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Iliniza Volcanoes - Hiking - Ecuador

The twin peaks of Iliniza Norte (elevation: 5,126 m, 16,817 ft) and Sur (elevation: 5,248 m, 17,220 ft) are in sharp contrast to the Páramo 55 km (34 miles) south of Quito. Today the two mountains are connected by a one-kilometer long saddle, but in prehistoric times, they were one solid volcano.

Though similar in height they vary greatly in technical difficulty. Norte requires no technical skills or equipment (unless there has been considerable snowfall, in which case you may want rope and even crampons). On the other hand, Iliniza Sur is one of Ecuador’s more technical climbs and should only be attempted by experienced climbers.

Getting to the Ilinizas from Quito

To reach the Ilinizas, drive south on the Pan American Highway and turn right (west) eight kilometers after Machachi onto a cobblestone and dirt road that leads to the community of El Chaupi. Go seven kilometers on this road until you reach El Chaupi’s main plaza. Go right out of the plaza on a road to the right of the church. Travel three kilometers up this road and make a left turn. Continue on until you reach a series of switchbacks that take you up a hill to a parking area marked by a shrine to the Virgin Mary.

From the parking area, follow a dirt road that leads to a well trodden trail. Follow the trail as it winds upwards to a steep ridge, and then climb the ridge until you reach a simple refuge made of cement blocks. On a clear day, you will see Iliniza Norte to the northwest and Iliniza Sur to the southwest.

Hiking Iliniza Norte

To climb Norte, walk approximately 45 minutes up the left side of the southeast ridge. You will be on a slope of sandy scree and loose rock until you reach a ridge of solid rock. Follow this ridge of solid rock to a false summit at 5,060 meters, and then traverse right across a number of sandy ledges, including one called the Paso de Muerte, or “death pass.” These can be intimidating to inexperienced climbers, especially when they are covered with snow. Continue on until you reach a gully. Ten minutes more of scrambling up loose rock will lead you to the true summit marked by an iron cross. The danger of falling rock during the last part of the climb should not be understated; wearing a helmet is always a good idea.

It takes between two and three hours to reach the summit from the refuge, and the total climbing time to the summit and back to the shrine is approximately eight hours.


Hiking, National Park

Here are other activities in and around Central Andes that may be of interest: Sincholagua Volcano, El Corazón, Hiking From Quilotoa To Chugchilán, Hike to Bellavista, Hiking To Cotopaxi's Refuge , Hike to the Virgen del Agua Santa and Hiking in the Quilotoa Region.

12 Apr 2013

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