The Iliniza massive lies (55 km/34 miles) southwest of Quito, in the Ilinizas Ecological Reserve. The Iliniza massive consists of two peaks, the North (5,126 m/16,817 ft) and the South (5,248 m/17,217 ft). Historically the Iliniza massive formed one volcanic cone, however after a massive eruption thousands of years ago the east and west faces of the crater collapsed inward. What remains are two peaks, south and north, separated by a one kilometer wide saddle.
The conditions on the two peaks are markedly different due to the different altitudes. The higher South peak generates more wind and holds more moisture, while Iliniza North is characterized by a rocky peak and the slopes are only sporadically covered with snow during December and January.
The North peak offers excellent acclimatization preparation for the other high altitude peaks in Ecuador on your itinerary. It is also a fun climb with some exciting scrambles well suited for the adventurous hiker. This mountain can be summited in one very long day. However, if your objective is to acclimatize, then it is worth doing this volcano over 2 days and spending a night at the refuge.
The ascent of the northern peak starts as an easy climb to the saddles dividing the two peaks. From here the path is well marked with cairns. Near the saddle we begin following the ridge called La Ensillada on the west side of the mountain. Midway up Iliniza North we will encounter various easy scrambles (rock class rating of 5.3 or less) up rocky knolls and around some large boulders. Our climb concludes with a challenging finish up the rocks at the summit marked with a small iron cross.
At the top there are spectacular views of the Avenue of the Volcanoes and the peaks of Iliniza South, Cotopaxi, and Chimborazo.