Rucu PichinchaAfter a successful trip to Mexico last February I thought it was time to go a little further south of the border to take a small step upwards with a trip to Ecuador. I went with Nord Sandstrom, also from Denver, and used Moggely in Quito for guides per recommendations from other SP members online. We changed our plans since originally we wanted to start with the Ilinizas, but we heard that Sur was not in very good shape so we decided to begin our trip nearer Quito with the Pichinchas. I arrived in Quito the night before our acclimatization hikes, Nord had arrived a day sooner. The three main summits of this large volcanic massif are Guagua, Rucu and Encantado (smallest of the three). Guagua Pichincha erupted as recently as 1999 sending a large plume of ash high above Quito.
We began by taking a cab to the TeleferiQo aerial tram on the west side of town en route to the summit of Rucu Pichincha. The tram starts at a small amusement park and tops out on the slopes of Rucu at around 13,000 feet.
The trail slowly gained altitude until we met the East ridge. There were a few climbers who took this route (class 4 to easy 5), but we passed it to the right and continued on the main trail until we came to a sandy slope. This slope was easy to climb by some switch-backs until we neared the summit after ~300 feet of easy class 4 climbing.
We spent a little time on the summit and saw the summit of Guagua Pichincha not far away.
Guagua summitThe next morning we were met at our hotel by Robinson, our guide from Moggely. We used a guide for this hike because we needed a ride to the Guagua trail and for the traverse route from the summit of Guagua to the Encantado summit. We were taken to the village of Lloa, where it is possible to begin a climb, and past this town to the civil defense refuge high on Guagua. We decided to go higher, because our guide thought it would be better to spend our time higher on the mountain rather than climbing it from below. He suggested the traverse over to Encantado for this purpose. We began by hiking along a short segment of road to a shrine intended to protect Quito from the wrath of its nearby volcanoes- Pichincha in particular. The trail continued along the crater edge to a rocky outcropping (up to easy class 4) to the summit. The caldera was shrouded in clouds and the smell of sulfur was ever-present.
After spending a little time on the top, we headed down in the direction of Encantado.