4 summits express fot principal

Cayambe – Get high altitude experience & summit the highest mountain on the equator line during a 7 day program.

Cayambe is one of the most popular mountains of Ecuador not only due to the fact it is the only glacier on the equator line, but also because it is the perfect place for glacier training. Cayambe is ideal for fit trekkers that look for high altitude experience.

Glacier training on Cayambe – get the ins and outs of glacier travel

At just a short driving distance from the capital city Quito, we can easily get to the base of several four and five thousand meter peaks. Our main objective is Cayambe, Ecuador´s third highest mountain; without a doubt, one of the most beautiful mountains in our country.
During this expedition you will learn more about the ins and outs of climbing on a glacier. Remote, safe and at the same time accessible are the words that define the climb. This short mountaineering program offers you three wonderful nights at characteristic Ecuadorian “haciendas”: beautiful farmhouses converted into lodges. Beside you will have two nights of adventurous camping, and one night in a mountain refuge.
If you would like to get an impression of this unique expedition, please have a look at the itinerary below.


The Cayambe itinerary has proven to be very effective in terms of acclimatisation as it offers you the ideal altitude gain you need during the expedition, based on the principle “climb high, sleep low”. Therefore this program provides the best chance to summit a glacier peak in a short period. Leaving the capital city Quito we will start climbing Pasochoa 4.200m /13,777ft on the first day. The next days you will climb Corazon 4.850m/15,908ft and Iliniza North 5.125m/ 16,810ft. On the fifth day you will have a well-deserved rest day when we will visit either the indigenous market of Saquisili or Otovalo (depending which day your program starts). Later that same day we will travel to the Ruales Refuge at 4.600m /15,088ft on Cayambe. During the sixth day you will be very busy with your glacier training, where you either have your first experience of ice & snow climbing or you will improve your skills. All this will prepare you for the last day of the program when you will climb Cayambe.

Hike to PasochoaDay 1
Hike to Pasochoa – 4.200m /10,758ft
- 3.280 m / 10,758 ft
Today we leave around 08.00am for a short drive to get to Pasochoa, where a 4 hours hike to the volcano is waiting for you. First, we will be crossing the fields of Hacienda “Metler”. Pasochoa is an ancient and heavily eroded volcano that has been inactive since the last ice age. If the weather permits, from the summit, we will be able to take a good look at the crater. Inside you will see the Pasochoa Protected Forest Reserve, a humid Andean Forest with more than 110 species of birds and 45 species of trees, located between 2.700 m / 8,856ft and 4.200 m /13,776 ft. On a sunny day you can normally see condors.
At the end of the day we drive to a beautiful hacienda at the base of Corazon, where we will spend the night.


Day 2Corazon
Hike to Corazon – 4.850 m / 15,900ft

Corazon is another eroded and extinct volcano located about 40 km south west of Quito. The name Corazon means “heart” in Spanish and is said to refer to two gullies on the north west slopes which, when seen from the distance, appear to join together in the shape of a heart. The first recorded ascent was in 1738 by La Condamine and Boiguer. It is a good second acclimatization hike after Pasochoa and before the Ilinizas. You will return at the hacienda lodge and have a rest.


Day 3Iliniza
Iliniza Hike to the camp – 4.000m / 13,120ft

North and South Ilinizas are located about 55 km Southwest of Quito. Originally, there was one volcano. However during an eruption, a very long time ago, the mountain was split into two. Now the two peaks are separated by a saddle, about 2 km away from each other. Today’s hike takes 3 hours to the camp. This will be our first night of camping. Our camp will be at a lower elevation. You will be able to enjoy the silence and, if the weather permits, the endless view of the stars.


Day 4Iliniza North
Iliniza North – 5.125m / 16,810ft
We will leave the camp at around 5am in order to get good views of the avenue of the volcanoes. The route is from the west side of the mountain, with some easy scrambling below the summit. From the summit, there are spectacular views of Iliniza South, Cotopaxi, Cayambe, Antisana and Chimborazo, the highest volcano in Ecuador. After the climb we return to the camp for some drinks and snacks. We spend our second night camping.


Day 5Saquisili
Saquisili or Otavalo market and drive to the base of Cayambe in the afternoon
According to a local economist, Saquisili has been for many years the largest indigenous market of Ecuador. It is famous for the way in which it’s seven “plazas” and most of its streets become packed with people, many of them local Indians of nearby villages. However some even come from other provinces attracted by the variety of products and good prices. If this day is not a Thursday, we will be driving instead to Otavalo to visit the other famous handicraft’s market Ecuador has and drive closer to the base of Cayambe. Night at Hacienda Guachala.


Day 6Cayambe
Cayambe – 4.600m m / 17,480ft
Cayambe is a massive glaciated extinct volcano. It is located about 68 km North East of Quito and is the highest point on the surface of the earth through which the Equator directly passes. Cayambe is the third highest mountain in Ecuador. It is characterized by good climbing opportunities and impressive glaciers. With easy access from a comfortable hut, the glaciers of Cayambe offer an outstanding venue for our glacier school. Big crevasses, complex icefalls and seracs provide the ideal setting for learning and improving ice climbing and a variety of other basic skills.


Day 7 Cayambe
Cayambe summit day – 5.790 m / 19,024ft

The route to the summit follows a safe glacier terrain to the summit. A gaping bergschrund sometimes presents a challenge in route finding and an exciting extra obstacle. The ascent normally takes seven hours and the descent three hours.

Important Note: Please note that this itinerary is a guide line only. We will do every effort to follow it, but in case of unforeseen circumstances we may have to make changes. Also note that flying days are not included in this program.


Also see our Interactive Map.

4 summits express map


Cotopaxi Trek & Climb

News about Cotopaxi

Due to the increase of the volcanic activity of Cotopaxi, for the moment we are not able to offer climbs or hikes in the Cotopaxi National Park.
Since the middle of August 2015 Cotopaxi has become more active and therefore the access to the National Park has been closed. Meanwhile we are offering our clients the following 7 day alternative having Cayambe 5.800m/ 19,024 ft as the main mountaineering objective


4 Summits Express


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Climbing Difficulty Levels

The following scale reflects the difficulty of the climb considering the technical specifications, experience required, altitude and duration of the ascent. The grades are roughly estimated and you have to take into account the difficulty varies depending on your personal fitness and experience.

Intermediate - No previous mountaineering skills are required. Climbers should be in acceptable physical condition and it is highly recommended that participants have some backpacking experience. In some cases a rope may be used to belay some exposed places.

Advanced - Basic mountaineering skills required, experience in high altitude and use of climbing gear such as crampons, rope and ice axe is preferred, but not required. A moderate climb usually is on a glacier, you may have to cross some crevasses, the slopes are not so steep (max. 40%) and full gear is used on all climbs. Very good physical condition is required.

Strenuous - More than 6.000 m / 19,600 ft technical climbs with steep snow slopes and exposed ridges, you may encounter some crevassed sections. Experience in high altitude and proper use of equipment as well as some knowledge of mountaineering techniques are required. Climbers should be comfortable on snow and ice up to 50 degrees. An excellent physical condition is a must.

Ascension Success Rates

The following information is based on our own records since 2005. It represents the percentage of trips in which we have taken at least one client to the summit.
Besides the percentage, we also give you a brief description of the most common cause for not been able to reach the top.

Chimborazo: 70%
Icy conditions and lack of stamina from climbers ( clients running out of fuel!)

Cotopaxi: 85%
Strong winds.

Cayambe: 75%
Bad Weather.

Antisana: 65%
Not being able to cross the bergschrund around the summit.