Take it to the Top: Ten Great Alpine Adventures

Ecuador: High Andes Adventure
  |  Gorp.com

Ecuador's major summits (Cotopaxi and Chimborazo) are far more scenic and considerably more challenging than the Mexican volcanoes. Ecuador's third highest peak, Cayambe, has glaciers that are large and varied, providing both challenge for advanced climbers and great training conditions for novices. The summit climbers must leave well before dawn to make it to the top and back again in a day. There is an easy glacier climb to a saddle and then the group must rope up to ascend the 35-degree slopes to the crater. It is then an easy but scenic walk above the clouds to the summit.
When visiting Cotopaxi, the world's highest active volcano, start heading for the summit in darkness, climbing 30- to 35-degree snow and ice ramps to reach a 17,000-foot glacial platform at dawn's light. The remaining 2,000 feet to the top will put your technical skills to the test: belay across snow bridges, skirt crevasses, and then ascend the 40-degree slopes of Cotopaxi's upper glacier. At the summit, you are rewarded with spectacular views of nine major peaks and Cotopaxi's 1,000-foot-deep summit crater.

The third summit is Chimborazo, Ecuador's highest peak, a massive dormant volcano rising nearly 11,000 feet above Ecuador's central valley. Far more challenging than most volcanic summits, Chimborazo has complex faces and glaciers that require careful application of alpine skills. Consider attacking this massive mountain from the West Face, a moderately steep and varied approach with 25- to 40-degree slopes and some glacier ice.
Practically Speaking
This is the perfect trip for someone who wants to learn serious mountaineering skills and put them to use on mountains that are worth writing home about. For novice mountaineers who want to climb some big, impressive mountains in a 2-week vacation, Ecuador is the place. Fifteen-day climbing programs are offered November through February every year, utilizing two different formats, depending on your own personal skill level.


Paul McMenamin is the author, editor, and photo director of the original Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook.

Published: 1 Feb 2001 | Last Updated: 3 Dec 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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