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     Climb Illiniza, El Altar Obispo & Chimborazo

Scheduled Trips:

15 days

Skill Level:

Max Guide Ratio:

Recommended Season:
November to February; June to August

Trip Highlights:
The ascent of three very technical and challenging routes to the high altitude peaks of:

Illiniza South (5,263m / 17,267ft)

Al Altar El Obispo (5,465m / 17,930ft)

Chimborazo - via the Direct Route (6,310m / 20,702ft) 

Utilize your ice climbing skills on Illiniza South’s steep ice walls (inclines up to 80 degrees) and many crevasses

Climb El Altar, one of the most technical and challenging peaks of the northern Andes; and its summits have seldom been climbed

Finish the trip with an ascent of Chimborazo's icy headwall


This trip culminates with the ascent of three very technical and challenging routes to the high altitude peaks of Illiniza South (5,263 m / 17,267 ft), El Altar Obispo (5,465 m / 17,930 ft) and Chimborazo - via the Direct Route (6,310 m / 20,702 ft).

We begin with a full acclimatization program. First we will take in the sights at colonial Old Quito and stand at the center of the Earth at the Plaza on the Equator (Mitad del Mundo). Next we will climb the two peaks of the Pichinchas massive. The tallest peak, Guagua Pichincha, is at an elevation of 15,730 ft (4,794 m) and the other, Rucu, is at an elevation of 15,680 ft (4,780 m). At the first summit, Guagua, we will be able to look down into the crater and see the new inner domes created from the 1999 eruption. Then at Rucu, we will be able to enjoy the best birds-eye view of Quito.

This is followed with three days at the Illiniza massive, where we climb both the north and south peaks of this heavily eroded volcano. The two summits were formed during an ancient eruption that blew the crater open, creating two peaks located roughly 2 km from one another. Our ascent of Illiniza North marks the end of our acclimatization, and we begin the more technical portion of the trip with the Southern Peak of Illiniza.

From here we will go on to climb El Obispo on El Altar. This was once Ecuador's highest summit, reaching over 20,000 ft with a five mile wide base, before the core and the western side of the mountain blew out. This eruption left behind an immense cirque or caldera with nine distinct summits forming a semicircle, the shape that inspired the name "The Altar." Getting to the summit to El Obispo is challenging, but well worth the effort!

We end the trip with a climb up the highest volcano in Ecuador, Chimborazo. We will summit via the Direct Route, a more technical headwall climb. The sight of Chimborazo is among the most impressive in all of the Andes, and the views along the climb are breathtaking. Since the Earth bulges near the equator, this snowcapped giant is not only the highest mountain in Ecuador, but also the highest in the world if measured from the core of the Earth outward to its peak.

Day 1: Transfer to the hotel, then have a brief orientation and gear check.

Day 2: Colonial Quito city tour and a trip to Mitad del Mundo, the plaza along the Equator.

Day 3: Drive the Pichinchas Refuge, located just below the peak of Guagua Pichincha. From here we will climb to the summit of Guagua. Then hike down to set up our high altitude basecamp.

Day 4: After breakfast we begin our traverse to Rucu Pichincha. After an hour and a half of hiking we will pass below the second peak, El Padre Encantado. Two hours of climbing beyond this middle peak will take us to the summit of Rucu. Here we will have lunch while enjoying the best views of Quito. We then have a short walk downhill to Cruz Loma, where we will board the new cable elevators that will take us back to Quito.

Day 5: We begin our day at 8:00 a.m., and drive to the Illiniza Ecological Reserve. At noon we will arrive at the trailhead, then climb three hours to the Nuevos Horizontes Hut (4,650 m / 15,250 ft) located in the saddle, between Illiniza’s South and North peaks.

Grade II/5.3; 70◦ Incline
Day 6:
We summit Illiniza North (5,126 m / 16,817 ft). We will leave the camp at 7:00 a.m. and after 4 to 5 hours of climbing, with an easy scramble up the final stretch, we will reach the summit. After our hike down we will spend the rest of the day resting at the hut.

Grade IV-/AD+; 70-80◦ Incline
Day 7:
Today we climb Illiniza South, fully utilizing our technical climbing skills along the way. We will begin our ascent at 3:00 a.m. to ensure we have enough time to navigate the seracs, steep ice walls and loose rocks before the snow softens in the midday sun. The ascent takes roughly 5 to 6 hours, depending on the ice conditions. After our 5 hour descent, we will load our gear and drive to La Cienega Hacienda to stay for the night.

Day 8: Today is a rest day after our long ascent of Illiniza South. We will drive to Riobamba, where we will relax and explore the city.

Day 9: At 6 a.m. we drive to the village of Boca Toma. Here we load our gear onto mules and hike 5 hours through the páramo highlands. The final 2 hour ascent to the Italian Camp (4,550 m / 14,928 ft) we will carry our gear as it is too rugged for our mule porters.

Grade IV+/5.7D+; 80◦ Incline
Day 10:
We start our ascent of El Altar at 3:00 a.m., and it will take 9 hours to reach the summit of El Obispo. We will climb the steep snow and ice to the upper glacier. Then we follow a narrow gully of steep ice up to an exposed notch in the summit crest. Here we begin the hardest section of our climb, a steep and technically demanding rock wall; while the holds are big, the rock is loose and steep. On our way down, we will aim to reach the Italian Camp; however if it gets late we will set up a high altitude bivouac.

Day 11: We will hike out, with the aid of mules during the final stretch. Then spend a rest day in Riobamba.

Day 12: We begin our drive to Chimborazo at 8:00 a.m., it will take 3 hours to reach the Hermanos Carrel Hut (4,800 m / 15,750 ft) located at the base of Chimborazo. From here we will hike to our base camp accommodations, the Whymper Hut (5,000 m / 16,400 ft).

Thielmann Glacier Direct Rt.
Grade III/AD+; 70◦ Incline

Day 13:
We begin our climb at 10:00 p.m. We head straight up to the tongue of the Thielmann Glacier to connect with the Normal Route, which follows the Western ridge of the mountain. We will climb this route, navigating the many crevasses until we are just below the Veintemilla summit. Here we will zigzag to the ridge leading up to the lower summit (6,267 m / 20,561 ft). Then climb up to the final summit, Whymper (6,310 m / 20,702 ft). After our ascent, we will descend via the Standard Route, to reduce our risks of rock fall. The descent will go much faster, and we should be back at the parking lot in 4 hours. Then we will drive to Baños.

Day 14: Our day in Baños will be spent relaxing and rejuvenating after our final summit. You can enjoy the day in the natural hot springs that flow from the mountainside, there are also additional opportunities to travel down to the Amazon jungle and view several breathtaking waterfalls. It is worth the note that this day can also serve as a second summit option, if we are delayed due to poor weather.

Day 15: Drive to Quito and fly back home.

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