Cordillera Oriental (Ecuador)

Cordillera Oriental (Ecuador)

Page Type Page Type: Area/Range
Location Lat/Lon: 1.75754°S / 77.69531°W
Activities Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Trad Climbing, Ice Climbing, Mixed
Seasons Season: Summer, Winter
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Overview / Introduccion

Also known as the Cordillera Real or Central, the Cordillera Oriental (Eastern Range), runs north - south the length of the country. To the immediate west is the Interandean region, a high altitude valley. To the east is the Amazon jungle. This range contains the youngest and most active volcanos.

All this activity is due to plate tectonics. The Pacific Nazca plate is slowly moving east and the South American plate is moving west at a combined speed 9 cm (3 in) per year. The result is that Sangay may be the world's most continuously active volcano, and Tungurahua's activity increased dramatically in 2006.

Mountains / Montañas

Ecuador has 10 mountains over 5000m (16,400ft). Four of these are found in the Cordillera Oriental. Cotopaxi is the tallest and most famous of the range. Information on all these mountains can now be found right here on SummitPost. Additionally there are several interesting 4000m and lower mountains that make good acclimatizaton opportunities.

5000m + Mountains
Overall Rank Name Height (meters) Height (feet) Easiest Route
2 Cotopaxi 5,897 19,347  
3 Cayambe 5,790 18,996  
4 Antisana 5,758 18,891  
7 Sangay 5,230 17,158  
10 Tungurahua 5,016 16,456  
4000m + Mountains
Sincholagua 4,898 16,055  
Quilindaña 4,877 15,996  
Cerro Hermoso 4,571 14,992  
Puntas 4,452 14,602  
Sara Urco 4,428 14,523  
Lower Mountains
/volcan-sumaco/705726Sumaco 3,732 12,240  
/el-reventador/154247El Reventador 3,562 11,686  

Interandean Region

This region is not geologically part of the Cordillera however it is often thought of in that sense because it lies to the east of the Pan American highway.
East of the Panamericana
Name Height (meters) Height (feet) Easiest Route
Rumiñahui 4,712 15,462  
Imbabura 4,630 15,190  
Pasochoa 4,199 13,772  

Jungle Peaks

Nor is this region a part of the Cordillera however I am including them here in their own section based on proximity.
East of the Cordillera
Name Height (meters) Height (feet) Easiest Route
Sumaco 3,732 12,241  
Reventador 3,562 11,683  

Weather / Tiempo

Ecuador has two seasons, the dry and the wet, each of which is experienced twice a year. There is no summer and winter. Mountaineers will naturally be interested in the two dry seasons. Although that sounds simple it is further complicated by the influence of the Pacific Ocean and the Amazon Basin. The Cordillera Oriental (Eastern) tends to have the wetter overall weather. The driest months are December through February. In the west, the Cordillera Occidental is driest June - August and to a lesser degree December and January. In addition to moisture, wind can be a problem. August is known as a particularily windy month, and the winds can be strong enough to make parties turn around. Since most climbers visit both ranges the best time of year is theoretically December and January.

Most groups base themselves in Quito which lies between the two mountain ranges.
Quito Weather (English)

All this talk of weather must be put in perspective. Ecuador's mountains can truely be climbed year round so don't abandon all hope if it isn't the "right" month. It is probably more important to get an early start. By mid morning the mountains are often clouding up.


The capital city of Quito is commonly used as a base for climbs in the Cordillera. All the mountains are reached, at least initially, via the Panamericana. Some of the mountains are a few hours away.

Some of the acclimatization peaks are done in one day from Quito so climbers would be back in their beds at the end of the day. Longer climbs mean that climbers usually will leave mid-late morning and arrive at the refugio or campsite in the afternoon. They return to Quito around midday the following day.

Popular Climbs / Rutas Populares

Ecuador's most popular destination climb is located in the Cordillera Oriental. Cotopaxi's standard route is said to be the country's most climbed peak. Perhaps what is really meant is that it is the country's most climbed glaciated peak. A distant second in terms of popularity is Cayambe. The remaining mountains of the range are infrequently climbed by foreigners.

Dangers / Peligros

Sadly Ecuador is not without dangers of the human sort: assault, robbery, and theft. I consider Ecuador to be higher risk than many other South American destinations. So be aware. It is common to have something stolen.
This same sort of risk is present on all the "trekking" peaks of Ecuador. You'll be safe on the glaciers but you'll want a lock on the locker back in the hut.

Rucu Pinchincha is particularily bad.



Children refers to the set of objects that logically fall under a given object. For example, the Aconcagua mountain page is a child of the 'Aconcagua Group' and the 'Seven Summits.' The Aconcagua mountain itself has many routes, photos, and trip reports as children.