,388 ft
Day 11 • Summit Chimborazo • 20,702 ft
Day 12 • Depart Quito

Climb Highlights

  • Co-led by an American and Ecuadorian mountain guide
  • 4 nights hotels in Quito
  • 1 night Chuquiragua Lodge
  • 1 night Hacienda Los Mortiños
  • 2 nights mountain refuges
  • Ascent of Iliniza North and Cotopaxi
  • Hikes of Pasochoa, Rucu Pichincha and Corazon acclimatization peaks
  • Meals while climbing in the mountains
  • Land transportation
  • Friendly MG office staff will help you prepare for your adventure

My second trip with Mountain Gurus and went off without a hitch from all the pre-planning till the day we reached the summit. Top notch guides and a fantastic group put together made it an experience I’ll never forget. Highly recommend for domestic and international trips.” ~ Ryan M, January 2020

This was my first trip with Mountain Gurus after having taken their 5-day glacier mountaineering course on Mount Baker with Northwest Alpine Guides. The trip was extremely well planned and executed from signup to arriving in-country, to all the lodging and climbing logistics. I knew I was in the capable hands of experts Dennis Broadwell and Terray Sylvester who put safety above all else and go out of their way to ensure your trip is a success. MG’s also has reliable and professional in-country connections with local guide staff and tour operators who help ensure everything goes as planned and that every client reaches their goals. The high guide-to-client ratio ensures that if someone needs to go at a different pace than the group or descend for any reason, the rest of the group can still continue to summit.” ~ Windy, January 2020

My trip to Ecuador with Mountain Gurus was great. The logistics and Itinerary kept our team moving and allowed for acclimatization before our climb of Cotopaxi. Guides were on point the whole trip and overall fun friendly guys. I really enjoyed being able to trek to our different locations and all the places we stayed were clean with great food. Be sure to look these guys up if you are thinking of an international climbing trip.” ~ Kate, December 2014


Illiniza Norte and Cotopaxi Climb

Expedition begins and ends in Quito, Ecuador

Day 1 • Arrive Quito • 9,350 feet

Arrive Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito, Ecuador (UOI). Most flights arrive in Quito in the late evening. Our driver will be awaiting your arrival at the airport, and will take you to the hotel.

Accommodations: Hotel in Quito
Meals Included: None

Day 2 • Pasochoa • 13,780 feet

Today we trek to an extinct volcano in the Guayllabamba River Basin named Pasochoa (13,780 ft / 4,200 m). Our hike takes about 4 hours over hills and fields. On clear days, we may see condors and wild horses. We eat lunch on the summit and return to Quito.

Vertical Ascent Trekking: 1,800 feet
Trekking Time: 3-4 hours roundtrip

Accommodations: Hotel in Quito
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch (B, L)

Day 3 • Rucu Pichincha • 15,696 feet

Today we enjoy our first views of three of the highest snow-capped Ecuadorian mountains: Cotopaxi, Antisana and Cayambe. After breakfast we take a short drive through Quito to a cable car (gondola) that carries us to an upper station at 13,012 feet. We summit Ruco Pichincha (15,407 ft), and then return to the hotel. In the afternoon we are free to explore the city and organize gear for our departure from Quito the following morning.

Vertical Ascent Trekking: 2,401 feet
Trekking Time: 5-6 hours roundtrip

Accommodations: Hotel in Quito
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch (B, L)

Day 4 • Corazon • 15,715 feet

We depart Quito early and drive a few hours south a quaint hacienda near the base of Corazon in Illinizas Ecological Reserve. After checking in and a short drive to the trailhead, we climb Corazon. Our ascent ends with an exhilarating rocky scramble onto the summit. We eat lunch and then return to the lodge for the evening.

Vertical Ascent Trekking: 2,420 feet
Trekking Time: 5-6 hours roundtrip

Accommodations: Chuquiragua Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 5 • Iliniza Refuge • 15,416 feet

Our expedition now turns its attention to Illiniza Norte. After driving to the trailhead, we hike three hours to the Nuevo Horizontes Refuge at 15,416 feet. Set between the north and south peaks of Illiniza, the refuge is known as the smallest high mountain hut in the Ecuadorian Andes. It is an ideal high camp for ascents of the Illinizas, which are frequently climbed to acclimatize for higher peaks such as Cotopaxi.

Vertical Ascent Trekking: 2,400 feet
Trekking Time: 4-5 hours

Accommodations: Nuevo Horizontes Refuge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 6 • Summit Day • Iliniza North • 16,818 feet

We rise early, eat breakfast, and set our sights on the summit of Iliniza Norte, the eighth highest peak in Ecuador. After a short hike to the base of the climbing route, we are rewarded with spectacular views of Iliniza Sur and Cotopaxi as we ascend the long ridgeline of Iliniza Norte. We follow a good path for most of the route until the terrain becomes rocky and exposed. For the last few hundred meters we tie in and travel as a rope team, stopping to belay as we climb onto the exposed summit block surrounded by panoramic views. We descend to the refuge, pack our gear and hike out. That evening we relax in the comfort of a beautiful hacienda near the entrance of Cotopaxi National Park.

Vertical Ascent Trekking: 1,402 feet
Trekking Time: 3 hours to summit, 3 hours descent to trailhead

Accommodations: Hacienda Los Mortiños or Tambopaxi Lodge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 7 • Cotopaxi • 15,744 feet

After a late breakfast we gear up and are shuttled to the Cotopaxi parking lot. From the trailhead we hike 40 minutes to the Jose F. Rivas refuge at 15,744 feet. We enjoy lunch, relax and prepare to climb Cotopaxi.

Vertical Ascent Trekking: 750 feet
Trekking Time: 1 hour

Accommodations: Jose F. Rivas Refuge
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

Day 8 • Summit Day • Cotopaxi • 19,347 feet

Today we summit Cotopaxi! We leave the refuge around midnight for a six-hour climb. From the hut we ascend moderate glacier slopes, crossing snow bridges and crevasses as the mountain steepens. After navigating a heavily crevassed section of the glacier, we reach the final summit slope. With ice axes in hand, we climb a challenging section of 35- to 40-degree snow until suddenly we are stepping onto the crater rim of one of the world’s highest active volcanoes. We enjoy spectacular views into Cotopaxi’s massive, two-tiered summit crater, which measures roughly 2,600 feet in diameter and is scattered with sulphur fumaroles. We descend and transfer to Mariscal Sucre International Airport for late night departures. Guests who are continuing to Chimborazo will transfer to a hotel in the hot spring resort town of Baños de Agua Santa.

Vertical Ascent Climbing: 3,603 feet
Climbing Time: 6 to 7 hours to summit, 3.5 hours descent to trailhead

Accommodations: Hotel near Mariscal Sucre International Airport (not included) or near Baños hot springs if continuing to Chimborazo (included)
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch (B, L)

Because most international flights depart Quito slightly after midnight, guests departing after summiting Cotopaxi may prefer not to book a hotel on the final night of the program. Lodging after summiting Cotopaxi is not included for guests who are not continuing to Chimborazo.

*** Day 9 option to depart for home after climbing Cotopaxi ***

Day 9 • Depart Quito or Rest Day at Baños Hot Springs

Before heading to Chimborazo, we enjoy a full rest day in the beautiful resort town of Baños de Agua Santa, where thermal springs on the flanks of the towering Tungurahua Volcano feed many hot spring resorts. We have the option of driving to a resort perched high on a ridge above town, where we may enjoy hot pools, massages and fine dining. Hot springs admission fees and massages are not included in your trip fee.

Departing clients transfer to Mariscal Sucre International Airport for flights home (airport transfer not included). Many flights depart Quito (UIO) in the late evening.

Accommodations: Hotel in Baños if continuing to Chimborazo (included)
Meals Included: Breakfast (B) if continuing to Chimborazo

Chimborazo Climb

Or continue to Chimborazo for an ascent of Ecuador’s highest mountain.

Day 10 • Drive to Chimborazo Refuge • Hike to High Camp • 17,388 ft

We drive south towards Riobamba and Chimborazo, with the possibility of seeing Ecuador’s Big Ten volcanoes on the way. Chimborazo’s location along the equatorial bulge makes its summit the farthest point on the Earth’s surface from the Earth’s center. It rises dramatically above the surrounding highlands, a great pyramid capped with ice and snow. We eat lunch at a local lodge, then a short drive takes us to the trailhead near Hermanos Carrel Refuge at 15,744 feet, where we shoulder our packs and begin a two-hour walk to our high camp at 17,388 feet (route Guargualla) just below the glacier. Porters will help carry group gear to high camp.

Vertical Ascent Trekking: 1,500 feet
Trekking Time: 2 hours

Accommodations: Chimborazo High Camp at Stubel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner (B, L, D)

*** We sometimes overnight at Hermanos Carrel refuge instead of staying at high camp depending on group and snow conditions ***

Day 11 • Summit Day • Chimborazo • 20,702 feet

With a midnight alpine start, we follow a new climbing route to the west-northwest to avoid dangerous rockfall. We pass the base of a rock formation called El Castillo or “The Castle” (18,044 feet) and then climb to Chimborazo’s false summit, Pico Veintimilla, at 20,433 feet. A half-hour walk across a saddle takes us to the top of the mountain at Whymper Summit. The ascent from High Camp normally takes six to seven hours. It ends at one of the best views in Ecuador. After returning to camp, we pack and descend to Riobamba for lunch. Return to Quito.

Vertical Ascent Climbing: 4,135 feet
Climbing Time: 9-12 hours roundtrip

Accommodations: Hotel in Quito or near Mariscal Sucre International Airport (not included)
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch (B, L)

Day 12 • Depart Quito

Transport to Mariscal Sucre International Airport for flights home (not included). Many flights depart Quito (UIO) in the late evening.

Itinerary Notes
Mountain Gurus makes every effort to uphold the scheduled itinerary, although our guides are given discretion to adapt the itinerary for reasons beyond our control or due to the needs of the group. Meal schedule: (B) Breakfast (L) Lunch (D) Dinner




Chimborazo Climb: $1295

Rates are quoted based on double/twin sharing hotel accommodations while in Quito and Haciendas. Single room fees apply.

Deposit and Payments

  • A non-refundable deposit of $1000.00 per person secures your reservation.
  • The balance is due 120 days prior to the start date.
  • The balance can be paid by credit card with a surcharge of 3.0%, or Zelle payment network.
  • If your balance payment is not received 120 days before the start of your program, your reservation will be canceled, and all program fees forfeited.

Price Includes

Cotopaxi and Illiniza Climb

  • Park fees
  • Scheduled land transportation in Ecuador
  • Hotels in Quito (4 nights)
  • Haciendas, and refuges (4 nights)
  • Scheduled meals during the expedition
  • Professional mountain guide. Groups of 6 or more are accompanied by an American guide in addition to a fully certified local guide
  • All group equipment for the expedition (tents, stoves, group climbing gear)

Chimborazo Climb

  • Park fees
  • Scheduled land transportation in Ecuador
  • Hotels in Baños (2 nights)
  • Tented accommodations (1 night)
  • Scheduled meals during the expedition
  • Professional mountain guide
  • All group equipment for the expedition (tents, stoves, group climbing gear)

Price Does Not Include

  • International airfare and meals during travel
  • Hotel accommodations near the airport
  • Non-scheduled airport transfers ($75)
  • Non-scheduled meals
  • Snack food during the expedition
  • Personal gear
  • Trip cancellation insurance (highly recommended)
  • Single room supplement (hotels only) $800
  • Medical and evacuation coverage
  • Early departure fees
  • Tips and gratuities



Program Location:
Begins and ends in Quito, Ecuador

Visa/Entry Information:
A valid passport is required for American citizens to enter Ecuador. American citizens do not need a visa for visits of up to 30 days for tourism.

Health & Immunizations:
Immunizations are not required for entry into Ecuador.

Flight Travel Information:
Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UOI), Quito, Ecuador

International Departures:
Itineraries reflect the date and time you will need to arrive in country for a program. Mountain Gurus programs begin and end in-country in the destination city. When booking your flight, you will need to account for travel time and crossing the international dateline if needed. It is easiest to give your booking agent the day and time you will need to arrive.

Meals and Food:
All meals are provided as per meal schedule. See itinerary.

A complete clothing and equipment list specific to your program will be sent to you in a pre-departure information packet upon booking. For your safety and comfort, it is extremely important that you adhere strictly to the equipment list.

Ecuador Volcanoes Fitness & Training

Climbing Grade: Beginner   

Our ascents will start at high altitude huts and lodges allowing us to acclimatize and rest between summit days. Because we will be climbing at high altitudes, we recommend that climbers should be in good physical condition with previous climbing experience.

Prior to the expedition we recommend climbing a Cascade volcano to master the skills essential for reaching the summit.

Here is a suggested progression of climbs before attempting the Ecuador Volcanoes:

  • Northwest Climb (Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, Mount Shuksan)
  • Glacier Mountaineering Course
  • Expedition Training Course
  • Mexico Volcanoes
  • Peaks of Peru
  • Mount Elbrus
  • Island Peak


A complete clothing and equipment list specific to your trip will be sent to you in the PreClimb information upon reservation.

Head and Face

  • Warm Hat: Wool/ synthetic, one that covers the ears.
  • Buff or Balaclava
  • Sun Hat or Baseball Cap
  • Glacier Glasses: Essential eye protection at altitude. Wrap around style or side shields. A category 4 lens is required.
  • Goggles: Dark lenses to help with snow and wind.
  • Sunscreen: SPF 30+
  • Lip Balm: SPF 30+
  • Climbing LED Headlamp: Bring one extra set of batteries.

Upper Body

  • Baselayer Tops: One synthetic long-sleeve shirt. Hoods for sun protection are strongly recommended.
  • Mid-layer Top: A synthetic or fleece top.
  • Softshell Jacket: This breathable but wind-and-weather resistant jacket. Hoods are highly recommended.
  • Hardshell Jacket: A fully waterproof shell. GORE-TEX© or equivalent. Hoods are required.
  • Insulated Jacket: Heavy weight down. 700+ fill or higher required.


  • Lightweight Gloves: One pair (WINDSTOPPER© is recommended)
  • Softshell Gloves: One pair. Leather palms offer durability and grip.
  • Heavyweight Gloves: Insulated glove or mitten with GORE-TEX© or waterproof outer.

Lower Body

  • Baselayer Bottom: One pair. Synthetic, no cotton.
  • Softshell Pants: One pair. Synthetic, stretchy, non-insulated.
  • Hardshell Pants: One pair of GORE-TEX© pants. Full-length side zips are required; you may need to take off your hardshell pants without removing your boots.
  • Gaiters: Full-sized waterproof gaiters that must fit snugly over your mountaineering boots.


  • Mountaineering Boots: Full shank crampon compatible. Double plastic mountaineering boots or Heavy weight synthetic/ hybrid mountaineering boots are required.
  • Approach Shoes: Light hiking boots or sturdy trail running shoes.
  • Mediumweight Socks: Two pair of wool or synthetic socks.
  • Heavyweight Socks: Two pair of wool or synthetic socks for sleeping in and for summit day.

Note: Please read our Mountaineering Boot and Crampon guide for more information.


  • Sleeping Bag: Bring a warm bag (rated to 0ᵒ Fahrenheit).

Packing and Backpack

  • Backpack: One 65-75 liter pack for personal gear. Should have an effective waist belt, fit properly and provide good support while carrying 45-60 lbs.
  • Liner Bags: 1 large plastic contractor bag.
  • Duffel Bag: One large, waterproof PVC duffel bafor transporting gear. 

Climbing Gear

  • Ice Axe: 55-75 cm mountaineering axe.
  • Crampons: 12-point steel with anti-balling plates.
  • Climbing Helmet: Lightweight
  • Alpine Harness: Lightweight alpine harness with adjustable leg loops.
  • Trekking Poles: Adjustable and collapsible with snow baskets.
  • Locking Carabiners: (2) Large pear-shaped, screw gate locking carabiners.
  • Non-Locking Carabiners: (2) Wire gate non-locking carabiners.
  • Nylon Slings(1) 60 cm nylon slings


  • Water Bottles: Two, 1L wide-mouth plastic bottles. NALGENE©

Personal Health and First Aid

  • Snacks and drinks
  • Small personal first-aid kit and medications
  • Toilet paper, blue bag or wag bag
  • Earplugs

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Mountain Gurus

Since 2008, we have offered world-class Seven Summits expeditions, high-altitude climbs, and specialized treks around the globe from the Himalayas to the Andes, and from the heights of Africa to the rainforests of the Amazon Basin. We make safety our foremost priority. We employ some of the most talented guides in the industry, and we maintain low client-to-guide ratios to ensure that you enjoy the best possible experience. Our business is rooted in environmental and social stewardship. We also offer a wide selection of mountaineering courses and climbs in the Pacific Northwest through our partner company, Northwest Alpine Guides. To learn more about our services, history and philosophy, please visit: Why Mountain Gurus.

How hard is this climb and what technical skills do I need?

Climbers should have basic snow and mountaineering experience. We recommend taking our 5 Day Glacier Mountaineering Course or 4 Day Alpine Skills course.

When is the best season to climb?

Ecuador’s main climbing season lasts from November to February. Excellent climbing conditions also occur during the dry weather in June.

How much will my pack weigh on summit day?

Generally, pack weights will range from 20-25 lbs. You will carry extra layers of warm clothing, food, and water on your summit push.

What is the guide to climber ratio?

Local IFMGA certified guide’s lead our Cotopaxi expeditions. We strive to maintain a 2:1 climber to guide ratio on summit day. Additional assistant guides or American guides will be present for larger groups.



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