First-time hiking in high mountains of Ecuador

Last Updated on December 2, 2023

In Quito, I got the first experience of high mountain climbing. Before it was not higher than 1,500 meters. But when living in Quito and its surroundings, I climbed to the height of 6,100 meters. Actually, the capital of Ecuador is around 3000. So to go up higher you do not need so much energy and strength. In only 5-7 hours you will climb from the Ecuadorian coast to the center of the country. Acclimatization takes 3-10 days, it is individual. First couple of days you will have a bit of vertigo, especially when climbing the stairs or walking fast. If there are no side effects, the feeling of height soon goes away. People who live in mountainous villages are used to it but it is not recommended for people with cardiovascular diseases and heart disease.

Ecuador Mountaineering

Hiking in the mountains is difficult although at first it seems that it is not so difficult. In effect, it is enough to train the legs and the respiratory system. However, the higher the mountain, the less control you have over your body. It seems that the body is betraying  – it does not want to listen and it does not want to work either. The mind thinks to go a little further – the summit looks very close. But, even 10 meters are very hard, especially at the end.

Rucu Pichincha, 4696m

First I went to the minor mountains – the local peaks Rucu Pichincha and Guagua Pichincha. To overcome these peaks you do not need equipment, only comfortable shoes, water, food, sun protection, and personal things. The sun in the mountains of Ecuador burns without mercy. In 30 minutes one becomes a shrimp. Locals say that the upper part of the mountains of Ecuador – Chimborazo – is closer to the Sun than the top of Mount Everest. They explain it by the location of the country in the equator which is closer to the sun. Therefore, the maximum height of 6267m is sufficient to overcome the height of the Himalayas.

I was alone when I went to Rucu Pichincha for the first time. The mountain is almost in the center of the city and is accessible to tourists. There is an elevator that you can take at the start. But this trip, I did it alone too. It happened on different days: that is, in one day, I arrived at the Refuge (the base where you can relax and gain strength to reach the main summit) and I went down in the cable car, and on another occasion I climbed with the cable car to the top from the base and I kept walking. The road is not difficult and abrupt but sometimes slippery and that is scary.

Mountains of Ecuador

The vegetation is low, dry bushes and dry grass. Closer to the top only stones and sand. The wind gets stronger, and the air is cooler. The city is covered with fog at the bottom, and that gives an even stronger feeling of loneliness. Sometimes, the fog feathers diverge – and there is a happy sun. On the mountain, it is especially cheerful.

Guagua Pichincha, 4790m

This peak is a little higher and more difficult. I went up with my friend, a guide. We had to reach the town of Lloa near the city of Quito. From there begins a long winding road up. The route is not difficult but a bit boring. It is better to take a car and drive it since in this part of the road there are still many park rangers’ cars. The road gradually becomes a stony path, and then there are large pieces of rocks and ravines that must be overcome. Reaching the top is always nice even if it is not so difficult.

Ecuador Mountains

The Illinizas del Norte, 5248m

We went up in a group of 5 people and 2 guides. The equipment is not required either, although, for example, the Illinizas del Sur require special equipment and a lot of experience. We had to climb from the village of Machachi and then we continued quite fast with the strong heat of the sun. The road is long but it does not seem so difficult. The sun goes away little by little, and in the cracks between the stones, the very white snow appears.

Ecuador Country

In the Refuge, you feel short of breath. It is difficult to understand how the guard can live here with a limited amount of oxygen for several days or months. The more you climb – the more fog and moisture enters inside the jacket. Sometimes the falls of stones begin, that is why all travelers wear helmets.

Upon reaching the summit you can see the distant Quito and breathe deep the moist air without oxygen. When the climb is finished, the happy feeling of victory and prostration appears.

The descent is usually fast. Sometimes you have to be careful not to fall on the scattered pebbles on the slope.

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