Ecuador Climbing is Around the Corner!

This article is written in support of the people of the Ecuador tourism industry. Tourism industry in Ecuador, which employs 408,800 individuals, has been broadly impacted by the 2019 pandemic. [source]

The alpine season is not over, ever!

When mid-fall rolls in, the realization that it will be nearly a year before revisiting the high alpine zones of the Cascades starts to set in. The ebb and flow is particularly special, because it forces us to look outside of our norms. The high alpine equatorial regions call, and what better place to look than Ecuador itself. Because in Ecuador, the climbing season is just about to begin!

But it’s not just all about climbing.

According to the IFC, tourism is a significant source of employment in Ecuador, and is too important to neglect. In 2019, 408,800 Ecuadorians depended on tourism and its associated activities for employment.

Tourism is Ecuador’s fourth-largest nonpetroleum export and its largest service export, contributing more than 5 percent of the country’s GDP. Revenues are concentrated around the Galapagos Islands, though Ecuador possesses multiple dazzling ecosystems, ranging from coastal areas to high mountains to rainforests, 26 percent of which has protected area status. It is home to 2,477 species and five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Despite these attractions, the average number of tourists visiting Ecuador has increased only slightly over the last decade.

The pandemic has made matters worse for those 408,800 Ecuadorians: as is the case with other nations in South America where tourism revenues have declined precipitously during the pandemic, tourism in Ecuador has come to a near-standstill in the last two years.

It’s impossible to create environmental awareness in the abstract. No one takes care of what they do not make their own, and the best way to do that with nature is through an intense sensorial experience. A trip to Ecuador is, among other things, an opportunity to connect with the planet in a huge epiphanic way.

Claudia Muzzi Turullols, director of the Latin American editions of National Geographic and National Geographic Traveler
Cotopaxi Summit, 2021 [read more]

A climb for everybody

I have felt that the climbing in Ecuador is akin the climbing we experience on our big PNW peaks. There are a plethora of peaks that litter the region, offering a variety of different climbing styles. When thinking of Ecuador, most people think of climbing moderate snow slopes to mid-5000m summits out of car accessible huts. And there is a fair amount of that available, which is amazing for individuals looking to experiment with themselves at higher elevations. What often goes unseen is the classically Andean expeditionary climbing, along with the technical climbing that comes along with those peaks.

Peak, RouteElevationDifficultyAccess
Pichincha, Normal Route4,776mMostly a hikeGondola!
Carihuairazo, Normal Route5,018mPD, some steep snowDrive to unsupported hut
Iliniza Norte, Normal Route5,126mPD, low 5thEasy hike to fully supported hut
Sangay, Normal Route5,230mJungle climb!Jungle expedition!
Iliniza Sur, Normal Route5,248mAD, steep snow and easy iceEasy hike to fully supported hut
El Altar, Italian Route5,319mD/TD, rock, ice, complex glacier travelHorse supported expedition
El Altar, Monja Grande5,160m D, steep snow, complex glacier travelHorse supported expedition
Antisana, Normal Route5,758mAD, steep snowCar camp
Cayambe, Normal Route5,790mPD, easy snowDrive directly to fully supported hut
Cayambe, Arista Santa Barbara5,790mTD, rock, iceDrive directly to fully supported hut
Cotopaxi, Normal Route5,897mPD, easy snowDrive directly to fully supported hut
Chimborazo, Normal Route6,310mAD, easy snow, strenuousHike to fully supported hut
Chimborazo, Arista del Sol & Integral6,310mTD, rock, ice, strenuous, overnight at 6000m+Horse supported expedition
Antisana, 2016

Some of my favorites stories from Ecuador

Quito, 2016

WFQ (Work From Quito)

I’ve have had the opportunity to visit Ecuador 3 times, spending nearly two months of time there overall. The last time I visited with Jessica was in 2021, where we worked and climbed out of Quito. Quito not old has extraordinarily quick access to the country’s glaciated peaks, but it also is a great place to stay and work from for an extended period of time. It resides in the east coast timezone, and sports high speed internet, a variety of high quality and affordable accommodations, a massive volume of world class restaurants, access to other parts of the country, and much much more.

Some of our favorite spots…

Swing over Quito, 2021 [read more]

Actually making it happen!

Ecuador is a climbing location that is logistically beautiful when supported. However, it is a more challenging one if one does not have an on-the-ground expert. Even for the most well supported peaks like Cayambe, Cotopaxi, and Chimborazo, I personally recommend having, at minimum, a logistics coordinator for permits and hut reservations. There is no simple way to do this online or over the phone. Certain peaks like Antisana reside on private land, making access even more complicated to somebody who doesn’t know the system. For the more wild adventures that need horse support, it literally requires going and knocking on doors in the mountain villages to wrangle the support staff.

Guiding in the country is fairly accessible, almost too accessible.  Even for the most moderate climbs, I highly recommended going with a certified IFMGA guide.  When it comes to the more challenging routes, either technically or access wise, be very choosey with your guide of choice.  Looking at a guide’s resume and speaking to past clients is the best bet.  

As a personal recommendation, I highly recommend my good friend and long-time guide, Ignacio Espinosa Andred, or just “Nacho”. Nacho is not just an overall super cool good person, and an amazing dad to his son, he is also one of the most technically and logistically competent guides in South America.  Nacho is the Technical Director for Ecuador’s IFMGA/UIAGM program, which means he is also a great instructor to those who want to learn as well.  His logical knowledge of Ecuador and Peru is top notch, and he can pull off almost any crazy thing you want to try.  So much so that famous names Mountain Madness and Alpenglow Expeditions trust their logistics and guiding to him in these regions.  He also has the claim to a number of extremely challenging ascents in the region, along with a handful of burley technical first ascents throughout the region.

Ignacio Espinosa Andred

-Technical Director, IFMGA Ecuador
-Guide and logistics coordinator for Mountain Madness, Alpenglow Expeditions, Skyline Adventure School
-Private Alpine Guide & Logistics Coordinator

Illiniza Sur, 2021 [read more]

Read More about Ecuador…

Ecuador 2021, Escaping the Pandemic

Just like most people in the world, the Pandemic had been weighing on us. We had gotten a lot of climbing in this past year, but our international plans had all been canceled. And with Jessica’s green card application in the USA moving forward, we knew there would be a long period ahead where travel on her end would be 100% restricted. The weather in the PNW had been particularly bad this winter, and it only looked like it was getting worse. After a number of failed climbing attempts due to conditions, we made the call to go south for a bit. […]

Ecuador the Hard Way

Upon arriving back to Ecuador for the second time, now few years later, I had all the same levels of excitement as the first, but with something very different in mind.  Technical climbs.  However, because of how poorly the technical climbs of Ecuador are documented, I had really very little idea of what I had ahead of me.[…]

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