Ascent of Volcán Pichincha on 2008-12-09

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Petter Bjorstad
Adam Helman
Date:Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Volcán Pichincha
    Elevation:15696 ft / 4784 m

Ascent Trip Report

Guagua Pichincha, 4794m, P1652m

Stats: 6km, 661mH

Time: Tue 9 Dec 2008: 5h round trip.

Start: From SW, fairly rough road which climbs up though pasture lands then becomes very rough at approx 3900m (4x4 essential above this point) before levelling off at a parking area at 4130m. The road then continues to a small refuge at 4560m, although we hiked from 4130m for acclimatization purposes.

We drove out of Quito, W then N to find a narrow road climbing up the SW slopes of the mountain, through cultivated land. Higher up it becomes very rough - definitely 4x4 territory. After a rough steep section it levels off (parking area - we hiked from here). The road continues ESE in wide zig-zags to terminate at a small refuge, 4560m. A good trail continues beyond, to reach the ridge, at a small saddle with a rocky summit (with a large cross) to the L. A trail continues N (R) along the ridge, then crosses a loose slope of a false summit (4779m), which is crowned by a concrete pillar, apparently a triangulation pillar. A short scramble (YDS 3) leads down to a ridge, which leads up to a rock step with the summit immediately above it. The rock step involves 5m of scrambling, fairly tricky, probably high Class 3 (YDS). Apparently it is possible to bypass this by traversing R then scrambling up on rock, or to traverse further R and ascend scree. Personally I would recommend the direct approach, if you don't mind rock.

In descent, the route is obvious except for immediately after the 4779m summit - if in cloud, keep S here on the faint path crossing scree.

Tiny outcrop reached by easy scrambling. Fine views, although these tend to be intermittent by mid morning due to cloud cover. There is slightly lower summit a few m further on, reached by detouring R.

Trig points: As a trig-bagger, I was amazed to find no less than five assorted triangulation stations, listed below in order of ascending elevation:-
1. Slim reddish concrete pillar outside the refuge at 4560m
2. Concrete block a few metres above the refuge
3. Fairly battered truncated pyramid (standard size and shape)
just S of the rocky summit which bears the large Cross
4. Small square area of concrete with a scratched X on the top
surface, a few m N of 3.
5. Slim concrete pillar on S summit, with damaged top.

Short pitch of hardish scrambling (YDS 3) on ridge immediately below summit (can apparenbtly be bypassed to R), also short easy level scramble across arete/slabs (YDS 3) to reach the very highest point.

After yesterday´s Pasochoa climb, our driver Diego collected us early from Casa Helbling in Quito and drove us to the trailhead. For acclimatization purposes we chose to hike from 4130m as this was yesterday´s highest elevation, although we could have started as high as 4560m where the road ends at a small refuge. From the flat parking area, we started hiking the dirt road at 08:00.

At the road end (refuge, 09:00), we rested for 15 mins. On reaching the ridge we were buffeted by a strong wind. The short scramble just before the summit involves an easy-angled slab punctuated by a kind of chimney. From the summit (10:05) we scrambled onwards to another summit, which we concluded was slightly lower. We found a sheltered spot and lazed for an hour to aid our acclimatization. Clouds drifted across but intermittently we had very impressive views down over the rough mountainside to the countryside far below.

We then made a leisurely descent: the wind had now dropped. I visited the small summit with the large cross and shrine. Our driver was waiting for us when we got down (12:40), and we then drove north to the Otovalo area ready for tomorrow´s Imbabura climb - our next Ultra.

For guiding and trip logistics, see my Chimborazo report

There is a set of photographs on

For further details and photographs, see trip reports by Petter Bjorstad
also Adam Helman's trip report
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2530 ft / 771 m
    Extra Gain:197 ft / 60 m
    Round-Trip Distance:3.7 mi / 6 km
    Route:Southwest ridge
    Trailhead:Field road S of summit  13560 ft / 4133 m
    Grade/Class:YDS 3
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble
    Weather:Cool, Windy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 40 Minutes

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