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Cotopaxi and Cayambe - Ecuador

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    11 days
    Level 3

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Cotopaxi and Cayambe - Ecuador

Cotopaxi and Cayambe - Ecuador

Set between Ecuador's coastal beaches and its rainforests rises the greatest concentration of volcanoes in the world. The spectacular glaciated peaks of Cotopaxi (19,348') and Cayambe (18,997'), located in the Ecuadorian Andes, offer exciting and accessible high altitude mountaineering.

Climbing on Cotopaxi


  • Scale two Andean volcanoes over the course of one short climbing expedition.
  • Climb with an experienced RMI Guide, benefiting from their background, training, and expertise as you venture to higher altitudes.
  • Expand your climbing experience with multiple ascents that combine high altitude experience with moderate technical difficulty.
  • From its glaciers to the vibrant colors of its traditional markets, experience the captivating beauty of Ecuador along the way.
  • Take part in an RMI adventure and see why we continue to set the standard in guiding excellence.

Our trip begins in Quito, the capitol city of Ecuador. Located fifteen miles south of the equator and at an altitude of 9,350', Quito sits in a high altitude valley that is known as the "Avenue of the Volcanoes." We explore the city's mix of colonial and modern streets and rich history while hiking in the surrounding hills to build our acclimatization.

We next turn our focus to Cayambe (18,997'), the third highest peak in Ecuador. Sleeping at the climber's hut at over 15,000', we use the mountain's glaciers to review and practice our mountaineering techniques. On our summit attempt we climb to the only snow capped point on earth sitting on the equator.

Our final climbing objective is the soaring conical shaped volcano of Cotopaxi (19,348'), one of the country's most famous peaks.

With our climbing techniques refined and now feeling properly acclimatized we make our way to the climber's hut at 16,000' on Cotopaxi. Our climb brings us up Cotopaxi's massive glaciers and through its fields of crevasses to the summit perched along the airy volcanic rim.

Cotopaxi and Cayambe offer superb alpine climbing for intermediate climbers. Both climbs involve moderately steep slopes and prior knowledge of roped travel, crampon techniques, and ice axe arrest is recommended; a review of these basic mountaineering techniques is built into the itinerary. This climb is ideal for mountaineers looking to build their climbing skills, climb to new elevations, and take part in the excitement of an international climbing expedition.


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 Denali 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 distraction that comes with coordinating logistics.

Our Ecuador 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, 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.

We use RMI's own climbing equipment brought from the U.S., ensuring that our expedition standards of safety, quality, and reliability are met. We've chosen our lodges and meals 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 allowing us to travel more safely. Our exceptional focus on detail, our unparalleled level of climber attention, and our genuine excitement for these adventures are what make our programs truly memorable.


Our standard Ecuador Volcanoes is 11 days and offers climbers a chance to reach the summit of both Cayambe (18,997') and Cotopaxi (19,348'). We also offer the Ecuador Volcanoes - Summer expedition which gives climbers a chance to reach the summit of Cotopaxi as well as both of the Illinizas (16,818' and 17,267'). Our "abbreviated" Cotopaxi Express trip is 9 days and is ideal for climbers looking to complete the challenge of a 19,000' mountain in a short period of time.


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 climbs of Ecuador's Volcanoes. Careful planning, precise ascent profiles, daily weather forecasts via satellite, 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 info@rmiguides.com.

Climber Reviews

Filter By
Spending time in nature with my son and the camaraderie with the rest of the group
Udo S.

The pace was relaxed and stress free. The team was first rate. I like to take my time when I can in the mountains and really appreciate it and be grateful for the opportunity.
Steven S.

Ecuador was incredible. The scheduling was well thought out and the local contacts made and guides improved the experience.
M. Lawrence L.

The mix of climbing and cultural experiences in Ecuador. I hope to return to Ecuador in light of all of the climbing and relative easy access to the mountains.
Scott K.

I don't even know where to begin! This was my first time traveling internationally, and it certainly set the bar very high for international travel for me. I loved every minute of the trip. Our team was amazing and some of the finest people I've gotten to know and we even found small world connections with each other. Our group bonded really well and we'd love to climb together again or even vacation together. I loved the food, the people, the sights, the culture, everything about it was amazing. Our hotels, climbing huts, and haciendas each had their own unique feel to them. The climbing was incredible and challenging and I saw myself improving immensely from previous trips and really taking in the advice of the previous guides I've worked with at RMI and including Mike and the local Ecuadorian guides. I definitely see areas where I can improve with more experience, and I'm learning a lot! Ecuador holds a special place in my heart after this trip.
Rue C.

Everything - the climbing was incredible, Mike and the Ecuadorian guides were fantastic, our team's chemistry was unbeatable, and the experience that RMI provided was top notch from start to finish.
George N.

This may seem a bit out of line but I enjoyed the acclimatization climbs. They were somewhat challenging and the countryside was simply beautiful!
Tim M.

I enjoyed the well balanced mix of challenging climbs with comfortable accommodations during the rest between climbs/hikes. The Otavalo market was great.
Hans S.

Acclimatization hikes were amazing and sported some of the best views and sights of the trip. Food was great. Guides were fantastic and we were lucky we had a great group. The non Quito sleeping locations were amazing with great food and local culture.
John J.

Mike Walter was a fantastic guide! Getting to know the other climbers was great as well, and the Hacienda's we stayed in were incredible too.
Mark F.

always a balance for me between the climbing and the overall experience with the other climbers and guides. This trip was a big undertaking for me and it proved to be worth all the effort.
Chuck H.

I enjoyed the group dynamics and the way as a group we overcame challenges and were looking out for one another. It was a true team effort in many ways.
Neil Y.

I really liked the combination of culture and climbing on this trip. I also liked that we had several days of acclimatization before tackling Cayembe.
Jason F.

I have now done a Rainier trip and this past Ecuador trip and all guides that I have encountered have been nothing short of excellent in every way - from knowledge and advice, to traveling the countryside, to the actual guiding on the mountain during summit days. It is more than obvious that RMI holds their guides to a very high standard and it is much appreciated!
Thomas M.

It was a vacation, not just a climb. We did so much more that I hadn't expected.
Courtney D.

Excellent leadership and confidence in Casey. Beautiful Ecuador and good local knowledge.
Dale C.

The itinerary was well-planned to allow for acclimatization and to allow us to see the country and the people not just climb the mountains.
Tim R.

I enjoyed the whole mix of the trip: climbing, hiking, site seeing, shopping at the market, great dining. It gave us a chance to experience the wonderful culture of the Ecuadorian Andes.
Chris L.

Being part of a great group of people. We all got along very well together. Reaching the top of Cayambe and Cotopaxi. It felt great!
Craig F.

The team!
Christoph S.

everything - the planning for 6 months in advance, the meet and greet with the team and getting to know them with the acclimatization hikes, and the challenge of the two big volcanoes. I enjoyed the team and really enjoyed the guides. As I said before, Casey is a real pro and Solveig is a gem.
Jim D.

The trip was outstanding in every respect: experienced, enthusiastic and engaging guides; interesting and entertaining trip participants from all over the United States; mountaineering challenges and breathtaking scenery. This experience was more immediate, meaningful and memorable than I had any reason to expect.What more could I ask?
Arthur M.

Viranuj S.

The locations that we stayed moving from mountain to mountain were awesome.
Jeff H.

Combination of time on the mountain and off the mountain exploring Ecuador. It was a great balance. The time at Chilcabamba was phenomenal, and really allowed me to recover, get my appetite back, and make it to the summit of Cotopaxi. It was a great part of the trip. Also the descent on Cotopaxi was something I'll remember. It was very cut-up and difficult on the descent, but getting through it was a great sense of accomplishment.
Kenneth C.

10 days, 4 peaks!!!
Larry O.

Summiting Cotopaxii!
Bob S.

The climbing was the best part. The mountains were truly spectacular -- unlike anything I've ever experienced. And while they were very challenging, standing on top of Cayambe on a beautiful morning was the highlight of the trip, and one of my greatest personal achievements. Even Cotopaxi, which we failed to summit, was simply incredible to climb, and really a highlight.
Daniel J.

I enjoyed experiencing the more technical aspects of these mountains. Particularly on Cotopaxi, I had never experienced climbing like that: snow bridges, crevasses, running belays, rappelling. It was much more technically challenging than earlier RMI trips had been.
David C.

The summit days on Cayambe & Cotopaxi. On Cayambe we had perfect weather and made the summit. On Cotopaxi the terrain was stunning and the experience of climbing through the heavily crevassed ice fields was amazing even though we had to turn back short of the summit because of dicey avalanche conditions.
Roland Z.

Can't decide - I loved every aspect of it.
Mark L.

  • Upcoming Climbs

      • December 4, 2018 Guide: Casey Grom Guide: Chad Gaffigan
      • January 22, 2019 Guide: Adam Knoff Guide: Chris Ebeling
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  • Price
    11 days
    Level 3
Table of Contents
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Day 1

TRAVEL DAY •  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.


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)

Explore Quinto

Day 3

ACCLIMATIZE RUCU PICHINCHA (15,696') •  9,350' | 2,800m

After breakfast we take a short drive from Quito to the teleferico (gondola) which will carry us to approximately 13,500'. From there we stretch our legs and lungs with an acclimatization hike on Rucu Pichincha.  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)

Ruca Pichincha

Day 4

ACCLIMATIZE CERRO FUYA FUYA (13,986')•  8,441' | 2,573m

Leaving Quito we travel north toward the town of Tabacundo.  As the cobblestone streets end we make our way to the trail head of Cerro Fuya Fuya.  The trail takes us through knee-high grass vegetation and achupallas (andean tall pineapples). The climb gradually becomes steeper as we gain altitude. The trail ends  at the saddle between Fuya Fuya's two summits.  We continue on toward the eastern summit which includes an easy scramble.  We return to the vehicle and transfer to Otavalo where we spend the night.  Hiking time is approximately 3 - 3 ½ hours. (B)

Cerro Fuya Fuya

Day 5

CAYAMBE CLIMBER'S HUT •  15,300' | 4,663m

We visit the Otavalo Market to experience the local culture, purchase fresh snacks and souvenirs.  In the afternoon, we drive to the hut at the base of Cayambe. Hiking time is approximately 1 - 2 hours. (B, D)

Cayambe Climber's Hut

Day 6

CLIMBER'S REVIEW •  15,300' | 4,663m

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 alpine start. (B, D)

Climber's Review

Day 7

SUMMIT DAY CAYAMBE •  18,997' | 5,790m

With an early alpine start for the summit, our route begins by climbing through some low rock outcroppings before stepping onto a spectacularly crevassed glacier. Once on the glacier, the route climbs directly to the upper reaches of the mountain, where a challenging final push to the summit awaits us.  We return to the hut and transfer to Chilcabamba Eco Lodge, a traditional Ecuadorian farmhouse, located near the base of Cotopaxi where we spend the night. (B, D)

Summit Day

Day 8

REST DAY •  11,400' | 3,475m

Relax and enjoy the Chilcabamba Eco Lodge. (B, D)

Day 9

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 45 minute hike leads to the Jose Ribas Refugio at 16,000'. (B, D)

Day 10

SUMMIT DAY COTOPAXI •  19,348' | 5,897m

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 leave the mountains and travel back to Quito.  Climbing time is approximately 10 - 12 hours. (B)

Day 11


We transfer to the airport for our outbound flights.


Key: B, L, D = Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner included.

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Travel Consultant

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. Please call (208) 788-2870 or send email to etravel@cox.net.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is required for this trip. Depending on the type of policy purchased you can protect against trip cancellation, interruption, delay, baggage loss or delay, medical expenses, medical evacuation, security and more. Travel insurance offers the best possible protection in the event of a sudden, unexpected illness or injury prior to or while traveling. You can purchase travel insurance at any time prior to the trip departure. Should you need to cancel from a program, Trip Insurance will refund you for any non-refundable cancellations fees when cancelling for a covered reason.

There are several things to note when purchasing trip insurance:

  • Cancellation Insurance is included in the standard Trip Insurance policy if you are injured, or have a medical or family emergency prior to or while traveling. Should you need to cancel your program, Trip Insurance will refund you for any non-refundable cancellations fees when cancelling for a covered reason. Most travel insurance companies provide an option to include coverage that allows you to “Cancel for Any Reason”, but the initial policy must be purchased within 14 days of placing your deposit for the program.
  • In order to cover your trip with RMI Expeditions you may need to include options such as an “Adventure or Sports” upgrade. Not all travel insurance will cover mountaineering, climbing, skiing or trekking adventures. Some will not cover due to gear used (crampons, ice axe), others will not cover above a certain elevation and/or region of the world. Check your policy carefully to make sure your activity is covered. Both companies listed below offer policies that are geared toward adventure travel.
  • Purchasing Travel insurance is also dependent on your state of residence. If one company doesn’t offer coverage for you because you live in Washington, another company might.

RipcordRipcord Rescue Travel Insurance is travel insurance designed for adventurers, including the best evacuation and rescue services available.

Benefits are tailored for adventurers and include:

  • Rescue and evacuation from the point of illness or emergency to your home hospital of choice.
  • Trip cancellation/interruption, primary medical expense coverage, sporting goods, baggage loss, emergency dental, Accidental Death & Dismemberment (AD&D) and more.
  • Completely integrated one-stop program with a single contact for emergency services to travel assistance and insurance claims.
  • 24/7 access to paramedics, nurses and military veterans.
  • Security extraction in case of unexpected dangerous and chaotic events.
  • Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) options and pre-existing condition waiver within 14 days of your initial trip deposit.

Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance is powered by Redpoint Resolutions, a medical and travel security risk company. Their team is comprised of special operations veterans, paramedics, Stanford Medicine affiliated physicians, former intelligence officers, insurance actuaries and global security experts with dozens of years of experience in theaters around the world. The Redpoint network covers the globe, making them uniquely equipped to provide elite rescue travel insurance – in every sense of the word. Whether it’s reimbursing you for a cancelled trip, paying your travel medical bills or evacuating you home in an emergency, Ripcord takes the worry out of your travel.

TripAssureTripAssure, a Trip Mate brand, has created the Assure Adventure Plans to cover travelers participating in climbing, skiing, mountaineering and trekking programs.

TripAssure's Adventure Plan and Adventure Plus Plan differ only in the coverage option which allows you to Cancel for Any Reason. In order to receive Cancel for Any Reason coverage you must purchase the Adventure Plan Plus within 14 days of paying your deposit or payment with RMI. We recommend that you carefully read the Plan Document that applies to your purchase.

Travel Advisories / Warnings

Please confirm any current travel advisories/warnings as well as entry requirements with the U.S. Department of State.

Getting There

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.

Entry Information

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.

Airport Arrival

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.

In-Country Transportation

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.

Traveler's Health

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.

Medical Emergencies

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.

Cultural Etiquette

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 dias (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.

We suggest bringing $500-$700 total for personal spending money including restaurant meals, drinks, pocket money, and the Support Staff Tip Pool.

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.


Everyone approaches tipping a little differently. Whether or not a person tips, and how much, is completely dependent upon the individual; here are some suggested tipping guidelines for your trip.

Local waiters, drivers, and other service personnel expect to be tipped. Ten to fifteen percent is standard. Some restaurants and hotels add a 10% service fee to bills in which case, no further tip is required.

Support Staff Tip Pool: We recommend that each climber contribute $40 to the Tip Pool. This is collected at the beginning of the trip and will cover group tips for all our support and mountain staff throughout the program.

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. If you would rather not bring the guide gratuity with you on the trip, you can send a check or call the RMI office to pay with a credit card upon your return.


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.

Ecuador Explorer and The Best of Ecuador are thorough websites describing Ecuador travel and facts.

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This trip is open to all individuals in excellent physical condition with previous climbing experience. Prior knowledge and experience with rope travel, the use of crampons, and ice axe arrest is required. It is a great first trip to altitudes above 15,000'.

Our experience shows that individuals 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.

Qualifying Programs

Recommended climbing experiences prior to Cotopaxi and Cayambe - Ecuador include:

  • Get In The Best Shape Of Your Life
    And Then Go
    Climb A Mountain

    Create A Fitness And Training Program

    Go To Fitness Resources

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 and Cayambe - Ecuador, you are preparing for:

  • Steep climbing with a 20-25 lb load
  • A 10-12+ hour summit day
  • Mountaineering techniques requiring 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.

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What You’ll Need

A list of required personal equipment accompanies every RMI program, and the thought process behind each item is much greater than simply “preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.” The list for your program takes into account factors such as: seasonality, route conditions, weather, elevation and more. As such, this list is framed within the broadest of contexts and is dynamic by its very nature. Therefore, certain variables (additions and/or subtractions) are inherent within such an all-encompassing list. We make every effort to recommend only top of the line clothing and technical gear and it is never our intention for you to buy or rent unnecessary gear.

The Guide Pick is an example of the listed item, giving you an idea of the material and specifications of the item. This exact item does not need to be purchased or used; however, any item you choose must have similar characteristics and performance abilities to the Guide Pick.

RMI Guides concur on the potential necessity of every item, thus every item on the list is required at gear check. However, guides may also have suggestions derived from their experience, some of which will vary from a given list. The guides’ recommendation whether to bring along or leave behind certain item(s) comes during the gear check, when the team first meets. Occasionally this recommendation comes at the expense of having previously purchased an item. If a guide presents the option of leaving behind certain item(s) on the list of required equipment, it is for a reason. Their recommendation may be related to the weather, route conditions, freezing level, perceived strength of the party, or desired pack weight.

Ultimately, there will never be a consensus for a “perfect” equipment list for an ascent. It does not exist because of the multitude of variables faced by climbers throughout the climb. Please follow this equipment list closely so that you will arrive for the gear check with all the required items. Keep in mind the list is not black and white, fine tuning will occur once you meet with your guide. Have a great climb!

  • 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 when they use code RMI2018 at checkout. This offer excludes sale items, rentals, meal packages, and Feathered Friends.

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Equipment List


      A 50+ liter pack is the recommended size for this climb. A separate summit pack is not needed.


      Not required for this trip.  Climbers' hut(s) are equipped with pads.

    • 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.


      The 12-point adjustable crampons designed for general mountaineering are ideal. We highly recommend anti-bot plates to prevent snow from balling up underfoot.


      A digital transceiver is preferred; analog will work as well. If you rent a transceiver, one set of new batteries will be provided.


      One item for face protection is required. Our primary recommendation is the Buff. A neck gaiter or balaclava is also acceptable.


      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.


      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.


      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.

    • 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.


      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.


      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.


      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.


      For avalanche transceiver.


      For your duffel bags. Must be TSA approved.

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    • 4 SHIRTS

      For hotel dinners and while traveling.


      Personal size (2 oz.) bottle.

    • We recommend you speak with your physician about which medications make sense to have for remote international travel and/or high altitude climbing. We suggest the following:


      Broad spectrum antibiotics for Traveler's Diarrhea, urinary tract infection, pneumonia, etc.
      Ciprofloxacin (500mg tablets), Metronidazole, Azithromycin (250mg tablets).


      For prevention or treatment of Acute Mountain Sickness.
      Acetazolamide (125mg tablets).


      For treatment of altitude illness.
      Dexamethasone (4mg tablets).

    • iPOD

      Valid for six months beyond your return date.


      The first two pages of your passport.

    • Purchase travel insurance.

    • Purchase airplane tickets.

    • Reserve rental equipment.

    • Be in the Best Shape of Your Life!

Provided Equipment

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.

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On Cotopaxi and Cayambe - Ecuador you will need 7 mountain lunches. All of your mountain lunch items should weigh 3 - 4 lb.

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. You are responsible for your own bottled water and drinks.

Mountain Lunches

Mountain lunches are eaten during short breaks throughout the day. We continually snack to keep our energy levels up while we climb - lunch begins just after breakfast and ends just before dinner! Avoid packing any items that require preparation or hot water.

The importance of having foods that are genuinely enjoyed cannot be overstated. Eating properly is the key to maintaining strength while in the mountains. In order to combat the loss of appetite at altitude we aim to have a variety of foods that stimulate the whole palate, from sweet to sour to salty.

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).

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.


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.

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Deposit Payments: A deposit payment of $1,500 per person secures your reservation. Deposit payments $2,500 or less may be made via MasterCard, Visa, e-check, check, or wire transfer. Deposit payments over $2,500 must be made via e-check, check, or wire transfer.

Balance Payments: The balance payment is due 90 days prior to the start of your program. We will send a payment reminder approximately three weeks before your payment due date. If your balance payment is not received within 90 days prior to the start of your program, your reservation will be cancelled and all fees forfeited. Trips departing within 90 days must be paid in full at the time of reservation. Please note that balance payments may be made via e-check, check, or wire transfer only.


$750 of the $1,500 per person deposit is non-refundable. Written notification is required for all cancellations.

Once RMI receives written notification of cancellation, the following apply:

  • If you cancel 90 or more days before the start of your program, the program fees will be refunded less $750 per person.
  • If you cancel less than 90 days before the start of your program, no refunds will be issued.

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 require that everyone purchase travel insurance. Please see our Travel Page for details.

Land Cost


  • 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


  • 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
  • Support Staff Tip Pool (we suggest $40 per person)
  • 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. 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.

Risk Management

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.

Climber Responsibilities

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:

  • 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.

Under-aged participants on Private Climb or Group Climb programs are assessed on an individual basis.

A minor climber must be accompanied by their parent/legal guardian throughout the entirety of the program. If either climber must descend at any time during the program, both climbers must descend together.

Summit Attempt

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.

General Policies

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 schedule 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, currency fluctuations, changes in outfitting costs, government instability, and many other factors. RMI has complete discretion to change plans to accommodate any of these or other factors, including but not limited to increases in program fees, changes to program schedule or itinerary, and changes to 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.

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. We plan an appropriate amount of climbing and culture for the length of a trip.
  3. 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 few distinctions. The dates we offer attempt to take advantage of both the best weather and the best snowpack for climbing in Ecuador. You will find that, regardless of the time of year, Cayambe is a substantially more challenging objective than Cotopaxi. Cayambe has historically proven a bit more elusive as its weather is influenced by both the upper Amazon jungle and the Pacific Ocean, whereas Cotopaxi sits in the central highlands zone and receives the greatest number of clear and climbable days per year.

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 lb. 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 lb. 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 Ruales Oleas Berge at 15,100' on Cayambe and the Refugio Jose Ribas at 16,000' on Cotopaxi are both set in spectacular locations, directly at the start of the climbing routes. They are relatively spacious, have nice cooking areas/kitchens, as well as latrines away from the main sleeping quarters. The Cotopaxi hut is comprised of larger dormitory style rooms, with multiple bunks per room, while the Cayambe hut is comprised of smaller, separated rooms, also with bunk arrangements.

What are the toilets like?

Basic pit-toilets are available near the huts on Cayambe and Cotopaxi. 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.

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