Climbing Pichincha

Pichincha has several peaks. Overlooking Quito from the west are two low antenna-topped peaks,
Cruz Loma
to the south and
Las Antenas
to the north.
Rucu Pichincha
(Old Pichincha, 4698 m), closest to the city and sometimes sprinkled with snow, can be seen from some parts of Quito. The highest of Pichincha's summits is that of
Guagua Pichincha
(Baby Pichincha, 4776 m), at the southwestern side of the massif; between it and Rucu are a couple of lesser peaks including
Padre Encantado

To climb
Rucu Pichincha,
take the teleférico to Cruz Loma, from where a trail leads to the summit. After leaving the
, it takes about three hours to the summit and the views are magnificent. Be sure to go early in order to have enough time to catch the
down. Do not take valuables and enquire about safety at the
before climbing. There are many people on the trail on Sundays. Walking down to the city from either Cruz Loma or Las Antenas is dangerous; many armed robberies have occurred in the past.

After almost 350 years of dormancy,
Guagua Pichincha
renewed its volcanic activity in 1999. The level of activity subsequently diminished, but descent into the crater remains dangerous because of the loose rock and poor trail conditions, it should never be undertaken during the rainy season. The caretakers at the
(shelter) can give you first-hand up-to-date information concerning conditions.

t is possible to reach Guagua Pichincha's
by road and to climb to the crater rim and summit from there. Access is from
, a friendly village set in beautiful surroundings; outside town is a hacienda for lodging. From Lloa a 4WD track goes almost to the
at 4560 m, near the rim of the crater, just below the summit. Depending on road conditions you might be able to get a pickup from Lloa to the
. If walking you will need up to eight hours to climb, so set off early. The descent back to Lloa is faster, but is hard on the legs. The last bus for Quito leaves Lloa around 1830, or walk a few hundred metres past Lloa down the main road until you reach a fork. There are also
rock climbing
walls behind the
on Guagua Pichincha, see

From Lloa a road leads west 12.5 km to the basic
Palmira thermal baths
, 3.5 km beyond is a hacienda offering
lodging, past which the road ends. This is the starting point for a two- to three-day
trek to Mindo
. It is a demanding walk and navigation is challenging, take care when crossing rivers.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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