Two volcanoes are located about 10 kilometers (6 mi) west of Quito â€” Guagua and Rucu Pichincha, 4,776 meters (15,670 ft) and 4,627 meters (15,180 ft), respectively. Guagua, which means â€śbabyâ€ť in the Quichua language, is higher than its neighbor and currently active: it covered the Ecuadorian capital with ash in 1999. Inactive Rucu, meaning â€śold,â€ť is slightly lower and closer to Quito.
Hiking Rucu Pichincha
Climbing Rucu Pichincha used to require hiring a truck or making a long, and sometimes dangerous, three-hour slog through eucalyptus forest and sponge grass up to Cruz Loma. Fortunately, Quitoâ€™s TelefĂ©rico makes these less appealing options unnecessary. The gondola ride departs from a station on Avenida Occidental and Avenida La Gasca and costs $8 for foreigners and $4.50 for Ecuadorians. See Quitoâ€™s TelefĂ©rico for more information.
The hike from Cruz Loma to Rucuâ€™s peak consists of a one and a half hour walk along a grassy ridge that steadily rises toward a rocky base beneath the summit. Once you reach the rock, you can either go right and traverse the cliff until you reach a sandy slope that leads to the summit or go straight up the rock. Both of these routes require an additional one and a half hours. The second option should not be attempted by inexperienced climbers unless they are accompanied by a guide equipped with ropes and harnesses.
Hiking Guagua Pichincha
Guagua Pichincha is best accessed from Lloa, a village located south of the two volcanoes. Take a bus or cab south on Avenida Mariscal Jose Antonio de Sucre to Calle Angamarca, where you will find transportation to Lloa. You can also hire a cab to take you all the way to Lloa and even to the refuge, which is just an hour walk from the crater. If you decide to hike all the way from the village to the crater, head west out of town and follow a meandering road up to the refuge. It takes between five and six hours of steady walking. From the refuge, there is a clear trail to the crater. It was once possible to walk down into the crater; however since the eruption of Guagua Pichincha in 1999 and the possibility of renewed emissions of noxious volcanic gases, this is not recommended.
Near Quito, Quito, Ecuador
National Park, Hiking