"The trip ran so smoothly you would have thought we'd been blessed by the Virgin of Quito. I cannot think of anything that was overlooked by RMI or our guides. "
— Bruce F. | Read More Testimonials
Rising above Ecuador’s “Avenue of the Volcanoes” stands Cotopaxi (19,348'), one of the country’s most majestic peaks. Our Cotopaxi Express climb brings you up the mountain's high altitude glaciers and home again all in a nine day adventure. Climb highlights include:
- Climb one of Ecuador's greatest volcanoes in an adventure lasting just over a week.
- Climb with an experienced RMI Guide, benefiting from their background, training, and expertise as you venture to higher altitudes.
- Visit the fascinating landscape of Ecuador, from it’s alpine glaciers to the vibrant colors of the country’s traditional markets.
- Build your climbing experience with an ascent that combines high altitude experience with moderate technical difficulty and international expedition travel.
- Take part in an RMI adventure and see why we continue to set the standard in guiding excellence.
Our climb begins in Quito, the capitol of Ecuador. Sitting in a valley known as the "Avenue of the Volcanoes" only fifteen miles south of the equator and at an altitude of 9,350’, Quito is surrounded by mountains. We spend a few days exploring Quito’s mix of colonial and modern streets and hiking in the surrounding hills as we acclimatize in preparation for Cotopaxi. Leaving Quito we pause in Otovalo to visit it’s thriving and vibrant traditional markets before reaching Illiniza Norte, a nearby Ecuadorian peak. After an acclimatization hike to over 15,000’, we spend the night in a charming Ecuadorian farmhouse nearby.
We then head to Cotopaxi and ascend to our climbing hut at 16,000’ on the mountain’s flanks. We review our mountaineering techniques on the glaciers near the hut in preparation for summit day. Our summit bid brings us up Cotopaxi’s massive glaciers and through it’s fields of crevasses to it’s summit perched along the airy volcanic rim.
Cotopaxi offers superb alpine climbing for intermediate climbers, involving moderately steep slopes. Prior knowledge of roped travel, crampon techniques, and ice axe arrest is recommended and a review of these basic mountaineering techniques is built into the itinerary. The Cotopaxi Express is ideal for mountaineers looking to build their climbing skills, reach new elevations, and take part in the excitement of an international climbing expedition all in a short time frame.
THE RMI DIFFERENCE
Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. was established in 1969 and is one of America’s oldest and most-trusted guide services. We are the largest guide service on Mt. Rainier and Mt. McKinley and leaders in guiding climbs and treks around the globe. Our years of leading mountain adventures give us the experience and knowledge to create the best possible trips and we work hard to live up to our reputation as an industry leader. Our trip preparation before departure takes care of the details for you, from hotels to transfers, so that you can focus on preparing for the climb instead of the distractions that come with coordinating logistics.
Our Cotopaxi climbs are led by RMI’s top U.S. guides, who bring years of climbing experience in Ecuador and on mountains all over the world, from the Andes to the Alaska Range to the Himalayas. As you reach higher elevations and test the limits of your experience on Cotopaxi, the value of an accomplished, highly trained RMI Guide held to our standards cannot be understated. Additionally, joining our programs is an experienced Ecuadorian guide with whom we have partnered for many years. Jaime Avila, Freddy Tipan, and Esteban Mena are accomplished guides who have climbed around the world, from Ecuador to the Himalaya. Read more about RMI's Ecuador Guides...
We use RMI's own climbing equipment brought from the U.S. during the climb, ensuring that our expedition standards of safety, quality, and reliability are met. Our lodges and meals have been hand-picked by our guides to keep our team comfortable, happy, and healthy throughout the climb. We use private vehicles to travel between the different peaks, minimizing our time spent on the road and making travel safer. Our exceptional focus on detail, our unparalleled level of climber attention, and our genuine excitement for these adventures are what make our programs stand out.
Safety has always been RMI’s top priority and we strive to create the safest mountain experience possible. RMI’s experienced team of guides focus on leading a fun and successful climb without compromising safety. We apply the same standards of safety we bring to Alaska and the Himalayas to our climb of Cotopaxi. Careful planning, precise ascent profiles, daily weather forecasts, and diligent attention are taken as we venture to high altitudes. Comprehensive medical kits, rescue equipment, and radio and satellite communication equipment are carried with the team throughout the trip.
As you prepare for your upcoming adventure please feel free to contact our office and speak directly to one of our experienced guides regarding equipment, conditioning, the route, or any other questions you may have about our programs. We are available Monday thru Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at (888) 89-CLIMB or email@example.com.
Day 1: TRAVEL • 9,350' | 2,800m
Depart U.S.A. Most flights arrive in Quito (UIO) in the late evening. Upon your arrival in Quito, a taxi ride takes you to our hotel. Overnight at Mercure Grand Hotel Alameda in Quito.
The streets of Quito
Day 2: EXPLORE QUITO • 9,350' | 2,800m
We meet in the hotel lobby for an orientation meeting and our first team breakfast. The day is spent exploring Colonial Quito with a local tour guide. We visit Independence Square, church of La Compania (1605) and the church and monastery of San Francisco (1535). We will also travel 15 minutes north of Quito to the Equatorial Line where we can jump from the northern to the southern hemisphere. There is also time in the afternoon to relax and recover from our flights. (B)
Visiting Quito and the Equator
Day 3: ACCLIMATIZE RUCU PICHINCHA (15,696') • 9,350' | 2,800m
After breakfast we take a short drive from Quito to the teleférico (gondola) which will carry us to approximately 13,500’. From there we stretch our legs and lungs with an acclimatization hike on Rucu Pichincha (15,696’). The hike is beautiful, with views of Quito and most of the snow covered volcanoes in Ecuador, including Cotopaxi and Cayambe. We return to the hotel and the afternoon is free to explore the city and organize our gear for our departure from Quito the following morning. (B)
Hiking on Rucu Pichincha
Day 4: ACCLIMATIZE ILLINIZA NORTE (16,818') • 11,400' | 3,475m
Leaving the city of Quito we travel to Illiniza Norte, a jagged peak just west of Cotopaxi National Park. This is our second acclimatization hike; this time to 16,000'. We spend the night in a traditional Ecuadorian farmhouse (Chilcabamba Eco Lodge), located near the base of Cotopaxi. (B, D)
Hiking on Illiniza Norte
Day 5: JOSE RIBAS REFUGIO • 16,000' | 4,877m
After breakfast, a short drive takes us to the end of the road at the base of Cotopaxi. A short 45 minute hike leads to the Jose Ribas Refugio at 16,000'. (B, D)
Approach on Cotopaxi
Day 6: CLIMBER REVIEW • 16,000' | 4,877m
In the morning we hike out to the toe of the glacier to focus on reviewing basic mountaineering techniques that will prepare us for our summit attempt. We settle in early in anticipation of our summit day. (B, D)
Training on Cotopaxi
Day 7: SUMMIT DAY COTOPAXI 19,348' • 10,200' | 3,109m
With an early alpine start, we use the first hour to approach the glacier. A long, initial pitch gains access to an interesting maze of crevasses on the lower slopes of this beautiful volcano. The ascent then weaves through impressive crevasse fields before ascending the final steep slopes to the summit. The deep, sheer-walled volcanic crater is an incredibly impressive sight. After celebrating on the summit, we descend back to the hut. Upon reaching the vehicles, we head out of the park to one of Ecuador's most beautiful colonial haciendas, the 300-year old La Cienega. Climbing time is approximately 10 - 12 hours. (B)
The summit bid on Cotopaxi The summit of Cotopaxi
Day 8: CELEBRATION IN QUITO • 9,350' | 2,800m
After a leisurely breakfast, we return to Quito for shopping and sightseeing. Prior to spending our last night in Ecuador, we enjoy an evening celebration dinner and overnight in Quito. (B)
Returning to Quito
Day 9: TRAVEL
We transfer to the airport for our outbound flights.
Key: B, L, D = Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner included.
Ecuador Volcano: Cotopaxi Express Equipment List
The following is a list of required equipment. We may encounter a variety of weather conditions throughout our climb, including rain, wind, snow, sleet and extreme heat. Skimping on equipment can jeopardize your safety and success, so we want you to think carefully about any changes or substitutions you are considering. If you have questions regarding the equipment needed for your upcoming climb, give us a call and speak directly to one of our experienced guides.
Most of the required equipment is available for rent or purchase from our affiliate Whittaker Mountaineering. RMI climbers receive a 10% discount on new clothing and equipment items ordered from Whittaker Mountaineering. This offer excludes sale items. For internet orders, please use the discount code RMI2015.
Pack & Bag Guides' Pick
2 DUFFEL BAG(S): A 120+ liter bag made of tough material with rugged zippers.
BACKPACK: A 50+ liter pack is the recommended size for this climb. A separate summit pack is not needed.
DAY PACK: A 25+ liter day pack to use as carry-on, while traveling or sightseeing.
SLEEPING BAG: A bag rated 0° to 15° F. Either goose down or synthetic.
SLEEPING PAD: Not required for this trip. Climbers' hut(s) are equipped with pads.
Technical Gear Guides' Pick
ICE AXE: The length of your axe depends on your height. Use the following general mountaineering formula: up to 5'8", use a 65 cm axe; 5'8" to 6'2", use a 70 cm axe; and taller, use a 75 cm axe. If you hold the axe so that it hangs comfortably at your side, the spike of the axe should still be a few inches above the ground.
CLIMBING HARNESS: We recommend a comfortable, adjustable alpine climbing harness. Removable, drop seat or adjustable leg loops are convenient for managing your clothing layers over the course of the climb and facilitate going to the bathroom.
1 TRIPLE-ACTION LOCKING CARABINER(S): Used for clipping into the climbing rope.
HELMET: A UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme) or CE (European Committee for Standardization) certified climbing helmet. Bicycle or ski helmets are designed for a different type of impact and will not substitute as a climbing helmet.
CRAMPONS: The 10 to 12 point adjustable crampons designed for general mountaineering are ideal. We highly recommend anti-bot plates to prevent snow from balling up underfoot. Rigid frame crampons designed for technical ice climbing are not recommended.
AVALANCHE TRANSCEIVER: A digital transceiver is preferred; analog will work as well. If you rent a transceiver, one set of new batteries will be provided.
TREKKING POLES: Lightweight and collapsible poles are preferred. Larger baskets work well with deep snow. Ski poles will also work.
Head Guides' Pick
WARM HAT: Wool or synthetic. It should provide warmth but also be thin enough to fit underneath a climbing helmet.
BUFF / NECK GAITER / BALACLAVA: One item for face protection is required. Our primary recommendation is the Buff. A neck gaiter or balaclava is also acceptable.
GLACIER GLASSES: You will need protective sunglasses, either dark-lensed with side shields or full wrap-around frames. Almost all sunglasses block UV-A, UV-B and infrared rays adequately. Pay attention to the visible light transmission. The darkest lenses (glacier glasses) only allow approx. 6% visible light to get through, while lighter lenses (driving glasses) let in as much as 20+ %. A good rule of thumb is that if you can see the wearer’s pupils through the lenses, they are too light for sun protection at altitude.
GOGGLES: Amber or rose-tinted goggles for adverse weather. On windy days, climbers, especially contact lens wearers, may find photochromatic lenses the most versatile in a variety of light conditions.
Each glove layer is worn separately as conditions change during the climb.
LIGHT WEIGHT GLOVE: One pair of fleece, soft-shell or wind-stopper gloves.
MEDIUM WEIGHT GLOVE: Wind/water resistant, insulated mountain gloves.
HEAVY WEIGHT GLOVE: Wind/water resistant, insulated gloves. These also serve as emergency back-ups if you drop or lose a glove.
We recommend a minimum of five upper body layers, all of which can be used in conjunction with each other. Two of these should be insulating layers, one light and one medium, that fit well together. Today there are many different layering systems to choose from, including fleece, soft-shell, down and synthetic options.
LIGHT TO MEDIUM WEIGHT BASELAYER: Long-sleeve wool or synthetic top. Quarter zip styles will allow for better temperature regulation. We recommend light colors, which best reflect the intense sun on hot days.
RAIN JACKET (HARD SHELL): A jacket made of rain-proof material with an attached hood. We recommend a thinner lightweight jacket rather than a heavier insulated jacket.
INSULATED PARKA with HOOD: This expedition-style heavy parka should extend below the waist and must have an insulated hood. While the parka is worn primarily at rest breaks on summit day, it serves as an emergency garment if needed. We recommend down rather than synthetic fill as down weighs less. The parka does not have to be waterproof, though that is a nice feature.
We recommend a system of four layers, all of which can be used in conjunction with each other. Products which combine several layers into one garment, such as traditional ski pants, don’t work well as they don’t offer the versatility of a layering system.
1 - 3 UNDERWEAR: Non-cotton briefs or boxers.
LIGHT TO MEDIUM WEIGHT BASELAYER: Synthetic or wool.
CLIMBING PANT: Soft-shell climbing pants offer a wide range of versatility. You can wear them in combination with the base layer on colder days, or alone on warmer days.
RAIN PANT (HARD SHELL): A waterproof pant with 3/4 side zippers (sometimes called 7/8 or full side zips) are required for facilitating quick clothing adjustments over boots and crampons.
HIKING SHORTS: Good for lower elevations and warm, sunny days.
Feet Guides' Pick
MOUNTAINEERING BOOTS: Insulated double boots are the preferred choice. They provide the best insulation as well as a more rigid sole for kicking steps and holding crampons. Leather mountaineering boots that have completely rigid soles are also adequate, but they will need to be insulated and may still result in cold feet on summit days. Bring one pair of chemical foot warmers if you are using the leather mountaineering boots.
HIKING BOOTS: A pair of lightweight boots for approaches and hiking on rugged terrain.
LIGHTWEIGHT HIKING SHOES: Great for travel, day hikes, and camp.
GAITERS: We recommend a knee-length pair of gaiters, large enough to fit over your mountaineering boots. This will protect you from catching your crampon spikes on loose clothing.
3 PAIR OF SOCKS: Either wool or synthetic. Whatever sock combination you are accustomed to wearing during your training or previous adventures (whether single medium weight socks, a medium weight with a liner sock, two medium weight socks together, etc), should work just fine for this climb.
Miscellaneous Items Guides' Pick
SUNSCREEN: We recommend small tubes of SPF 15 or higher, which can be carried in pockets for easy access and to prevent freezing.
MEALS: See the Food tab for suggestions and quantities.
2 WATER BOTTLES: Hard-sided, screw-top, one-liter water bottles with wide mouths are required. Plastics made with high post-consumer recycled content and BPA-Free are recommended.
2 - 3 GARBAGE BAGS (LARGE): We recommend lining your backpack with garbage bags to keep items in your backpack completely dry.
2 SETS AA ALKALINE BATTERIES: For avalanche transceiver.
LUGGAGE LOCKS: For your duffel bags. Must be TSA approved.
2 CASUAL PANTS
4 SHIRTS: For hotel dinners and while traveling.
PEE BOTTLE (PEE FUNNEL FOR WOMEN) - OPTIONAL
Personal First Aid Kit
ASPRIN / IBUPROFEN / TYLENOL
PEPTO-BISMOL (STOMACH RELIEF)
SMALL ROLL OF ADHESIVE TAPE
ANTIBIOTICS: Broad spectrum antibiotics for Traveler's Diarrhea.
TYLENOL #3: Tylenol 3 for pain
ACETAZOLAMIDE: For Altitude Illness
Utensils Guides' Pick
READING MATERIAL / JOURNAL
PASSPORT: Valid for six months beyond your return date.
COPY OF PASSPORT: The first two pages of your passport.
COPY OF FLIGHT ITINERARY
2 EXTRA PASSPORT PHOTOS
Purchase travel insurance.
Purchase airplane tickets.
Reserve rental equipment.
Be in the Best Shape of Your Life!
RMI provides the following equipment for your program: huts, stoves, group cooking equipment, fuel, climbing ropes, climbing anchors, avalanche probes, shovels, and blue bags (for solid waste disposal).
Every guide on your climb will carry rescue equipment and a first aid kit. Each climb has two-way radios and a satellite phone for emergency contact.
Breakfast and dinner meals on the mountain are included as indicated in our Trip Itinerary. With the exception of hotel breakfasts, most restaurant meals are on your own. Your trip fee does not included bottled water and drinks.
Please list any special dietary needs on the Participant Information Form. The form must be returned to the RMI Office 90 days prior to the program departure date.
You are responsible for your own mountain lunches for 5 days. Lunch items should weigh about 2 - 3 lbs. We may have a chance to purchase additional food in Ecuador, but we recommend you take what you need and only supplement with local food if necessary.
Take lunch foods that you genuinely enjoy. Eating well is the key to maintaining your strength while in the mountains. And in order to combat the loss of appetite at altitude, it is best to have a variety of foods from which to choose, from sweet to sour to salty.
Lunch snacks are eaten during short breaks throughout the day while in the mountains. Avoid packing any items that require preparation or hot water.
Recommended mountain lunch items: dry salami, smoked salmon, jerky (turkey, beef, fish), small cans of tuna fish, individually wrapped cheeses such as Laughing Cow or Baby Bell, crackers, bagels, candy bars, hard candies (Jolly Ranchers, Toffees, Life Savers), Gummy Bears, sour candies (Sweet Tarts), cookies, dried fruit, nuts, energy bars, GORP mixes, and drink mixes (Gatorade/Kool-Aid).
Mountain Breakfasts and Dinners
The breakfast menu includes items such as instant oatmeal, cold cereals (granola), breakfast bars (Kashi, Kudos), hot drinks (coffee, tea, cocoa, cider) and local fresh fruit.
Dinner usually begins with soup and ends with dessert, followed by a round of hot drinks. Healthy one-pot meals, incorporating fresh local food whenever practical, are served as the main course. One typical main course dinner might be spaghetti with sausage and fresh vegetables. Another meal might be chicken fajitas with cheese, tortillas, onions, and peppers. There are limitations, but the menu is planned to offer good variety and ample portions.
This trip is open to individuals in excellent physical condition who are comfortable with rope travel, the use of crampons, and ice axe arrest. This is a great first trip to altitudes above 15,000 feet.
Simply put, climbers perform better and enjoy the adventure more if they have a high degree of fitness and comfort with basic mountaineering skills. This program’s high altitude and snowy terrain contribute to make this a very worthwhile challenge.
Recommended climbing experiences prior to Cotopaxi include climbs which introduce climbers to basic rope, ice axe and cramponing skills:
- 4-day or 5-day Summit Climb on Mt. Rainier
- Expedition Skills Seminar on Mt. Rainier
- Mountaineer’s route on Mt. Whitney
- Avalanche Gulch route on Mt. Shasta
Physical Fitness Training
Mountaineering requires a high degree of physical stamina and mental toughness. Even for the healthiest and fittest individuals, climbing mountains qualifies as an extremely challenging endeavor.
- Start immediately. Start a rigorous fitness and training program now with the goal of arriving in top physical condition and confident in your skills.
- Be intentional. Focus on gaining the necessary strength, stamina and skills to meet the physical and technical demands of the climb.
- Be sport-specific. The best fitness and training program mimics the physical and technical demands of your climbing objective. The closer you get to your program date, the more your training should resemble the climbing.
For Cotopaxi, you are preparing for:
- Steep climbing with a 20-25 lb load
- A 10-12+ hour summit day
- Mountaineering techniques which require core strength and flexibility
Nothing ensures a personally successful adventure like your level of fitness and training. Bottom line: Plan on being in the best shape of your life and ready for a very challenging adventure!
Please refer to our Resources for Mountaineering Fitness and Training for detailed fitness and training information.
The key to climbing high is proper acclimatization. Our program follows a calculated ascent profile which allows time for your body to adjust to the altitude.
Excellent physical conditioning significantly increases your ability to acclimatize as you ascend. Climbers in excellent physical condition simply have more energy to commit to the acclimatization process throughout the days and nights of the ascent, allowing their bodies to adjust to the altitude more easily.
Finally, physical performance and acclimatization are also related to how well you have taken care of yourself throughout the hours, days and weeks prior to summit day. Arriving healthy and well-rested, maintaining proper hydration and caloric intake, and protecting against unnecessary heat loss (staying warm) are all key factors in an individual’s success on an expedition such as this.
RMI has partnered with Erin Rountree to provide comprehensive travel support. We have been working with Erin for many years. As an independent agent of the Travel Society, she has booked countless miles for adventure travelers across the globe and is extremely knowledgeable about the travel needs of our programs. In addition to travel arrangements, Erin can also provide information and coverage for evacuation policies and insurance options. Please call (208) 788-2870 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cancellation Insurance, Medical Evacuation & Security Evacuation
We strongly encourage participants to consider travel insurance, a medical evacuation policy, and a security evacuation policy. Travel insurance which can cover trip cancellation, interruption, delay, baggage loss or delay, medical expenses, medical evacuation, repatriation and more. Travel insurance offers the best possible protection in the event of a sudden, unexpected illness or injury prior to or when traveling. Note that many of the insurance options can be purchased under one policy but some coverage may only be available if purchased within 14 days of making your trip deposit or if purchased as an upgrade to an existing policy rather than as a stand-alone option.
Cancellation Insurance: Cancellation insurance offers protection of deposit and registration funds should you need to cancel from a program. This might be due to an injury during training, a personal illness, or it might be due to extenuating circumstances, such as family emergencies. Policies are determined based upon your home state, check with the insurance providers listed below for specific coverage details and options, including adventure/sports coverage*.
*Adventure/Sports Coverage: Most standard policies do not cover climbing or mountaineering. You can purchase Adventure/Sports Coverage as an upgrade to a standard policy. Please be sure to check with your provider and their description of coverage to make sure the policy you are purchasing provides you with adequate protection.
Medical Evacuation: An illness or injury in a remote area could require a medical evacuation costing well over $100,000. Travel insurance providers (such as AIG Travel Guard and Travelex Insurance) typically offer reimbursement for medical evacuations. Additionally, crisis response companies (such as Global Rescue) can orchestrate an actual field rescue as necessary in medical, security or other evacuation situations, even from extremely remote areas. Check with the insurance providers listed below for specific coverage details and options, including details of what constitutes a medical vs. a non-medical emergency.
Security Evacuation: This policy offers crisis evacuation services in non-medical situations. Examples include evacuations from areas affected by natural disasters, war or conflict zones, terrorism, and other areas in which participant security is threatened.
For more information please visit one of the websites below, or contact your local travel agent.
|AIG Travel Guard||Erin Rountree|
Travel Advisories / Warnings
Please confirm any current travel advisories/warnings as well as entry requirements with the U.S. Department of State.
Several U.S. airlines offer daily flights to Quito, Ecuador (UIO). Flights generally arrive late in the evening on Day 1 of the itinerary.
Flights departing Quito may be booked for any time on the final day of the program.
A valid passport is required when traveling to Ecuador. Your passport must be valid for 6 months beyond the expected return date. U.S. passport holders may stay up to 90 days without a visa.
We suggest making a copy of the first two pages of your passport and keeping them in a separate bag as a backup. A copy should also be left with your emergency contact.
Upon arrival at the Quito airport, follow the signs to the Arrivals Building. Proceed to the Immigrations desk for foreign travelers. They will provide you with an entrance permit adequate for your stay. Please check the date to ensure it covers your complete stay in Ecuador.
Once you receive your bags from Baggage Claim, you will proceed to Customs. There will be a random selection of bags for inspection. Be sure to keep all your bags together.
After you have gathered your baggage and passed through Customs you will find a desk in front of the exit gate where you can ask for a taxi. Take a taxi to our hotel. A fixed price of approximately $25 to $30 is in place.
The provided transportation in Ecuador as stated in the itinerary is via authorized taxi or private vehicle.
Immunizations & Travel Medicine
For the most current information on inoculation requirements and recommendations, please refer to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention.
Travelers may suffer from upset stomachs when in foreign countries. There are some basic rules, however, that can help keep you healthy.
Hygiene - It is important that you wash your hands thoroughly before meals and after using the restroom. If water is not available for washing, we recommend using a hand sanitizer.
Water - The number one rule is: don't drink the water, and that includes shower water and ice! Brush your teeth with purified water rather than tap water. You should check bottled water for a good seal and use a napkin to wipe excess moisture in drinking glasses. Take care with fruit juice, particularly if it has been diluted with water. Carefully clean the tops of bottled beverages before opening.
Food - If it is cooked, boiled, or can be peeled, you can usually eat it. Salads and fruits should be washed with purified water or peeled where possible. Be wary of ice cream and shellfish. Always avoid any undercooked meat.
Excellent care for minor illnesses and injuries is readily available. In the event of more serious illnesses or injuries, we recommend transport to any of the Level 1 care centers in Quito.
Ecuador Country Facts
Ecuador is named for the Equator, which crosses through the northern reaches of the country. While it is the smallest Andean country, it has four remarkably distinct and diverse regions: the coastal plains, the Andean highlands, the jungles of the upper Amazon basin, and the Galapagos Islands.
Ecuador is the world's largest exporter of bananas. The Andean highlands contain beautiful and productive farmland, often seen in a classic patchwork pattern. Oil from the rich eastern jungles enriches the economy. The volcanic Galapagos Islands bring tourism revenue with its unique reptiles, birds, and plants.
The country is divided ethnically as well as regionally. About 10 percent of the population is of European descent, about a quarter belong to indigenous cultures, and many others are of mixed ethnicity.
The capital, Quito, is the second highest capital in South America. Quito is set beautifully in a highland valley at 9,300'.
By the beginning of the 16th century Quito was ruled by the Incas and was the northern capital of their empire. When the Spanish arrived, the area was razed by a general of Atahualpa to make certain it did not fall into Spanish hands. Thus the colonial city was built on the Inca ruins in 1534 by a lieutenant of Pizarro. The current layout of the old city dates back to the 18th century, complete with cobble-stone streets, parks, plazas and colonial architecture.
The weather in Quito and while traveling to and from the mountains can be very warm. We recommend bringing a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. For current weather conditions, check Weather Underground.
The western mountains, which include Cotopaxi and the Illinizas, experience two dry seasons. The first is from July through August, and the second is in December and January.
The eastern mountains, which include Cayambe and Antisana, are best climbed from June through January. The wettest months of the year for these peaks are February through May.
These mountains are climbed throughout the entire year, with the best mountain snowpack on Cotopaxi, Cayambe and Antisana found between October and June.
While there can be no guarantees of perfect weather in the mountains, our expeditions take full advantage of the weather and snowpack conditions for both these peaks, and utilize those months for optimal climbing experiences.
The people of Ecuador are generally very warm and friendly to tourists. Although it is not expected that we dress formally, we should dress modestly. Casual and comfortable clothing is suggested along with comfortable shoes. Showing expensive cameras, watches, jewelry, etc. is considered unseemly and may attract unwanted attention.
When entering a shop or home, politely use a greeting such as buenos días (good day), buenas tardes (good afternoon), buenas noches (good night). Similarly, upon leaving, even if you've had only minimal contact, say adios (goodbye) or hasta luego (see you later). Peruvians usually shake hands upon parting as well.
On city streets, children selling small items and shining shoes can be quite persistent. Some ask directly for money. To keep from being hassled, a polite but firm "No, gracias" is generally sufficient.
It is expected that you engage in some degree of bargaining for market or street purchases. This is fun, and should be taken lightly.
Electricity in Ecuador is the same as in the United States: the ungrounded two-prong plug is used for 110 volt, 60 hertz appliances. Appliances with three prongs or an enlarged prong will require an adaptor.
The current currency of Ecuador is the U.S. Dollar. Check a financial newspaper or www.xe.com for the current exchange rate prior to departure.
You should find that $200-$300 for spending money is adequate for restaurant meals, drinks and pocket money. You may choose to bring more depending on your shopping plans and length of stay.
Cash machines are readily available in Quito, but become increasingly difficult to find outside of urban areas.
Credit cards are accepted in most, but not all, areas.
Everyone has a preferred way to carry money. Some use money belts, others have hidden pockets. Whatever you do, be aware of pickpockets and thieves in any area which caters to tourists.
Local waiters, drivers, and other service personnel expect to be tipped. Ten to fifteen percent is standard.
Our guides work hard to ensure your well being and success on the mountain. If you have a positive experience, gratuities are an excellent way to show your appreciation. Amounts are at your discretion and should be based on your level of enjoyment. Tips for excellent service normally average 10 – 15% of the cost of the program.
Rob Rachowiecki and Mark Thurber, Ecuador: Climbing and Hiking Guide. VIVA Publishing, 2013.
The authors have combined many years of Ecuador experience into a useful, readable and comprehensive guide.
Deposit Payments: A deposit payment of $1,500 per person secures your reservation. Deposit payments may be made via MasterCard, Visa, e-check, check, or wire transfer.
Balance Payments: The balance payment is due 90 days prior to the start of your program, and we will send a payment reminder approximately three weeks before your payment is due. If your balance payment is not received within 90 days of the program, your reservation will be cancelled and all fees forfeited. Trips departing within 90 days from the reservation date must be paid in full at the time of reservation. Please note that balance payments may be made via check, e-check or wire transfer only.
Once we receive written notification that you are canceling an individual participant or your entire reservation the following fees will apply:
- A fee of $750 per person will be charged for cancellations made more than 90 days before departure.
- There will be no refunds for cancellations made less than 90 days before your program.
Unfortunately, due to the time-sensitive nature of our business, and the difficulty in re-booking a trip close to departure, we cannot make exceptions to this policy.
Cancellation Insurance: We strongly suggest that everyone purchase travel insurance. Please see our Travel Page for details.
Included are the following:
- RMI Leadership
- Hotel accommodations as indicated in the itinerary, based on double occupancy*
- All park entrance fees
- Sight seeing arrangements as indicated in the itinerary
- All group transportation in country as indicated in the itinerary
- All group cooking, climbing and camping equipment
Not included are the following:
- International airfare
- Travel insurance, medical evacuation insurance and security evacuation insurance
- Excess baggage fees and departure taxes
- Meals not included in the itinerary
- Bottled water and personal drinks
- Customary guide gratuities
- Additional room charges including laundry service and other personal expenses
- Hotel accommodations not indicated in the itinerary
- Transfer from Quito Hotel to Airport for outbound flight
- Medical, hospitalization and evacuation costs (by any means)
* Accommodations are based on double occupancy. A Single Supplement Fee will be charged to those occupying single accommodations by choice or circumstance. The single supplement is not available in huts, tents, or in all hotels.
Managing risk is RMI's number one priority. Our guides manage significant hazards inherent in mountaineering such as avalanches, ice fall, rock fall, inclement weather, and high winds, but they cannot eliminate them.
Please clearly understand that mountaineering is inherently a hazardous sport. You are choosing to engage in an activity in which participants have been injured and killed. While those accidents are indeed infrequent, they may occur at any time and be out of our control. We ask that participants acknowledge the risk and hazards of mountaineering, and make their own choices about whether or not to engage in this activity.
Mountaineering is both an individual challenge and a team endeavor. Some of the responsibility for the team is carried by the individual climbers. For this reason, we ask that each participant:
- is physically and mentally fit, properly attired and equipped, and continues to self assess throughout the program to ensure as safe a climb as possible. If a climber’s own physical fitness limits his or her ability to safely continue upward, that can have a negative impact on the summit experience or opportunity of other climb participants.
- honestly and accurately describe themselves, in terms of fitness, health and skills, and their equipment to their guides, and that they adhere to the advice of their professional mountain guide.
Age-Appropriate Guidelines & Restrictions
In the interest of the safety and well-being of all participants, RMI adheres to the following age-appropriate guidelines and restrictions on all climbing programs, domestic and international.
- Ages 15 & under: No participants age 15 & under
- Ages 16 & 17: Accompanied by parent or legal guardian
- Ages 18 & above: No restrictions
An individual’s birthday must precede the departure date of the program. For example: a 15 year old who turns 16 on July 1 may participate on a program beginning July 2.
Accompaniment by parent or legal guardian is required for the program or climb.
Under-aged participants on Private Climb or Group Climb programs are assessed on an individual basis.
RMI cannot guarantee that you will reach the summit. Weather, route conditions, your own abilities, or the abilities of other climbers may create circumstances that make an ascent unsafe, and you or your entire party may have to turn around without reaching the summit. Failure to reach the summit due to a person’s own lack of fitness or to any of the events associated with mountaineering (such as weather, route, avalanche hazard, team dynamics, etc.), are not Rainier Mountaineering, Inc.’s responsibility and will not result in refund or reschedule.
Any Participant under the age of 18 must be accompanied on the trip by a parent or legal guardian and both the Participant and parent or legal guardian must sign all forms.
RMI's program plans and itineraries are subject to change or adjustment based on a number of factors. These include, but are not limited to, route conditions, weather, terrain, and many other factors. RMI has complete discretion to change plans to accommodate any of these or other factors, including discretion to change program schedule or itinerary, and change guides or staff, as necessary for the proper and safe conduct of the program.
We reserve the right to cancel any program due to inadequate signups, weather or route conditions. In such a case, a full refund is given; however, RMI cannot be responsible for any additional expenses incurred in preparing for the program (i.e., airline tickets, equipment purchase or rental, hotel reservations).
If the Participant decides to leave a trip at any time after the start of the trip and prior to its conclusion, he or she will not be entitled to a refund.
RMI reserves the right to dismiss the Participant from a trip or to send the Participant to a lower altitude at any time if RMI determines, in its sole discretion, that the Participant is not physically, technically, or psychologically prepared for or capable of participating in the program.
The Participant understands and agrees that RMI assumes no responsibility or liability in connection with any travel and hospitality service provided to the Participant by others in connection with the trip, including but not limited to the services provided by airlines, hotels, and motor vehicle operators, and that RMI is not responsible for any act, error, omission, or any injury, loss, accident, delay, irregularity, or danger by a supplier of travel or hospitality services to the Participant in connection with the RMI program.
RMI recommends and strongly advises that the Participant have or purchase personal life, medical, accident, travel, baggage, trip cancellation, and other insurance that may pertain to participation in the program. The Participant understands that RMI provides no such insurance coverage in connection with the trip.
Is it safe to travel in Ecuador?
We hold the perspective that travel to Ecuador (and any developing nation) includes risk, but not high risk. In order to safeguard our trips:
- We have hired a professional tour operator to coordinate our in-country logistics.
- We hire local guides familiar with the language, roads, customs, etc.
- We follow popular tourist thoroughfares, using private vehicles (not public transportation).
- We travel in groups and have tourist safety protocols in place (not flashing cash, not wearing expensive jewelry, etc.).
- Our guides are well-versed with our program and are accustomed to travel in a foreign country.
Take some time to visit the consular and travel warning pages at the U.S. Department of State. These pages offer good information and should be revisited occasionally as trip departure dates approach.
How does RMI approach these climbs differently from others so as to maximize the probability of reaching the summit?
We approach the climbs in three notably different ways:
- Our tried and true "ascent profile" (i.e., our incremental increase in sleeping altitudes over time to allow for proper acclimatization) is a good match for the length of our trip. This allows the group to be in the best possible condition to go for the summit.
- We plan an appropriate amount of climbing and culture for the length of a trip.
- Our world-class guides: their leadership and experience make a huge difference and are the primary reason we have so many repeat customers. Check out the RMI Difference on the Description page.
Are there distinctions between climbing in Ecuador in November/February versus June/July?
There are very few distinctions. Cotopaxi sits in the central highlands zone and receives the greatest number of clear and climbable days per year as compared to other peaks. The dates we offer attempt to take advantage of both the best weather and the best snowpack for climbing in Ecuador.
What is the food like on the mountain?
Our mountain meals are hearty and include fresh local fare where possible. Please see our Food details for an example of meals while on the mountain.
Is the water okay to drink?
We strongly advise against drinking tap water in Ecuador. Both bottled and boiled water are readily available and should be used for drinking water. Personal water filters or water treatment tablets are not needed.
How much weight am I carrying in my pack?
Most days, backpacks should weigh approximately 20 to 25 lbs as we only carry the day's snacks, water, clothing, etc. as needed on our acclimating hikes or summit climbs. The approach to high hut is the only exception. Then we may carry 45 to 50 lbs depending on the amount of group gear needed for the summit attempt.
What is the pace like?
We use an easy to moderate pace throughout the trip, depending on whether we are on an acclimating hike or on a summit climb. While the distances we cover on a daily basis are relatively short, the altitudes to which we travel are very high and the days of hiking and climbing are still challenging. Overall, our guides set a reasonable pace - at the appropriate speed to cover the distance we need that day without going too quickly or too slowly.
What are the huts like?
The Refugio José Ribas at 16,000' on Cotopaxi is set in a spectacular location, directly at the start of the climbing route. It is relatively spacious, has nice cooking areas/kitchens, as well as latrines away from the main sleeping quarters. The hut is comprised of larger dormitory style rooms, with multiple bunks per room.
What are the toilets like?
Basic pit-toilets are available near the hut. On our acclimating hikes and summit climbs, where no toilets exist, we use bio-bags to collect our solid waste so that it may be transported off of the mountain. We recommend that you bring hand sanitizer to use after visiting the toilets.
How will I be able to stay connected with those at home?
We suggest bringing a smart phone or a WIFI-enabled device and using it where WIFI and internet services are available, as in Quito. On the climbs, however, WIFI access is not available. Cell service is widely available across most of Ecuador, see below.
Should I bring a cell phone?
Sure, cell phone coverage is generally available in and around towns. Check with your cell phone carrier to see if they offer international coverage in Ecuador and make sure you have the appropriate international plans and understand the associated rates.
RMI carries a satellite phone with the group through the entire trip for emergency use.
Do iPhones function well at high altitude?
Yes. However, the cold can impact the battery life making it necessary for it to be charged a few times on the trip.
Is a Kindle or Nook practical on this trip?
Yes, but if you wish to take it up on the mountain you will likely need to recharge it once in a while. We recommend downloading all of your desired books before arriving in Ecuador.