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3 Peaks for Beginners

  • 6 Days / 5 Night
  • Group : Private
  • Lodges & Refuges
  • Difficulty : 4
  • Pickup: Quito
  • Min Age : 16+

This 6-day itinerary combines the acclimatization climbs of Rumiñahui and Iliniza Norte volcanoes, with a glacier class and summit hike of Cotopaxi. A great introduction to mountaineering with incredible views of Ecuador´s awesome volcanoes!

Rising at 5897 m / 19347 ft Cotopaxi is the second highest summit of Ecuador and popular among experienced mountaineers and beginners. The ascent on large snow fields with crevasses and ice seracs is physically demanding, but imagine the thrill of standing on the summit at sunrise! From the top you can enjoy extensive panoramic views of the volcanic crater, the entire Volcano Avenue and even Quito.


Starting Place


What to Expect

This package does not require previous climbing experience. The glacier class helps you to build your confidence before the final summit day.

You do need a very good physical fitness and a first acclimatization – if you arrive from sea level, make sure to spend some days the highlands first.

Cotopaxi is climbable all year round; please note that the climbing route is subject to variations due to the weather and snow conditions that sometimes change fast.

  • Altitude range 3800 m – 5897 m / 12467 – 19347 ft
  • Average climbing time on summit day Cotopaxi: ascent 5 – 6 hours, descent 2 – 3 hours
  • Average gradient: 30 – 40 degrees
  • Average temperatures: -0°/ 32° F (refuge) to - 13° C/ 8,6° F (summit)
  • Best months: September – February, May - June

Day 1Rumiñahui Central Peak (4634 m / 15203 ft)

Pickup from your accommodation in Quito at 8.00 a.m. and 2-hour ride to Limpiopungo in the Cotopaxi National Park. This shallow lake at 3800 m / 12467 ft is the trailhead to Rumiñahui, an impressive caldera with 3 rocky summits – our aim is the Central peak rising at 4.634 m / 15203 ft. The 6 – 7 hour round trip starts as a gentle hike, from paramo grasslands with lots of chuquiragua flowers to the rocky base of Rumiñahui. The final stretch before the summit is pretty steep and includes some rock scrambling. From the top, enjoy views of Antisana, Sincholagua and Cotopaxi, our final goal! Descent and transfer to lodge.

Night in lodge (3125 m / 10252 ft)

Day 2Iliniza Norte Hike to Refuge (4650 m / 15256 ft)

After breakfast, short drive to the Ilinizas Ecological Reserve. The car will drop us at the La Virgen parking lot (3900 m/12795 ft). A pack horse will be waiting to take the heavy gear up to the Nuevos Horizontes refuge, so all you need to carry is your daypack. The 3- to 4-hour hike leads along a beautiful meandering trail with grasslands and Polylepis trees to the Nuevos Horizontes refuge (4650 m. / 15.256 ft.) just below the saddle between Norte and Sur. Briefing and dinner.

Night in refuge (4650 m / 15256 ft)

Day 3Iliniza Norte Summit day (5126 m/ 16817 ft)

At 4.00 a.m. light breakfast and start the ascent. The average time to the summit is about 3 – 4 hours. From the saddle that divides Norte and Sur, we ascend a rocky trail on the southeast ridge. The route has a few steeper sections and some rock scrambling through steep gullies before reaching the peak. With clear weather you will enjoy awesome views of Iliniza Sur and Cotopaxi. Descent to the refuge and after a short rest, on to the parking. Transfer to Cotopaxi National Park.

Night in lodge (3850 m / 12631 ft.)

Day 4Glacier Class (5100 m / 16732 ft)

After breakfast drive to the parking lot (4600 m / 15902 ft.) and hike to the entrance of the glacier. In today´s glacier class, you will learn the principles of rope travel, walking safely with crampons, practicing hiking techniques for ascent and descent, using the ice axe, basic self-arrest techniques. Besides building confidence for the technical part of the climb, the glacier class improves your acclimatization. Honoring the climb high, sleep low rule, we return to the lodge for a good night of sleep before the final ascent.

Night in lodge (3850 m / 12631 ft.)

Day 5José Rivas Refuge (4800 m / 15748 ft

At 11.00 a.m. depart from the lodge back to the parking lot at 4600 m / 15092 ft. After a 50-minute hike we arrive at the José Rivas refuge. Lunch and free afternoon to rest and prepare for the climb.

Night in refuge (4800 m / 15748 ft.)

Day 6Cotopaxi Summit day (5897 m / 19347 ft)

After a coca tea with a light snack, around midnight we hike to the glacier where we put on our crampons. The glacier slopes have an average steepness of 30 – 35 degrees. We will cross several crevasses and negotiate a few ice seracs before reaching Yanasacha (Black Rock) for the final challenging stretch, with a steepness of 35 – 40 degrees. At the summit you can enjoy amazing views of the crater and the Volcano Avenue with other snowcapped peaks. The descent to the refuge takes about 3 hours. On the way back to Quito we will have lunch in a restaurant. Arrive at about 14.00.



  • 1 person (private tour): USD 1880
  • Party of 2 – 5: USD 1150 per person
  • Party of 6 – 8: USD 950 per person

Price Includes

  • All private transfers according to the itinerary
  • Accommodation in lodges and refuges
  • Certified local guide for acclimatization hike (1 guide : 4 clients)
  • ASEGUIM certified mountain guides for Iliniza Norte and Cotopaxi (1 guide : 2 clients)
  • Meals full board during hikes and climbs + breakfast in all hotels
  • First quality climbing equipment
  • Entrance permits National Parks and Reserves

Price Excludes

  • Travel insurance (must cover glacier climbing)
  • Meals on travel and rest days
  • Tips (optional)