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Submitted By: Kurt Johnson on Apr 7, 2008






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Ecuador's highest, Chimborazo


Ecuador is an amazing place. Located on the equator between Columbia to the north and Peru to the south, it may be one of the smallest countries in South America, but its also one of the most diverse. From Pacific beaches to the west to glaciated volcanoes in the center to Amazon rainforests in the east, it's got a little bit of everything. It's small size makes it easy to get around in as well. And it's people and culture are worth the trip even if you don't go there to climb.

Ecuador is a volcano climber's dream. In fact, due to it's geography, volcanoes - or their eroded remains - are just about the only mountains you'll find. There are peaks for every level - from grass-covered walk-ups to massive glacier-clad giants like the country's highest, 20,700 foot Chimborazo, and everything in between. Being volcanoes, by nature even the majority of the glaciated ones are moderate snow slogs - with an occasional bergschrund crossing or short headwall - doable by anyone with glacier and snow climbing experience. What sets this country's summits apart from their American counterparts like Hood and Rainier is elevation. Anyone looking to break into high altitude climbing couldn't find a better place than Ecuador.

The Andes of Ecuador run more or less north-south through the center of the country and the main highway, the Panamericana, runs right through the middle between volcanoes that stand out bold against the blue sky on a clear day. Although the mountains here are considered part of the Andes, think of them more like the volcanoes of Washington and Oregon in relation to our Rockies, rather than the craggy granite peaks of Peru's Cordillera Blanca or the torres of Patagonia.

When you get off the beaten path, away from the highway and the adjacent urban areas like Ambato and Latacunga, you enter a world of farms and lush green pastures, eucalyptus groves and llamas, and then finally the scattered stands of polyepsis and tall grasses of the paramo that let you know you're in the heart of the cool, thin-aired high country.

Getting There 

You can find flights from any major city in the states, although the cheapest will originate in places like Miami and New York. Since it's not as major a destination for Americans as Peru is, flights are a couple hundred dollars more to Quito than to Lima, even though Quito's closer. Two years ago I paid about $600 (which was a surprising deal) from Denver and last year paid about $800.

Most people fly to Quito from which you can either rent a car or get on a bus to get to just about anywhere you want to go. For some of the peaks close to the city, you can even take a taxi for not too much money. Of course, buses are by far the cheapest, and they'll take you (and all your heavy, awkward gear) to whichever town you plan to use as your base, or even drop you off anywhere along the highway. From there, depending on which mountain you're headed to, you can hire a taxi, or a private car or truck (usually abundant in climbing areas) to take you to the trailhead or refugio (climber's hut).

Climbing Season

Weather station 20.8 miles from here

7 Total Routes

['4 Stars',0],['3 Stars',4],['2 Stars',1],['1 Star',0],['Bomb',0]

The Classics

Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Ecuador:
Regular Route   Mod. Snow     Trad, Snow, Alpine   Cotopaxi
Normal Route   3rd 1- 1 I 1 M 1a Easy Snow     Snow, 1600'   Illiniza Norte
East Ridge/Direct Route   Easy 5th 1+ 3 I 5 M 1c     Trad   Pichincha Massif : Ruco Pichincha
Browse More Classics in Ecuador

Featured Route For Ecuador
Approaching the Josť Ribas Hut on Cotopaxi, Ecuado...

Regular Route Mod. Snow  South America : Ecuador : Cotopaxi
This standard climb to the summit of a beautiful volcano deals with moderate snow, some mild glacier problems, a few crevasses, and the expected variability expected of such ascents. The last 500 feet is occasionally steep, but snow/ice conditions will have more effect on technical difficulties than anything else. It takes an average party roughly 8 hours for the round trip from the hut. ...[more]   Browse More Classics in International

Photos of Ecuador Slideshow Add Photo
Cotopaxi, Ecuador
Cotopaxi, Ecuador
The Illinizas, Ecuador
The Illinizas, Ecuador
Tungurahua volcano erupting in the distance as see...
Tungurahua volcano erupting in the distance as see...
Illiniza Norte, Ecuador
Illiniza Norte, Ecuador
Polylepis forest below El Altar
Polylepis forest below El Altar
Ted Williams and Nick Cobler nearing the summit on...
Ted Williams and Nick Cobler nearing the summit on...
Chimborazo, Ecuador
Chimborazo, Ecuador
Illiniza Sur, Ecuador
Illiniza Sur, Ecuador
El Altar from valley
El Altar from valley
Nancy Bell on the roof of the Secret Garden hostal...
Nancy Bell on the roof of the Secret Garden hostal...
Mocha summit of Carihuayrazo (16,463ft), Ecuador c...
Mocha summit of Carihuayrazo (16,463ft), Ecuador c...
Ruminahui, Ecuador
Ruminahui, Ecuador
Cayambe Ecuador
Cayambe Ecuador
El Corazon, Ecuador
El Corazon, Ecuador
Heading down from Cotopaxi's summit.
Heading down from Cotopaxi's summit.
Tungarahua, Ecuador
Tungarahua, Ecuador
Illiniza Sur getting the first rays of a sunrise
Illiniza Sur getting the first rays of a sunrise
Nancy Bell backpacking near Carihuairazo whose sum...
Nancy Bell backpacking near Carihuairazo whose sum...
Above the clouds on Cotopaxi, Ecuador 1996.
Above the clouds on Cotopaxi, Ecuador 1996.
The local climber's hostel in town. Friendly owner...
BETA PHOTO: The local climber's hostel in town. Friendly owner...

Comments on Ecuador Add Comment
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By stephanie maltarich
Jun 28, 2008
Ecuador is where I learned to climb last year. So in my opion, it is pretty fantastic.

I don't know enough about the areas I climbed in to make proper destination pages for each area, but if you are planning to climb in Ecuador, here is your best resource:


You might want to brush up on your Spanish, though :) I think the south, near Cuenca, has the best climbing (or so the locals say). I'm also pretty sure it is all sport climbing.

If you need some advice, the folks who work at Monodedo (a great store with lots of climbing stuff) are always super helpful and psyched about climbing. There are locations in Quito and Cuenca. OR you could head on down to one of the climbing walls in Quito or Cuenca, and get the beta from the local climbers who are always super animated and fun. The climbing wall in Cuenca is located at the El Coliseo on the west end of town and the wall in Quito is located at El Rocodromo (there is also a Monodedo store here).

Enjoy! It is a magical country...
By sanz
From: Raleigh, NC
Oct 29, 2012
Stephanie's comment is right on. Cuenca has the best climbing in the country and a great climbing community. Brush up on your Spanish and stop by Monodedo or the climbing wall and get to know the locals. They will be happy to give you beta, and you might just find a partner if you're rolling solo.

Only one point to correct - while the focus is definitely on sport climbing, there is trad to be had, especially at Cojitambo.
By Eli Helmuth
From: Estes Park, CO
Aug 15, 2014

The area highlighted in this excellent video appears to be in the mountains nearby Cuenca which has a concentration of the most rock routes in Ecuador Along with the Banos zone (rio Pastaza Canyon), a few crags nearby Quito, the dream canyon nearby Chimborazo and the awesome crag of Cuyuja near Papallacta on the road into the Amazon. Trip report that includes some of these areas here on climbinglife.com
By Laine
From: Reno, NV
Jan 25, 2015
The government has changed the law and now requires you to hire a guide for all the mountaineering done in national parks. It's rather hard to get around this as the rangers can search your vehicle. If you plan to climb without a guide 1) dress like a tourist (no synthetic clothes or North Face type brands) and 2) hide your climbing gear as best as possible. Tell them you are camping and let them search a bag of camping gear.
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