Solo Climb of Rucu Pichincha

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Trip Report
Pichincha, Ecuador, South America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Apr 15, 2017
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Created On: Feb 1, 2018
Last Edited On: Feb 1, 2018

A Long Awaited Climb

It was the third time I traveled to Ecuador from France. Every time, I had been to Quito. And every time, I made a point to go up the cable car - the TeleferiQo. The view to the city covering a whole valley is just amazing. Of course, I had also noticed this appealing trail leading to the top of the Rucu Pichincha but I was too late in the day to attempt the ascent.

This time, I planned my time properly and arrived at the cable car a little before 9 am. In April, the weather get cloudy quite early in the day and I knew I had a very small chance to actually have any view from the top.

After enjoying the view from the cable car station for a little while, I quickly found the start of the trail and started the much awaited hike.

Quito from the cable car
Quito from the cable car

The Ascent

I was on my own, and like many I had read about the lack of safety that can be encountered in this part of Quito. I saw that years ago, people were getting attacked and robbed while climbing the volcano. This really seems the belong to the past, the government made great efforts to make the trail safe for tourists and I didn't feel threatened at any moment during the whole ascent. 

I wouldn't say it was crowded but I still met people on the way up, which was pretty cool. People are nice and friendly.  At some point I teamed up with an Argentinian guy and we made it to the top together! The trail was very clear and easy to follow. My only problem is that my acclimatization to the altitude was not complete, and it was pretty tough! The cable car station is already at about 4100 m above sea level, and there are almost 600 metres to climb to reach the top. You first need to pass some hills with pretty steep slopes to climb, well rewarded by fantastic panoramic views of Quito.

Start of the Rucu Pichincha trail
Start of the Rucu Pichincha trail
Rucu Pichincha trail
Rucu Pichincha trail

After a while, you get closer to the montain and the landscape get more rocky. Soon, the path is running along impressive cliffs. At that point, I was already close to the clouds, as the good weather was already gone. That said, I was lucky enough to not have had any rain at all for the whole hike! However, the wind was getting quite strong as I was making my way up. It was great to see all the plants typically growing high in the Andes.

More and more, my lack of acclimatization was a big handicap, and the ascent became a total struggle. But I wouldn't have forgiven myself if I had given up! Each step was very hard and my heart was beating very fast, typical symptom of a blood that doesn't have enough red cells to transport the oxygen in high altitude.

When getting closer to the top, the path becomes less clear. At some point you find yourself facing big rocks, that you have to climb. After that, its a steep sandy slope that you have to go through all the way to the top. Sand makes it even harder because it's not a firm ground, and you slide back down at each step. The path does not exist anymore and you can only guess where to go by following footsteps. At this point, I was totally engulfed in the clouds. It's too bad I couldn't enjoy the view to the nearby mountains, but on the other hand I also enjoy the myserious atmosphere created by the clouds.

I really couldn't stop taking pictures even though I was so breathless, and I also created an interactive virtual tour of the whole trail, and a video that I published in my article about climbing Rucu Pichincha on my blog.

Rucu Pichincha trail
Rucu Pichincha trail

Sandy slope near the top
Sandy slope near the top
Plants on the sandy slope
Plants on the sandy slope

Exploring The Top and Going Back Down

Reaching the top was amazing. After all the suffering, I felt proud of myself! The top was completely in the clouds, and there was not much to see.  I still took some time to explore the rocky area and have some rest. After a while, I headed back down.

At the top of Rucu Pichincha
At the top of Rucu Pichincha

The hike down was of course much easier, and it was quite fun to run down the sandy slope that was such a struggle to climb! 

In total, I took about 4:30 hours to go up and back down the volcano. I came back exhausted but happy at the cable car station, ready to explore more of Quito and then head to Colombia!


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