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Cotopaxi Express - Ecuador

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  • Show Trip Info

    Price
    $3500
    Deposit
    $900
    Duration
    9 days
    Difficulty
    Level 3
    Type
    Mountaineering
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Cotopaxi Express - Ecuador

Cotopaxi Express - Ecuador

dollar sign Price / Deposit

$3,500 / $ 900

Meter Difficulty

Level 3

Clock Duration

9 days

Climber on cliff Type

Mountaineering

** Cotopaxi National Park is expected to remain closed to climbers for the 2023/2024 climbing season. We have adjusted our itinerary accordingly and will climb Antisana (18,875’). If Cotopaxi reopens, we will do our best to make the switch to Cotopaxi if time and availability allow.

Jump To…

As the Ecuadorian volcanoes' crown jewel, Cotopaxi challenges climbers with its impressive glaciers and lofty altitude and is the ideal mountain for climber's seeking to build their climbing skills and reach new heights.

Rising above Ecuador’s “Avenue of the Volcanoes” stands Cotopaxi (19,348'), one of the country’s most majestic peaks. Our Cotopaxi Express climb brings you up the mountain's high altitude glaciers and home again all in a nine day adventure.

EXPEDITION HIGHLIGHTS

  • Climb one of Ecuador's greatest volcanoes in an adventure lasting just over a week.
  • Climb with an experienced RMI Guide, benefiting from their background, training, and expertise as you venture to higher altitudes.
  • Visit the fascinating landscape of Ecuador, from it’s alpine glaciers to the vibrant colors of the country’s traditional markets.
  • Build your climbing experience with an ascent that combines high altitude experience with moderate technical difficulty and international expedition travel.
  • Take part in an RMI adventure and see why we continue to set the standard in guiding excellence.

Our climb begins in Quito, the capitol of Ecuador. Sitting in a valley known as the "Avenue of the Volcanoes" only  fifteen miles south of the equator and at an altitude of 9,350’,  Quito is surrounded by mountains. We spend a few days exploring Quito’s mix of colonial and modern streets and hiking in the surrounding hills as we acclimatize in preparation for Cotopaxi. Leaving Quito we pause in Otovalo to visit it’s thriving and vibrant traditional markets before reaching Illiniza Norte, a nearby Ecuadorian peak. After an acclimatization hike to over 15,000’, we spend the night in a charming Ecuadorian farmhouse nearby.

We then head to Cotopaxi and ascend to our climbing hut at 16,000’ on the mountain’s flanks. We review our mountaineering techniques on the glaciers near the hut in preparation for summit day.

Our summit bid brings us up Cotopaxi’s massive glaciers and through it’s fields of crevasses to it’s summit perched along the airy volcanic rim.

Cotopaxi offers superb alpine climbing for intermediate climbers, involving moderately steep slopes. Prior knowledge of roped travel, crampon techniques, and ice axe arrest is required and a review of these basic mountaineering techniques is built into the itinerary. The Cotopaxi Express is ideal for mountaineers looking to build their climbing skills, reach new elevations, and take part in the excitement of an international climbing expedition all in a short time frame.

THE RMI DIFFERENCE

Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. was established in 1969 and is one of America’s oldest and most-trusted guide services. We are the largest guide service on Mt. Rainier and Deanli and leaders in guiding climbs and treks around the globe. Our years of leading mountain adventures give us the experience and knowledge to create the best possible trips and we work hard to live up to our reputation as an industry leader. Our trip preparation before departure takes care of the details for you, from hotels to transfers, so that you can focus on preparing for the climb instead of the distractions that come with coordinating logistics.

Our Cotopaxi climbs are led by RMI’s top U.S. guides, who bring years of climbing experience in Ecuador and on mountains all over the world, from the Andes to the Alaska Range to the Himalayas. As you reach higher elevations and test the limits of your experience on Cotopaxi, the value of an accomplished, highly trained RMI Guide held to our standards cannot be understated. Additionally, joining our programs is an experienced Ecuadorian guide with whom we have partnered for many years. Jaime Avila, Freddy Tipan, and Esteban Mena are accomplished guides who have climbed around the world, from Ecuador to the Himalaya. Read more about RMI's Ecuador Guides...

We use RMI's own climbing equipment brought from the U.S. during the climb, ensuring that our expedition standards of safety, quality, and reliability are met. Our lodges and meals have been hand-picked by our guides to keep our team comfortable, happy, and healthy throughout the climb. We use private vehicles to travel between the different peaks, minimizing our time spent on the road and making travel safer. Our exceptional focus on detail, our unparalleled level of climber attention, and our genuine excitement for these adventures are what make our programs stand out.

SAFETY

Safety has always been RMI’s top priority and we strive to create the safest mountain experience possible. RMI’s experienced team of guides focus on leading a fun and successful climb without compromising safety. We apply the same standards of safety we bring to Alaska and the Himalayas to our climb of Cotopaxi. Careful planning, precise ascent profiles, daily weather forecasts, and diligent attention are taken as we venture to high altitudes. Comprehensive medical kits, rescue equipment, and radio and satellite communication equipment are carried with the team throughout the trip.

As you prepare for your upcoming adventure please feel free to contact our office and speak directly to one of our experienced guides regarding equipment, conditioning, the route, or any other questions you may have about our programs. We are available Monday thru Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at (888) 89-CLIMB or [email protected].

Climber Reviews

Filter By
11/15/2023
If I had to pick, summiting Antisana and just hanging around base camp having a great time.
Matias W.

10/01/2018
Being on the mountain(s) was absolutely awesome. I can't speak for others but I got to the position where I could afford such a trip by spending most of my time grinding it out in an office. Having an opportunity to get out into the rugged reminded me of earlier years in life and how much I truly love being outside at altitude.
Ben B.

07/07/2017
I've told many people this - I was very happy with the flow of the trip. There were so many experiences packed into the trip that, if we had not been able to summit Cayambe, it wouldn't have felt like the entire trip was blown. It was just a fantastic experience that felt very full and worthwhile.
Andrew B.

07/07/2017
The comraderie of our group.I would highly recommend this trip to others. This is my fourth trip with RMI and I cant wait for the next one. I wont climb with another guide service.
Charles T.

07/07/2017
The acclimatization period worked out well. Felt I was prepared for summit day. Loved the mix of hiking/climbing along with the culture side. Enjoyed the tour of Quito along with the Otavalo market.
Matt S.

12/13/2014
It was packed with great experiences and beautiful trekking.
Christina O.

07/14/2014
Extremely well planned acclimatization hikes and other logistics. The trip was beautiful, fun, and inspiring due to our guides and to a well-honed itinerary.
Christina O.

09/05/2013
Everything! The people (guides and fellow climbers) were terrific ... we had so much fun getting to know each other and exploring Ecuador, hanging out together, hiking for acclimatization and of course, climbing Cotopaxi. Excellent weather also was a major contributor to our summit day and time on Cotopaxi. Chilcabamba and La Cieneca were very special places to stay. Food at the hut. Making it to the top of Cotopaxi. Incredible views. Memories for a lifetime.
Larry B.

07/19/2013
The actual climb to Cotopaxi. The scenery was amazing and the feeling of climbing on the glacier was more than I expected.
Daniel D.

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Travel Consultant

RMI has partnered with Erin Rountree to provide comprehensive travel support. We have been working with Erin for many years. As an independent agent of the Travel Society, she has booked countless miles for adventure travelers across the globe and is extremely knowledgeable about the travel needs of our programs. Please call (208) 788-2870 or send email to [email protected].

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is required for this trip. Your travel insurance policy should include trip cancellation, trip interruption, trip delay, baggage loss or delay, medical expenses, and evacuation.

Navigating through the different options for travel insurance can be challenging. When purchasing Travel Insurance, here are a few items to consider:

  • Read the fine print. Travel Insurance will reimburse you when canceling for a covered reason for prepaid, non-refundable trip costs that you insure. However, there are exclusions, so make sure you understand the "covered reasons."
  • Confirm that your activity is a covered “activity.” Not all travel insurance policies will offer coverage for activities such as mountaineering, climbing, skiing, or trekking adventures. Policies can also exclude coverage for activities due to the gear used (crampons, ice axe), activities that go above specific elevations or activities in a particular region of the world. If there are exclusions, you may need to add an "Adventure" or "Sports" package to cover your activity.
  • Verify that your state of residence is allowed with the policy that you are purchasing. Not all insurance companies offer policies in all 50 states.
  • Contact your travel protection company directly for any questions you have regarding benefits or coverage.

We have partnered with Travelex Insurance and Ripcord Insurance because they offer certain policies specifically designed for adventure travel with coverages for remote areas and activities like mountaineering, climbing, skiing, and trekking, without any altitude restrictions. 

 

For your convenience, we offer Travelex Insurance Services, Inc.(CA Agency License #0D10209) travel protection plans to help protect you and your travel investment against the unexpected. 

For more information on the available plans visit Travelex Insurance Services or contact Travelex Insurance (800) 228-9792 and reference location number 47-0370. 

The product descriptions provided here are only brief summaries. The full coverage terms and details, including limitations and exclusions, are contained in the insurance policy. Travel Insurance is underwritten by Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company; NAIC #22276.

 

Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance is travel insurance designed for adventurers, including the best evacuation and rescue services available.

Benefits are tailored for adventurers and include:

  • Rescue and evacuation from the point of illness or emergency to your home hospital of choice.
  • Trip cancellation/interruption, primary medical expense coverage, sporting goods, baggage loss, emergency dental, Accidental Death & Dismemberment (AD&D) and more.
  • Completely integrated one-stop program with a single contact for emergency services to travel assistance and insurance claims.
  • 24/7 access to paramedics, nurses and military veterans.
  • Security extraction in case of unexpected dangerous and chaotic events.
  • Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) options and pre-existing condition waiver within 14 days of your initial trip deposit.

Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance is powered by Redpoint Resolutions, a medical and travel security risk company. Their team is comprised of special operations veterans, paramedics, Stanford Medicine affiliated physicians, former intelligence officers, insurance actuaries and global security experts with dozens of years of experience in theaters around the world. The Redpoint network covers the globe, making them uniquely equipped to provide elite rescue travel insurance – in every sense of the word. Whether it’s reimbursing you for a cancelled trip, paying your travel medical bills or evacuating you home in an emergency, Ripcord takes the worry out of your travel.

Travel Advisories / Warnings

Please confirm any current travel advisories/warnings as well as entry requirements with the U.S. Department of State.

Getting There

Several U.S. airlines offer daily flights to Quito, Ecuador (UIO). Flights generally arrive late in the evening on Day 1 of the itinerary.

Flights departing Quito may be booked for any time on the final day of the program.

Entry Information

A valid passport is required when traveling to Ecuador. Your passport must be valid for 6 months beyond the expected return date. U.S. passport holders may stay up to 90 days without a visa.

We suggest making a copy of the first two pages of your passport and keeping them in a separate bag as a backup. A copy should also be left with your emergency contact.

Airport Arrival

Upon arrival at the Quito airport, follow the signs to the Arrivals Building. Proceed to the Immigrations desk for foreign travelers. They will provide you with an entrance permit adequate for your stay. Please check the date to ensure it covers your complete stay in Ecuador.

Once you receive your bags from Baggage Claim, you will proceed to Customs. There will be a random selection of bags for inspection. Be sure to keep all your bags together.

After you have gathered your baggage and passed through Customs you will find a desk in front of the exit gate where you can ask for a taxi.  Take a taxi to our hotel. A fixed price of approximately $25 to $30 is in place.

In-Country Transportation

The provided transportation in Ecuador as stated in the itinerary is via authorized taxi or private vehicle.

Immunizations & Travel Medicine

For the most current information on inoculation requirements and recommendations, please refer to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention.

Traveler's Health

Travelers may suffer from upset stomachs when in foreign countries. There are some basic rules, however, that can help keep you healthy.

  • Hygiene - It is important that you wash your hands thoroughly before meals and after using the restroom. If water is not available for washing, we recommend using a hand sanitizer.
  • Water - The number one rule is: don't drink the water, and that includes shower water and ice! Brush your teeth with purified water rather than tap water. You should check bottled water for a good seal and use a napkin to wipe excess moisture in drinking glasses. Take care with fruit juice, particularly if it has been diluted with water. Carefully clean the tops of bottled beverages before opening.
  • Food - If it is cooked, boiled, or can be peeled, you can usually eat it. Salads and fruits should be washed with purified water or peeled where possible. Be wary of ice cream and shellfish. Always avoid any undercooked meat.

Medical Emergencies

Excellent care for minor illnesses and injuries is readily available. In the event of more serious illnesses or injuries, we recommend transport to any of the Level 1 care centers in Quito.

Ecuador Country Facts

Ecuador is named for the Equator, which crosses through the northern reaches of the country. While it is the smallest Andean country, it has four remarkably distinct and diverse regions: the coastal plains, the Andean highlands, the jungles of the upper Amazon basin, and the Galapagos Islands.

Ecuador is the world's largest exporter of bananas. The Andean highlands contain beautiful and productive farmland, often seen in a classic patchwork pattern. Oil from the rich eastern jungles enriches the economy. The volcanic Galapagos Islands bring tourism revenue with its unique reptiles, birds, and plants.

The country is divided ethnically as well as regionally. About 10 percent of the population is of European descent, about a quarter belong to indigenous cultures, and many others are of mixed ethnicity.

The capital, Quito, is the second highest capital in South America. Quito is set beautifully in a highland valley at 9,300'.

By the beginning of the 16th century Quito was ruled by the Incas and was the northern capital of their empire. When the Spanish arrived, the area was razed by a general of Atahualpa to make certain it did not fall into Spanish hands. Thus the colonial city was built on the Inca ruins in 1534 by a lieutenant of Pizarro. The current layout of the old city dates back to the 18th century, complete with cobble-stone streets, parks, plazas and colonial architecture.

Weather

The weather in Quito and while traveling to and from the mountains can be very warm. We recommend bringing a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. For current weather conditions, check Weather Underground.

The western mountains, which include Cotopaxi and the Illinizas, experience two dry seasons. The first is from July through August, and the second is in December and January.

The eastern mountains, which include Cayambe and Antisana, are best climbed from June through January. The wettest months of the year for these peaks are February through May.

These mountains are climbed throughout the entire year, with the best mountain snowpack on Cotopaxi, Cayambe and Antisana found between October and June.

While there can be no guarantees of perfect weather in the mountains, our expeditions take full advantage of the weather and snowpack conditions for both these peaks, and utilize those months for optimal climbing experiences.

Cultural Etiquette

The people of Ecuador are generally very warm and friendly to tourists. Although it is not expected that we dress formally, we should dress modestly. Casual and comfortable clothing is suggested along with comfortable shoes. Showing expensive cameras, watches, jewelry, etc. is considered unseemly and may attract unwanted attention.

When entering a shop or home, politely use a greeting such as buenos días (good day), buenas tardes (good afternoon), buenas noches (good night). Similarly, upon leaving, even if you've had only minimal contact, say adios (goodbye) or hasta luego (see you later). Peruvians usually shake hands upon parting as well.

On city streets, children selling small items and shining shoes can be quite persistent. Some ask directly for money. To keep from being hassled, a polite but firm "No, gracias" is generally sufficient.

It is expected that you engage in some degree of bargaining for market or street purchases. This is fun, and should be taken lightly.

Electricity

Electricity in Ecuador is the same as in the United States: the ungrounded two-prong plug is used for 110 volt, 60 hertz appliances. Appliances with three prongs or an enlarged prong will require an adaptor.

Money

The current currency of Ecuador is the U.S. Dollar. Check a financial newspaper or www.xe.com for the current exchange rate prior to departure.

We suggest bringing $500-$700 total for personal spending money including restaurant meals, drinks, pocket money, and the Support Staff Tip Pool.

Cash machines are readily available in Quito, but become increasingly difficult to find outside of urban areas.

Credit cards are accepted in most, but not all, areas.

Everyone has a preferred way to carry money. Some use money belts, others have hidden pockets. Whatever you do, be aware of pickpockets and thieves in any area which caters to tourists.

Tipping

Everyone approaches tipping a little differently. Whether or not a person tips, and how much, is completely dependent upon the individual; here are some suggested tipping guidelines for your trip.

Local waiters, drivers, and other service personnel expect to be tipped. Ten to fifteen percent is standard. Some restaurants and hotels add a 10% service fee to bills in which case, no further tip is required.

Support Staff Tip Pool: We recommend that each climber contribute $75 to the Tip Pool. This is collected at the beginning of the trip and will cover group tips for all our support and mountain staff throughout the program.

Our guides work hard to ensure your well-being and success on the mountain. If you have a positive experience, gratuities are an excellent way to show your appreciation. Amounts are at your discretion and should be based on your level of enjoyment. Tips for excellent service normally average 10 – 15% of the cost of the program. If you would rather not bring the guide gratuity with you on the trip, you can send a check or call the RMI office to pay with a credit card upon your return.

Resources

Rob Rachowiecki and Mark Thurber, Ecuador: Climbing and Hiking Guide. VIVA Publishing, 2013.
The authors have combined many years of Ecuador experience into a useful, readable and comprehensive guide.

Ecuador Explorer and The Best of Ecuador are thorough websites describing Ecuador travel and facts.

Contents
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Qualifications

This trip is open to all individuals in excellent physical condition with previous climbing experience. Prior knowledge and experience with rope travel, the use of crampons, and ice axe arrest is required. It is a great first trip to altitudes above 15,000'.

Our experience shows that individuals perform better and enjoy the adventure more if they have a high degree of fitness and comfort with basic mountaineering skills. This program’s high altitude and snowy terrain contribute to make this a very worthwhile challenge.

Qualifying Programs

Recommended climbing experiences prior to Cotopaxi Express - Ecuador include:

 

Get In The Best Shape Of Your Life And Then Go Climb A Mountain

Create A Fitness And Training Program

 

Physical Fitness Training

 

Mountaineering requires a high degree of physical stamina and mental toughness. Even for the healthiest and fittest individuals, climbing mountains qualifies as an extremely challenging endeavor.

  • Start immediately. Start a rigorous fitness and training program now with the goal of arriving in top physical condition and confident in your skills.
  • Be intentional. Focus on gaining the necessary strength, stamina and skills to meet the physical and technical demands of the climb.
  • Be sport-specific. The best fitness and training program mimics the physical and technical demands of your climbing objective. The closer you get to your program date, the more your training should resemble the climbing.

For Cotopaxi Express - Ecuador, you are preparing for:

  • Steep climbing with a 20-25 lb load
  • A 10-12+ hour summit day
  • Mountaineering techniques requiring core strength and flexibility

Nothing ensures a personally successful adventure like your level of fitness and training. Bottom line: Plan on being in the best shape of your life and ready for a very challenging adventure!

Please refer to our Resources for Mountaineering Fitness and Training for detailed fitness and training information.

Acclimatization

The key to climbing high is proper acclimatization. Our program follows a calculated ascent profile which allows time for your body to adjust to the altitude.

Excellent physical conditioning significantly increases your ability to acclimatize as you ascend. Climbers in excellent physical condition simply have more energy to commit to the acclimatization process throughout the days and nights of the ascent, allowing their bodies to adjust to the altitude more easily.

Finally, physical performance and acclimatization are also related to how well you have taken care of yourself throughout the hours, days and weeks prior to summit day. Arriving healthy and well-rested, maintaining proper hydration and caloric intake, and protecting against unnecessary heat loss (staying warm) are all key factors in an individual’s success on an expedition such as this.

Contents
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What You’ll Need

A list of required personal equipment accompanies every RMI program, and the thought process behind each item is much greater than simply “preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.” The list for your program takes into account factors such as: seasonality, route conditions, weather, elevation and more. As such, this list is framed within the broadest of contexts and is dynamic by its very nature. Therefore, certain variables (additions and/or subtractions) are inherent within such an all-encompassing list. We make every effort to recommend only top of the line clothing and technical gear and it is never our intention for you to buy or rent unnecessary gear.

The Guide Pick is an example of the listed item, giving you an idea of the material and specifications of the item. This exact item does not need to be purchased or used; however, any item you choose must have similar characteristics and performance abilities to the Guide Pick.

RMI Guides concur on the potential necessity of every item, thus every item on the list is required at gear check. However, guides may also have suggestions derived from their experience, some of which will vary from a given list. The guides’ recommendation whether to bring along or leave behind certain item(s) comes during the gear check, when the team first meets. Occasionally this recommendation comes at the expense of having previously purchased an item. If a guide presents the option of leaving behind certain item(s) on the list of required equipment, it is for a reason. Their recommendation may be related to the weather, route conditions, freezing level, perceived strength of the party, or desired pack weight.

Ultimately, there will never be a consensus for a “perfect” equipment list for an ascent. It does not exist because of the multitude of variables faced by climbers throughout the climb. Please follow this equipment list closely so that you will arrive for the gear check with all the required items. Keep in mind the list is not black and white, fine tuning will occur once you meet with your guide. Have a great climb!


  • Whittaker Mountaineering Most of the required equipment is available for rent or purchase from our affiliate Whittaker Mountaineering. RMI climbers receive a 10% discount on new clothing and equipment items ordered from Whittaker Mountaineering when they use code RMI2024 at checkout. This offer excludes sale items, rentals, meal packages, and Feathered Friends.

Shop Your Equipment List // Rent new equipment for your climb

Equipment List

Pack & Travel

Image of DUFFEL BAG(S)
2 DUFFEL BAG(S)

120+ liter bag(s) made of tough material with rugged zippers.

Guide Pick™

Image of LUGGAGE LOCKS
LUGGAGE LOCKS

Bring as needed. Make sure these are TSA-compliant.

Guide Pick™

Image of 50+ LITER BACKPACK
50+ LITER BACKPACK

Your backpack should be large enough to carry all of your personal gear, food and water, plus a portion of group gear. You will not need a separate summit pack.

Guide Pick™

Image of 25+ LITER DAY PACK
25+ LITER DAY PACK

A 25+ liter day pack to use as carry-on or while sightseeing.

Guide Pick™

Sleeping Bag & Pad

Image of SLEEPING BAG
SLEEPING BAG

We recommend a bag rated between 20° and 0° F. Allow ample room for movement. We recommend down over synthetic for its light weight, warmth, and packability. If you know you sleep cold, consider a 0° F bag.

Guide Pick™

Image of COMPRESSION STUFF SACK FOR SLEEPING BAG
COMPRESSION STUFF SACK FOR SLEEPING BAG
Guide Pick™

SLEEPING PAD

Not required for this trip. Sleeping pads are provided at climbers' huts.


Technical Gear

Image of ICE AXE
ICE AXE

The length of your axe depends on your height. Use the following general mountaineering formula: up to 5'8", use a 65 cm axe; 5'8" to 6'2", use a 70 cm axe; and taller, use a 75 cm axe. If you hold the axe so that it hangs comfortably at your side, the spike of the axe should still be a few inches above the ground.

Guide Pick™

Image of CLIMBING HARNESS
CLIMBING HARNESS

We recommend a comfortable, adjustable alpine climbing harness. Removable, drop seat, or adjustable leg loops are convenient for managing your clothing layers over the course of the climb and facilitate going to the bathroom.

Guide Pick™

Image of TRIPLE-ACTION LOCKING CARABINER
1 TRIPLE-ACTION LOCKING CARABINER

Used for clipping into the climbing rope.

Guide Pick™

Image of NON-LOCKING CARABINER(S)
1 NON-LOCKING CARABINER(S)

Used for pack ditch loop, etc.

Guide Pick™

Image of CRAMPONS
CRAMPONS

12-point adjustable steel crampons with anti-balling plates designed for general mountaineering use.

Guide Pick™

Image of AVALANCHE TRANSCEIVER WITH FRESH BATTERIES
AVALANCHE TRANSCEIVER WITH FRESH BATTERIES

Bring extra batteries appropriate to the duration of the climb.

Guide Pick™

Image of TREKKING POLES
TREKKING POLES

We recommend lightweight and collapsible poles with snow baskets.

Guide Pick™

Head

Image of HELMET
HELMET

A UIAA (Union Internationale des Associations d’Alpinisme) or CE (European Committee for Standardization) certified climbing helmet.

Guide Pick™

Image of WARM HAT
WARM HAT

Wool or synthetic. It should provide warmth but also be thin enough to fit underneath a climbing helmet.

Guide Pick™


Image of BUFF
BUFF

A Buff provides versitile head and neck protection. A neck gaiter is also acceptable.

Guide Pick™

Image of HEADLAMP
HEADLAMP

Start with fresh batteries and bring extra set(s) of batteries appropriate to the duration of the trip.

Guide Pick™

Image of GLACIER GLASSES
GLACIER GLASSES

Glacier glasses are protective sunglasses that provide close to 100% frame coverage (wrap-around frames and side shields ensure no light can enter from the top, bottom, and sides of the glasses) and transmit less than 10% of visual light.

Guide Pick™

Image of GOGGLES
GOGGLES

Amber or rose-tinted goggles for adverse weather. On windy days, climbers, especially contact lens wearers, may find photochromatic lenses the most versatile in a variety of light conditions.

Guide Pick™

Hands

Each glove layer is worn separately as conditions change during the climb.

Image of LIGHT WEIGHT GLOVES
LIGHT WEIGHT GLOVES

Light weight liner or softshell gloves. Lighter colors absorb less sunlight while still offering UV protection.

Guide Pick™

Image of MEDIUM WEIGHT GLOVES
MEDIUM WEIGHT GLOVES

Wind- and water-resistant, insulated mountain gloves.

Guide Pick™

Image of HEAVY WEIGHT GLOVES OR MITTENS
HEAVY WEIGHT GLOVES OR MITTENS

Wind- and water-resistant, insulated gloves or mittens. These also serve as emergency backups if you drop or lose a lighter-weight glove.

Guide Pick™

Upper Body

We recommend a minimum of five upper body layers, all of which can be used in conjunction with each other. Two of these should be insulating layers, one light, and one medium, that fit well together. Today there are many different layering systems to choose from, including fleece, softshell, down, and synthetic options.

Image of LIGHT WEIGHT BASELAYER OR SUN HOODY
LIGHT WEIGHT BASELAYER OR SUN HOODY

Long-sleeve wool or synthetic top. Light weight, light-colored, hooded baselayers (sun hoodys) are highly recommended for sun protection.

Guide Pick™

Image of LIGHT WEIGHT INSULATING LAYER
LIGHT WEIGHT INSULATING LAYER

One step up in warmth and bulk from a baselayer. A technical fleece makes an ideal light weight insulating layer.

Guide Pick™

Image of MEDIUM WEIGHT INSULATING LAYER
MEDIUM WEIGHT INSULATING LAYER

A down, synthetic, or softshell hoody makes a great midlayer.

Guide Pick™


Image of INSULATED PARKA WITH HOOD
INSULATED PARKA WITH HOOD

Your expedition-style heavy parka must extend below the waist, have an insulated hood, and be able to fit over the rest of your upper body layers. While the parka is worn primarily at rest breaks on summit day, it also serves as an emergency garment if needed. We recommend down rather than synthetic fill.

Guide Pick™

Image of SPORTS BRA
SPORTS BRA

We recommend a moisture-wicking, active-wear bra.

Guide Pick™

Lower Body

We recommend a system of four layers, all of which can be used in conjunction with each other. Products which combine several layers into one garment, such as traditional ski pants, don’t work well as they don’t offer the versatility of a layering system.



Image of SOFTSHELL CLIMBING PANTS
SOFTSHELL CLIMBING PANTS

Softshell climbing pants can be worn in combination with a base layer on colder days, or alone on warmer days.

Guide Pick™

Image of RAIN PANTS WITH FULL-LENGTH SIDE ZIPPERS (HARD SHELL)
RAIN PANTS WITH FULL-LENGTH SIDE ZIPPERS (HARD SHELL)

Non-insulated, waterproof shell pants must be able to fit comfortable over your baselayer bottoms and softshell climbing pants. Full side zippers or 7/8 side zippers are required so that shell pants can be put on while wearing boots and crampons.

Guide Pick™

Image of LIGHT WEIGHT TREKKING PANTS OR SHORTS
LIGHT WEIGHT TREKKING PANTS OR SHORTS

A light weight, synthetic pair of pants is a good option for the approach trek when hiking at lower altitudes and in warm conditions. These pants have no insulation, are typically made of thin nylon, and commonly feature zippers to convert between pants and shorts.

Guide Pick™

Feet

SINGLE OR DOUBLE MOUNTAINEERING BOOTS

We recommend modern hybrid double boots for this climb because they provide the best balance of weight, comfort, and insulation. Insulated single mountaineering boots are also adequate but might result in cold feet. Bring one pair of chemical foot warmers per summit day if you are using single mountaineering boots.


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SINGLE BOOTS: Insulated, full-shank, and crampon-compatible leather or synthetic boots designed for mountaineering. Single boots tend to be lighter and more comfortable than double boots at the expense of warmth.

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DOUBLE BOOTS: Insulated double boots designed for mountaineering. Plastic-shelled models are acceptable, though modern synthetic models are lighter and more comfortable.

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HIKING BOOTS

A pair of lightweight boots for approaches and hiking on rugged terrain. We recommend a waterproof, mid-top boot for better stability and ankle support.

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CASUAL SHOES

Great for traveling and wearing around town or camp. A pair of tennis shoes or light hikers works well.

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GAITERS

A knee-length pair of gaiters, large enough to fit over your mountaineering boots. This will protect you from catching your crampon spikes on loose clothing. Not needed if using a boot with an integrated gaiter.

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3 PAIRS OF SOCKS

Either wool or synthetic. Whatever sock combination you are accustomed to wearing during your training or previous adventures (whether single medium weight socks, a medium weight with a liner sock, two medium weight socks together, etc.), should work just fine for this climb.

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First Aid & Medications

MEDICATIONS

We recommend you speak with your physician about which medications you should have for high-altitude climbing. These medications are only used in emergency situations, and if someone is showing symptoms of HAPE or HACE, our standard protocol is for immediate descent. We do not take any of these medications prophylactically, and please talk with your guide before taking medications.

We require each climber to have the following medications:


ANTIBIOTICS

Broad spectrum antibiotics for respiratory and gastrointestinal problems like Azithromycin (250mg tablets).


ACETAZOLAMIDE (DIAMOX)

125mg tablets for the prevention or treatment of Acute Mountain Sickness. A normal prescription is 125mg tablets, twice a day. Recommend 15 - 20 tablets.


DEXAMETHASONE

4mg tablets for the treatment of altitude illness. Recommend 12 tablets.


NIFEDIPINE

30mg slow-release tablets for the prevention or treatment of high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). Recommend 8 - 10 tablets.


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SMALL PERSONAL FIRST AID KIT

Our guides carry comprehensive medical kits, so keep yours small and light. We recommend a selection of adhesive bandages, antibiotic ointment, Moleskin and blister care, medical tape and/or duct tape, cough drops, basic painkillers, an antacid, an anti-diarrheal, and personal medications.

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Personal Items

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MEALS & SNACKS

See the Food tab for suggestions and quantities.


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2 - 3 WATER BOTTLES

One-liter water bottles with wide mouths made of co-polyester (BPA-free plastic).

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STUFF SACK(S)

Bring as needed.

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2 - 3 LARGE GARBAGE BAGS

Heavy-duty trash compacter bags for use as waterproof pack/stuff sack liners. You can also use a a waterproof pack liner.


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POCKETKNIFE
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READING MATERIAL/JOURNAL (OPTIONAL)
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PERSONAL TOILETRIES & BAG

Include toilet paper, hand sanitizer, toothbrush and toothpaste, and wet wipes. Bring a quantity appropriate to the duration of your trip.


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SUNSCREEN

We recommend small tubes of SPF 30 or higher, which can be carried in pockets for easy access and to prevent freezing.

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LIP BALM

We recommend SPF 15 or higher.

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EAR PLUGS

SPARE CONTACT LENSES/ EYEGLASSES (OPTIONAL)

Spare prescription glasses if you wear contact lenses/eyeglasses.


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6 - 8 PAIRS CHEMICAL HAND WARMERS
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PEE FUNNEL (FOR WOMEN)

Practice using this before coming on the climb!

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CAMERA (OPTIONAL)

Many smartphones have excellent cameras. Action cameras, small point-and-shoots, and compact dSLRs are lightweight and work well at altitude.


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POWER BANK (OPTIONAL)

A small power bank, enough to charge a phone or e-reader several times.

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TRAVEL POWER ADAPTER

For charging personal electronics while traveling internationally.


Travel Clothes

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TRAVEL CLOTHES

We recommend bringing a selection of clothing to wear while traveling, site seeing and dining.  


SUNGLASSES

Travel Documents

PASSPORT

Valid for six months beyond your return date.


COPY OF PASSPORT

The first two pages of your passport.


COPY OF FLIGHT ITINERARY

2 EXTRA PASSPORT PHOTOS

Pre-Trip Checklist

Purchase travel insurance.


Purchase airplane tickets.


Reserve rental equipment.


Be in the best shape of your life!



Provided Equipment

RMI provides the following equipment for your program: huts, stoves, group cooking equipment, fuel, climbing ropes, climbing anchors, avalanche probes, shovels, and blue bags (for solid waste disposal).

Every guide on your climb will carry rescue equipment and a first aid kit. Each climb has two-way radios and a satellite phone for emergency contact.

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Meals

On Cotopaxi Express - Ecuador you will need 5 mountain lunches. All of your mountain lunch items should weigh 2 - 3 lb.

Breakfast and dinner meals on the mountain are included as indicated in our Trip Itinerary. With the exception of hotel breakfasts, most restaurant meals are on your own. You are responsible for your own bottled water and drinks.

Mountain Lunches

Mountain lunches are eaten during short breaks throughout the day. We continually snack to keep our energy levels up while we climb - lunch begins just after breakfast and ends just before dinner! Avoid packing any items that require preparation or hot water.

The importance of having foods that are genuinely enjoyed cannot be overstated. Eating properly is the key to maintaining strength while in the mountains. In order to combat the loss of appetite at altitude we aim to have a variety of foods that stimulate the whole palate, from sweet to sour to salty.

Recommended mountain lunch items: dry salami, smoked salmon, jerky (turkey, beef, fish), small cans of tuna fish, individually wrapped cheeses such as Laughing Cow or Baby Bell, crackers, bagels, candy bars, hard candies (Jolly Ranchers, Toffees, Life Savers), Gummy Bears, sour candies (Sweet Tarts), cookies, dried fruit, nuts, energy bars, GORP mixes, and drink mixes (Gatorade/Kool-Aid).

We may have a chance to purchase additional food in Ecuador, but we recommend you take what you need and only supplement with local food if necessary.

Breakfast

The breakfast menu includes items such as instant oatmeal, cold cereals (granola), breakfast bars (Kashi, Kudos), hot drinks (coffee, tea, cocoa, cider) and local fresh fruit.

Dinner

Dinner usually begins with soup and ends with dessert, followed by a round of hot drinks. Healthy one-pot meals, incorporating fresh local food whenever practical, are served as the main course. One typical main course dinner might be spaghetti with sausage and fresh vegetables. Another meal might be chicken fajitas with cheese, tortillas, onions, and peppers. There are limitations, but the menu is planned to offer good variety and ample portions.

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Payments

Deposit Payments: A non-refundable deposit payment of $900 per person secures your reservation.

  • Deposit payments may be made via MasterCard, Visa, American Express*, e-check/ACH, or check from a U.S. bank.

Balance Payments: The balance payment is due 120 days before the start of your program.

  • Balance payments may be made via MasterCard, Visa, American Express*, e-check/ACH, check from a U.S. bank or wire transfer.**
    • **Wire transfers must cover all fees charged by your bank. The amount of the incoming wire to our bank must equal the balance payment amount.
  • A payment reminder is emailed approximately three weeks before your payment due date. If your balance payment is not received 120 days before the start of your program, your reservation will be canceled, and all program fees will be forfeited.
  • Payment in full is required when registering for a program within 120 days of the departure date.

*There is a 3% surcharge on all credit/debit card transactions. Credit/debit cards are not accepted for payments of $10,000 or more.

Cancellation

The $900 per person deposit is non-refundable and non-transferable.

  • All cancellations require written notification. Once the RMI Office receives your written notification of cancellation, the following apply:
    • If you cancel 120 or more days before the start of your program, the $900 per person deposit will not be refunded.
    • If you cancel less than 120 days before the start of your program, no refunds will be issued.

Due to the time-sensitive nature of these programs, and the amount of preparation time required for this program, we strictly adhere to our policy and cannot make exceptions for any reason.

Cancellation Insurance

We require that everyone purchase travel insurance. Please see our Travel Tab for details.

Land Cost

INCLUDED

  • RMI Leadership
  • Hotel accommodations as indicated in the itinerary, based on double occupancy*
  • All park entrance fees
  • Sight seeing arrangements as indicated in the itinerary
  • All group transportation in country as indicated in the itinerary
  • All group cooking, climbing and camping equipment

NOT INCLUDED

  • International airfare
  • Travel insurance, medical evacuation insurance and security evacuation insurance
  • Excess baggage fees and departure taxes
  • Meals not included in the itinerary
  • Bottled water and personal drinks
  • Customary guide gratuities
  • Support Staff Tip Pool (we suggest $75 per person)
  • Additional room charges including laundry service and other personal expenses
  • Hotel accommodations not indicated in the itinerary
  • Transfer from Quito Hotel to Airport for outbound flight
  • Medical, hospitalization and evacuation costs (by any means)

* Accommodations are based on double occupancy.  A Single Supplement Fee will be charged to those occupying single accommodations by choice or circumstance. The single supplement is not available in huts, tents, or in all hotels.

Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. reserves the right to modify the land cost of a trip at any time before departure.

Risk Management

Please clearly understand that mountaineering is inherently hazardous. Managing risk is RMI’s number one priority. Our guides manage significant hazards inherent in mountaineering, but they cannot eliminate them.  Objective hazards include rockfall, icefall, avalanches, slides or falls by individuals and rope teams on steeper slopes, weather-related problems including cold, heat, high winds, and other unnamed dangers that can occur while climbing.

You are choosing to engage in an activity in which guided and non-guided climbers have been injured or killed. While those accidents are indeed infrequent, they may occur at any time and be out of our control. We ask that participants acknowledge the risks and hazards of mountaineering and make their own choices about whether or not to engage in this activity. 

PARTICIPANT Responsibilities

Mountaineering is both an individual challenge and a team endeavor. Each Participant is required to share in the responsibility of the safety and success of the team. For this reason, we ask that each Participant:

  • Possess the climbing prerequisites required for this program.
  • Possess the necessary physical and mental fitness required for this program.
  • Be responsible for knowing all pre-departure information.
  • Provide a signed Physician’s Certificate stating that the Participant is medically qualified to join this program.
  • Update the RMI Office if there are any changes to your health or medical information before departure.
  • Be properly attired and equipped as outlined in the Equipment List.
  • Act in a considerate manner toward all team members and show respect for local customs, values, and traditions in the areas we travel.
  • Help minimize our impact on the environment and follow appropriate Leave No Trace practices.
  • Describe yourself, honestly and accurately, in terms of fitness, health, skills, abilities, and your equipment to your guide staff.
  • Communicate with your guide staff on the mountain if there are any changes in your medications or health.
  • Adhere to the advice of your guide staff.
  • Continue to self-assess throughout the program, measuring your fitness, health, skills, and abilities against the demands required of the program.

RMI reserves the right to dismiss the Participant from a program or to send the Participant to a lower altitude at any time if the RMI Guide Staff determines, in its sole discretion, that the Participant is not physically, technically, or psychologically prepared for, or capable of participating in the program, or for any other reason that may compromise the safety, health or well-being of the Participant or the entire group. If this decision is made, the Participant will not receive any refunds or credits and will be financially responsible for any additional costs associated with an early departure, including but not limited to, evacuation, transportation, hotel reservationss, meals, etc.

Zero Tolerance Harassment Policy

Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. (RMI) does not tolerate harassment or mistreatment of our participants or employees. Inappropriate conduct under this policy may include conduct that creates a disrespectful, intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment for a participant or employee. Engaging in such conduct is a violation of this policy.

RMI may consider conduct to violate the policy even if it falls short of unlawful harassment under applicable law. When determining whether conduct violates this policy, we will consider whether a reasonable person could conclude that the conduct created an intimidating, hostile, degrading, or demeaning environment.

Violation of this policy may result in removal from a program, as well as refusal to provide services indefinitely. We place the utmost value on the safety of our participants and employees. Please report any incidents to RMI management.

Age requirements

All participants must be 18 years old at the time of registration.

Photo Release

RMI’s Photo Release outlines the terms and conditions for using your likeness in photographs, videos, or other digital media. 

I hereby grant Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. (RMI) or its affiliates permission to use my likeness in a photograph, video, or other digital media (“photo”) in any and all of its publications, including web-based publications. By granting permission, you allow RMI to utilize these media for lawful purposes. 

Here are the key points:

  1. Authorization: You authorize RMI to edit, alter, copy, exhibit, publish, or distribute the photos.
  2. Ownership: All photos become the property of RMI and will not be returned.
  3. Compensation: You will not be compensated for these uses.
  4. Rights: RMI exclusively owns all rights to the images, videos, and recordings and to any derivative works created from them. 
  5. Waiver: You waive the right to inspect or approve printed or electronic copies.
  6. Release: You release Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. and its assigns and licensees from any claims arising from these uses, including defamation, invasion of privacy, rights of publicity, or copyright.
  7. Hold Harmless: You hold harmless, release, and forever discharge RMI or its affiliates from any and all claims, demands, and causes of action which I, my heirs, representatives, executors, administrators, or any other persons acting on my behalf or on behalf of my estate have or may have by reason of this authorization.

Summit Attempt

RMI cannot guarantee that you will reach the summit. Weather, route conditions, your own abilities, or the abilities of other climbers may create circumstances that make an ascent unsafe, and you or your entire group may have to turnaround without reaching the summit.

Failure to reach the summit due to a person’s own lack of fitness or to any of the events associated with mountaineering (such as weather, route conditions, avalanche hazard, team dynamics, etc.), are not Rainier Mountaineering, Inc.’s responsibility and will not result in a refund, credit, or reschedule.

General Policies

RMI’s program schedule and itineraries are subject to change or adjustment based on a number of factors. These include, but are not limited to, route conditions, weather, group strength, terrain, other environmental factors, and many other factors. RMI has complete discretion to change plans to accommodate any of these or other factors, including but not limited to increases in program fees, changes to program schedule or itinerary, and changes to guides or staff, as necessary for the proper and safe conduct of the program. Once the program has started, the Lead Guide will decide on any changes to the itinerary, including ending the program early if the continuation of the program may compromise the safety, health, or well-being of the group.

We reserve the right to cancel any program due to inadequate signups, weather, route conditions, or for any other reason. In such a case, we will make every effort to reschedule the Participant on a different program date. If rescheduling is not possible, we will issue the Participant a refund for all program fees paid to RMI, less any non-refundable payments made on behalf of the Participant to secure any of the included land costs provided for this program, including but not limited to, hotel accommodations, transportation, transfers, tours, group equipment and food, permits, and local outfitter services, prior to the cancellation of the program. Additionally, RMI cannot be responsible for any non-refundable expenses the Participant incurred in preparation for the program (i.e., airline tickets, hotel reservations, rental cars, equipment purchases or rentals, etc.).

Once a program begins, there are no refunds or credits for weather-related cancellations or for a program that may end early due to weather, route conditions, or any other circumstances that may compromise the health, safety, or well-being of the group. Furthermore, if the Participant decides for any reason not to begin a program or to discontinue a program at any time, no refunds or credits will be issued. The Participant will be responsible for all additional costs associated with an early departure, including, but not limited to evacuation, transportation, hotel reservations, meals, etc.

The Participant is responsible for any costs due to COVID-19, including but not limited to, any testing fees to enter another country, tests required to return to the US, and/or costs associated with medical care and/or quarantine such as hotel accommodations, meals, separate transportation, etc.

Land Costs are provided as a package, and refunds or credits will not be issued for any unused meals, accommodations, group transportation, or other unused costs. Accommodations are based on double occupancy. A Single Supplement Fee will be charged to those Participants occupying single accommodations either by choice or circumstance. If you are willing to share a room, we will make every effort to pair you with another same-gender team member. We will match willing same-gender team members based on the order of registration date. If we are unable to match you with another same-gender team member, a single supplement fee will be charged. The availability of single accommodations is limited in most of the hotels where we stay, and single accommodations are not available while in the mountains.

The Participant understands and agrees that RMI assumes no responsibility or liability in connection with any travel and hospitality services provided to the Participant by other companies in connection with the program, including but not limited to, the services provided by airlines, hotels, rental cars, and transportation companies and that RMI is not responsible for any act, error, omission, or any injury, loss, accident, delay, irregularity, or danger by a supplier of travel or hospitality services to the Participant in connection with the RMI program. The Participant will be responsible for all costs associated with any travel delays, missed connections, or missing baggage that requires additional arrangements (separate transportation, hotel accommodations, meals, etc.) to be made on your behalf for you or your baggage to rejoin the program.

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Is it safe to travel in Ecuador?

We hold the perspective that travel to Ecuador (and any developing nation) includes risk, but not high risk. In order to safeguard our trips:

  • We have hired a professional tour operator to coordinate our in-country logistics.
  • We hire local guides familiar with the language, roads, customs, etc.
  • We follow popular tourist thoroughfares, using private vehicles (not public transportation).
  • We travel in groups and have tourist safety protocols in place (not flashing cash, not wearing expensive jewelry, etc.).
  • Our guides are well-versed with our program and are accustomed to travel in a foreign country.

Take some time to visit the consular and travel warning pages at the U.S. Department of State. These pages offer good information and should be revisited occasionally as trip departure dates approach.

How does RMI approach these climbs differently from others so as to maximize the probability of reaching the summit?

We approach the climbs in three notably different ways:

  1. Our tried and true "ascent profile" (i.e., our incremental increase in sleeping altitudes over time to allow for proper acclimatization) is a good match for the length of our trip. This allows the group to be in the best possible condition to go for the summit.
  2. We plan an appropriate amount of climbing and culture for the length of a trip.
  3. Our world-class guides: their leadership and experience make a huge difference and are the primary reason we have so many repeat customers. Check out the RMI Difference on the Description page.

Are there distinctions between climbing in Ecuador in November/February versus June/July?

There are very few distinctions. Cotopaxi sits in the central highlands zone and receives the greatest number of clear and climbable days per year as compared to other peaks. The dates we offer attempt to take advantage of both the best weather and the best snowpack for climbing in Ecuador.

What is the food like on the mountain?

Our mountain meals are hearty and include fresh local fare where possible. Please see our Food details for an example of meals while on the mountain.

Is the water okay to drink?

We strongly advise against drinking tap water in Ecuador. Both bottled and boiled water are readily available and should be used for drinking water. Personal water filters or water treatment tablets are not needed.

How much weight am I carrying in my pack?

Most days, backpacks should weigh approximately 20 to 25 lbs as we only carry the day's snacks, water, clothing, etc. as needed on our acclimating hikes or summit climbs. The approach to high hut is the only exception. Then we may carry 45 to 50 lbs depending on the amount of group gear needed for the summit attempt.

What is the pace like?

We use an easy to moderate pace throughout the trip, depending on whether we are on an acclimating hike or on a summit climb. While the distances we cover on a daily basis are relatively short, the altitudes to which we travel are very high and the days of hiking and climbing are still challenging. Overall, our guides set a reasonable pace - at the appropriate speed to cover the distance we need that day without going too quickly or too slowly.

What are the huts like?

The Refugio José Ribas at 16,000' on Cotopaxi is set in a spectacular location, directly at the start of the climbing route. It is relatively spacious, has nice cooking areas/kitchens, as well as latrines away from the main sleeping quarters. The hut is comprised of larger dormitory style rooms, with multiple bunks per room.

What are the toilets like?

Basic pit-toilets are available near the hut. On our acclimating hikes and summit climbs, where no toilets exist, we use bio-bags to collect our solid waste so that it may be transported off of the mountain. We recommend that you bring hand sanitizer to use after visiting the toilets.

How will I be able to stay connected with those at home?

We suggest bringing a smart phone or a WIFI-enabled device and using it where WIFI and internet services are available, as in Quito. On the climbs, however, WIFI access is not available. Cell service is widely available across most of Ecuador, see below.

Should I bring a cell phone?

Sure, cell phone coverage is generally available in and around towns. Check with your cell phone carrier to see if they offer international coverage in Ecuador and make sure you have the appropriate international plans and understand the associated rates.

RMI carries a satellite phone with the group through the entire trip for emergency use.

Do iPhones function well at high altitude?

Yes. However, the cold can impact the battery life making it necessary for it to be charged a few times on the trip.

Is a Kindle or Nook practical on this trip?

Yes, but if you wish to take it up on the mountain you will likely need to recharge it once in a while. We recommend downloading all of your desired books before arriving in Ecuador.

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