Rucu Pichincha, El Altar, El Sangay

December 28, 2017 – January 14, 2018 (18 days)

  El Sangay National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 (one of four such sites in Ecuador, along with the Galapagos Islands, Quito and Cuenca). Its remote and beautiful landscapes range from tropical rainforests to glaciers, from snowcapped peaks to alpine meadows, and from active volcanoes to whitewater rivers. The Mountain Tapir, Andean deer and condors still thrive within the park. The elusive mountains of El Altar (17,451 feet) and El Sangay (17,388 feet) are clearly the two main jewels of this stunning national park.

   Hiking to El Altar in Sangay National Park is considered by many to be the most beautiful trek in Ecuador. We will take four days to reach El Altar, camp by the famous Yellow Lake at the base of El Altar’s majestic rock spires and hike back out. After refueling in Riobamba, we will begin our trek to the exotic and remote El Sangay — Ecuador’s most active volcano. We will take eight days total, roundtrip, to reach El Sangay, climb to its summit and return to town. Trekking to El Altar and climbing El Sangay are unforgettable experiences that very few people ever get to do.


Al Altar volcano photo by David Torres Costales.jpg This illustration was made by David Torres Costales Please credit this with : David Torres Costales / @DavoTC

The summit peaks of El Altar



DEC 28, 2017: Fly to Quito, Ecuador, the country’s capital. Check into the Hotel Ambassador.

DEC 29: Guided city tour of Old Town. Lunch at a rooftop restaurant with views of the entire city. Explore Quito’s “Mariscal” neighborhood at night.

DEC. 30: Take the “Teleferico” (cable car) to Cruz Loma, high above the city at around 13,000 feet. Begin our acclimatization hike to the summit of Rucu Pichincha (15,500 feet). Descend to the Teleferico and return to the hotel. Enjoy the New Year’s Eve celebrations at night!!

Rucu Pichincha and Trail

Rucu Pichincha and Trail

DEC. 31, 2017: Drive south 4 hours from Quito to Riobamba, then to an entrance to Sangay National Park. Hike up to the Hacienda Releche in the Andean foothills west of El Altar. Spend the night in a climbers lodge.

JAN. 1, 2018: Begin ascending a steep path in the El Altar valley to the Collanes Plain, a wide, high alpine meadow. Enjoy splendid mountain scenery. Spend the night in a mountaineers’ hut.

JAN. 2: Continue ascending until we reach the towering, icy summits of of El Altar and it’s stunning Laguna Amarilla (Yellow Lake). Set up camp by the lake. Take exploratory hikes to view El Altar’s nine distinct summits, including “El Obispo” (The Bishop), the highest peak at 17,451 feet. Camp for the night next to El Altar.

JAN. 3: Hike out to the Hacienda Releche. Continue hiking down to our awaiting van. Drive to our hotel in Riobamba. Rest and relaxation.

JAN. 4: Drive south from Riobamba to the small farming village of Guargualla at 10,500 feet. Meet our guides, and rest in a mountaineers hut. From here, all gear will be carried by mules.

JAN. 5: Hike about six hours to Rincon Escaleras at 12,000 feet. Camp.

Here is a video by Andes Trek Expeditions, Inc. :


JAN. 6: Hike up to Tres Cruces (Three Crosses) Pass at 13,000 feet, then continue down to Plazapamba where we will spend the night in thatched roof cabins. Total hiking time: 7 hours.

JAN. 7: Trek across ridges and rivers for about 6 hours to our basecamp at an area known as “La Playa” (the Beach!!). Sleep in hikers huts. Weather permitting, we will have an excellent view of El Sangay.

JAN. 8: Rest day at La Playa.

JAN.  9: Summit day!! Wake up at 2 AM and begin the 8-hour ascent to the summit of El Sangay (17,388 feet). We will carefully monitor volcanic activity and ascend only as far as can be done, safely. Our descent to basecamp at La Playa takes about 4 hours.

Sangay Volcano in Ecuador Photo by Albert Backer

El Sangay volcano

JAN. 10: Return to Plazapamba, enjoy a lavish campsite dinner, and spend our last night in tents.

JAN. 11: Hike out to the village of Guargalla, meet our transport, and drive to the town of Banos, famous for its hotsprings, restaurants and nightlife. Check into our hotel.

JAN. 12: Enjoy all the activities that the intoxicating town of Banos has to offer.

JAN. 13: Drive to Quito. Check back into the Hotel Ambassador. Farewell Dinner!!

JAN. 14: Fly home!! Bon voyage!!

TRIP PRICE: $2,800 per person

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