The Twin Peaks of Ilinizas form a famous landmark in the Volcano Avenue: two pyramid shaped summits rising in the Western Cordillera. As relatively small fivethousanders, these are considered ideal climbs to train and acclimatize for Cotopaxi and Chimborazo, offering superb views of Cotopaxi.
The volcanic twins are far from identical. Iliniza Norte (5126 m/ 16817 ft), the remnant of the ancient volcanic edifice, is a rocky mountain with no permanent snow. This is one of the less technical climbs in Ecuador, apt for beginners. Iliniza South (5263 m/ 17267 ft), a younger volcano formed by a lava dome after a powerful eruption, has permanent glaciers with a very technical route. A great alpine climb for advanced ice climbers!
The climb of Iliniza Norte is a mix of trekking with some rock scrambling in the final stretch. You need a basic acclimatization and a good physical health. Normally this ascent can be done without crampons but after extended rain / snow fall, crampons may be needed.
Iliniza Norte can be climbed in one long day, but we do recommend the 2-day program as this is less exhausting. The night in the small Nuevos Horizontes refuge improves your acclimatization.
At 9.00 a.m. we depart by car from Riobamba to Ilinizas Ecological Reserve. After about 3 hours arrive 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 at 4650 m. / 15.256 ft. just below the saddle between Norte and Sur. Briefing and dinner.
At 4.00 a.m. we have a light breakfast and get ready for the ascent. The average climbing 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 summit. With clear weather you will enjoy awesome views of Cotopaxi volcano and the Iliniza Sur. Descent to the refuge and after a short rest, on to the parking. On the way back to Riobamba we will have lunch in a restaurant. Arrive at about 15.00.