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Tour Operators : Climbing in Ecuador

Climbing in Ecuador

For a small country, Ecuador is very well endowed with major peaks, with 25 over fifteen thousand feet, many within a days drive from Quito. Most of the big volcanos are to be found in the 'Avenue of the Volcanoes' with the Eastern and Western Cordilleras running either side of the high central valleys.

The classic snow capped cone shaped volcanoes are much in evidence, for example Cotopaxi (above), Chimborazo, Cayambe and Tungurahua. A number are active, with Cotopaxi being alledgedly the worlds highest active volcano -check the status locally before you climb. Chimborazo, although by no means the tallest peak in South America, does have the distinction of being the closest place on earth to the sun, due to the earth's bulge at the equator (the earth's shape is that of an oblate spheroid).

For the more experienced climbers there are other more complex peaks that give a greater challenge, including Antisana, El Altar and Iliniza Sur, and in the east, away from the Cordilleras there are three peaks, Reventador, Sumaco and Sangay, that give a very different experience, being set in dense jungle.

There are numerous non glaciated lower peaks that can be used to aclimatise - Pichincha and Imbabura for example. They look straightforward, but they are nonetheless not just an afternoon stroll -take advice first -there are a number of very good websites listed below. Be careful of robbers on the slopes of Pichincha.

There are climbing huts at Cotopaxi, Chimborazo, Cayambe, Ilinizas, and Tungurahua (however due to volcanic activity Tungurahua is no longer safe to climb).

The highest peaks (volcanoes with possible activity marked red):
Chimborazo 6,310m
Cotopaxi 5,897m
Cayambe 5,790m
Antisana 5,704m
Altar 5,320m
Illiniza Sur 5,263 m
Sangay 5,230m 
Illiniza Norte 5,120 m
Carihuairazo 5020 m
Tungurahua 5,016m
Cotacachi 4,944m
Sincholagua 4,893m
Quilindaña 4,878m
Morurco 4,840m
Guagua Pichincha 4,794m
Corazón 4,788m
Chiles 4,768m
Rumiñahui 4,712m
Ruco Pichincha 4,680m
Sara Urco 4,676m
Imbabura 4609m
Hermoso 4,571m
Puntas 4,452
Atacazo 4,457m
Pasochoa 4,200m
Sumaco 3,900m
Reventador 3,485
Quilotoa 3,840m
Pululahua 3,356m
Cuicocha 3,240m
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Acadia -mountain guide climbing school -expeditions in Ecuador.
Andean Trails -climbing and mountaineeering courses in South America.
Andes Handbook -mountain climbing in Chile and South America -so far includes Cotopaxi only in English.
Alpine Ascents -organised climbs of Chimborazo, Cayambe, Cotopaxi and Cotacachi.
Climb Ecuador -organizes and leads mountain climbing trips to the Andes Mountains of Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru.
Cotopaxi Information -the site of Ismael W. Janisch - Mountain guide -in German and oddly arranged but some beautiful images.
Cotopaxi Cara Sur -specialise in climbing the south face of Cotopaxi with their own adobe cabañas at 4000m.
Ecuadorian Alpine Institure -a mountaineering company specializing in ascents of Ecuador´s highest volcanic peaks and trekking across the country´s wildest high-altitude landscapes.
Ecuador Mountain Guides -ten years experience in delivering climbing programs in the Andes -all levels from beginner to the advanced.
High Summits -tour operator offering ascents in the Andean mountain range with its important summits, such as Cotopaxi, Chimborazo, Cayambe, Ilinizas, Altar and Sangay.
Ivan Vallejo -personal page of a leading Ecuadorean climber (Spanish only)
Jean Pavillard -JP's guide to climbing Cotopaxi and El Altar.
Moggely Climbing -climbimg and adventure tours run by Mogge, a viking and his Ecuadorian wife Ely.
Mountain Madness -international expeditions to the great peaks in the avenue of volcanos -Cotopaxi, Chimborazo, Cayambe, Antisana, Illiniza.
National Geophysics Institute -loads of information on the geology and volcanos of Ecuador.
Pardoe's Cotopaxi -Steve and Judy Pardoes climb to the summit in 1998. -guide to the rock climbing sites in Ecuador.
Snowcaps and other mountains of Ecuador -some nice pictures and description of some of the major peaks.
Summit Post -guide to climbing the great peaks -includes Ecuador's top ten.
Volcanoland -climbing, riding and trekking in the Cotopaxi area.
Volcanos of Ecuador -images and data from volcano world.
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Featured book:

Travels Amongst the Great Andes of the Equator
by Edward Whymper
Whymper's own account of his expedition to the Andes in 1880, assisted by Jean Antoine Carrel. Whymper made ascents several mountains including Chimbarazo and the active volcano Cotopaxi as part of his investigations into the causes of altitude sickness.
Price in UK pounds
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Rob Rachowiecki, Mark Thurber
BRADT Travel Guides
Paperback -November 21, 2003
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Ecuador: A Climbing Guide
Yossi Brain
Mountaineers Books
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Climbing the Equator, Running the Jungle: Adventures in the Jungles and Mountains of Ecuador
Neville Shulman
Summersdale Publishers
Paperback -2005
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in association with
click here for more books on Ecuador

Many of Ecuador's volcanoes are very active. The picture above shows the 1999 eruption of Pichincha which showered Quito with ash (click to enlarge).
In 2002 Reventador similarly cloaked the city with volcanic material, closing the airport. Reventador lies in the jungle to the east of Quito.
For more information on the latest status of volcanic activity, visit the pages of the Smithsonian Institute or the Instituto Geofisico who publish updates on the internet.
Tungurahua pictured in eruption in October 2006. The volcano has been active for some time and at the start of 2008 entered a new period of eruption, with outlying villages having to be evacuated.