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Best time to go

March & April

Recommended duration

8 nights

Theme

Mountaineering

Epic experiences don’t come much better than standing on the crater of a smouldering volcano in the heart of Ecuador.  For a journey of self-discovery, join A&K’s mountaineering experts and feel the rush of adrenalin as you conquer the summit of Cotopaxi at sunrise.  

For many of us lockdown was a time to reflect and think about past achievements, but also focus on a bit of self-improvement and look at what is still possible. We know a high-altitude adventure features high on the bucket list for many travellers. Achievements beyond your wildest dreams await when you embark on our exclusive eight-day expedition through the Avenue of Volcanoes culminating in the ascent of Cotopaxi.  

A personal goal of this magnitude is only made possible by our world-class guides who will lead you every step of the way from starting your altitude training at Quito, the world’s second highest capital (2,850 metres), all the way to the summit of Cotopaxi which rises to a majestic 5,897-metres. 

Ecuador is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is renowned for its rich ecosystem of mountains, rainforests, and cloud forests. The natural phenomenon of the Galapagos Islands lies 1,000 kilometres west into the Pacific Ocean and is always a welcome finale to any Ecuadorian experience. 

Your high-altitude adventure begins the moment you arrive in the cobbled streets of Quito’s old town, the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site and closest capital to the equator.  

Hiking at altitude will take place around the summit of Guagua Pichincha which stands at 4,780 metres. For the first trek you will be driven to a point of 4,000 metres. From here you can clearly see the symmetrical cone of Cotopaxi – or “shining peak” as it is called in Quechuan - beckoning to you from 50 kilometres away in the Cotopaxi National Park. 

The following three days will focus on acclimatisation hikes in and around the foothills and craters of Ruminahui and El Altar. Your trek up the scree slopes and rocky crags to the centre peak of Ruminahui (4,634 metres), named after a famous Incan warrior, is rewarded with panoramic views. During your descent enjoy a picnic lunch before arriving at the lodge for sundowners beside the fire.   

Glacial lakes, waterfalls, multicoloured lagoons can be captured on film when you venture off the beaten track around El Altar, an extinct volcano on the western side of Sangay National Park. The terrain here can be quite challenging but will prepare you for the challenge ahead. 

A breath-taking helicopter flight will take you across the Avenue of Volcanoes towards the high valley of Urbina where you can see Andean peaks such as Carihuairazo and Chimborazo. From your landing pad to your luxury expedition camp is a five-hour trek towards Collanes Valley. Freshen up in your tent, complete with raised bed, before tucking into dinner cooked by our expedition chef.  Guest speakers will share their adventure stories around the campfire. 

Your final few days before Cotopaxi will ensure you’re fully acclimatised. You will hike to the Yellow Lake formed in the caldera of El Altar following an eruption Practice your crampon skills and rope work with a trek to the Cotopaxi Glacier. Visit the highlands town of Otavalo, home to the most celebrated market in the Andes, and take to the saddle, on a mountain bike or on horseback. 

The climb to the crater of Cotopaxi starts at midnight. This witching hour offers better snow conditions for your ascent. Although the route is not technically challenging it will test your fitness with moderate glaciated slopes of 45 degrees. After six or seven hours you will feel that rush of adrenalin as you finally stand on the summit at sunrise. Take the time to enjoy the magnificent views of the gigantic crater and of mountains of Antisana, Cayambe and Chimborazo.  Celebrate your achievement back at Cotopaxi Sanctuary Lodge with a soak in a hacienda hot tub followed by glass of warming Canelazo. 

As the poet W J Turner said in his poem Romance, “Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, Had taken my speech away… Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, They had stolen my soul away!” and we will sure it will do the same for you. 

The perfect antidote to your expedition is a private cruise around the soothing Galápagos Islands. Reconnect with nature as you encounter Darwin’s finches, the ubiquitous iguana, and inquisitive sea lion - rounding off your journey of self-improvement. 

ENQUIRE

For more information on our Mountaineering Expeditions, read our Q&A with Ben McCullough, expedition mountaineer.

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