Avid walkers and hikers can now experience trekking through Ecuador’s Avenue of the Volcanoes, exploring the tops and underbellies of four volcanoes and diverse ecosystems in one of the most bio-diverse countries of the world.
Offering various trek lengths, these new adventures in the Andes were developed by Ecuador’s award-winning nature and ecotourism company Tropic, that since 1994 has led tours through the country’s most engaging landscapes. Now, trekkers have the option to hike inn to inn, lodge to lodge, rather than camping or requiring expert mountaineering skills to navigate and survive.
“Mountain Guardians is Tropic’s desire to develop a sustainable tourism operation that integrates local entrepreneurs into the concept of sustainable tourism development,” says owner Jascivan Carvalho.
Since 1994 Carvalho’s company has worked to help preserve the Amazon. It recently expanded its ecotourism as a tool for conservation into the Galapagos. “Now we want to incorporate the Andes, such an incredible ecosystem that has extreme value to the world and where all of the fresh waters sources for Ecuador are born.”
This region, Carvalho notes, is also home of emblematic and endangered species such as the Andean Condor and the Spectacle Bear. Previously inaccessible and uncomfortable at best, climbing this region had been a luxury for only a select group of expert mountaineers.
“We want to make the mountains accessible to everyone. We want people not to fear the altitude or the discomfort of cold campsites. In addition to the guests, the host accommodations themselves become our ambassadors in the same way that the guests of indigenous peoples are Amazon Guardians and Galapagos Guardians,” says Carvalho.
The per person double cost of $2,806 for a 7-night program includes a bilingual naturalist and climbing guide, transportation and support vehicle for luggage, lodge and hacienda accommodations and one night in a high-altitude mountain refuge, first aid kit , meals and snacks. Not included are park entrance fees, tips, alcoholic and other beverages and gear of any type. Sleeping bags and gear can be rented. Shorter programs of 3 nights are at $1,357 per person double.
Trekking through Ecuador’s Avenue of the Volcanoes Itinerary
The program begins in Quito with a city tour and opportunity to obtain necessary rental equipment. Accommodation is at Hacienda Alegria. The Pasochoa Reserve is the destination on Day 2 for a climb of 4,200-meter Pasochoa Peak and views of Quito. The descent to the Pita River canyon ends at the Cotopaxi Pungo Lodge for the evening.
A hike on Day 3 through humid, high mountain forests descends through the grasslands of Cotopaxi to an area known as the Pedregal. That night’s lodge is Los Mortiños hacienda, rife with the history of the country’s famous mountain climbers and at the entrance of Cotopaxi National Park. Day 4 brings guests along the Pita River canyon and across a plain inside the national park before arriving at Hosteria Tambopaxi, a world-famous mountain lodge. Enroute guests may see wild horses and such birds as the Curiquingue and the giant Andean Condor.
A second peak, Rumiñahui, is Day 5’s destination, offering views of the eastern side of Singholagua and Cotopaxi, the lord of the brilliant grassy foothills that never ceases to entrance hikers. The hike passes by the Machay (an Inca refuge) arriving eventually onto the stunning Limpiopungo Lagoon. The day ends back at Hosteria Tambopaxi.
Day 6 accesses the Cotopaxi mountain refuge (a mountaineers’ lodge), offering a recap of already-witnessed peaks. Guests attend a glacier school to learn how to use high mountain equipment safely and the techniques for displacement and progression on a glacier: the use of the pick, crampons and rope. The goal is to climb Cotopaxi, so Day 7 is a rest day with light walks, arriving at 11:30 in the evening at Refuge No2, the Jose F. Ribas, at an altitude of 4,800 meters above sea level.
On Day 8, even though it’s still dark, the five to-seven-hour climb to the summit begins. The Avenue of the Volcanoes will reveal Chimborazo to the South and Imbabura to the North and all the magnificent peaks between: Tungurahua y Sangay, el Altar, Quilindaña, Antisana, Cayambe, Ilinizas, Corazón, Atacazo and Pichincha. The approximately three-hour descent leads back to the Refuge and farewells.
Cotopaxi and its refuge are an important part of the story of Carvalho’s family. His grandfather and uncles have participated in the establishment, activities and growth of the famous San Gabriel HS Mountaineers Club.
“We want to share the passion of this club,” explains Carvalho. “We asked them to show us the best and most accessible routes that are the highlights of our programs. We have incorporated lodges that were built by professional climbers in the region where they have dedicated their lives to passionately sharing these mountains with others. This is what Tropic is all about: meeting and getting inspired by the locals no matter which ecosystem we are exploring and this is the case now for our Mountain Guardians Lodge-to-Lodge Climbing and Trekking vacations.
Photos Courtesy Destination Ecuador.