Ascent of Volcán Pichincha on 2019-01-03

Climber: Rafee Memon

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Thursday, January 3, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Tram
Peak:Volcán Pichincha
    Elevation:15696 ft / 4784 m

Ascent Trip Report

I arrived in Quito very late the previous night and slept in until the late morning. After waking up and having lunch, I was feeling pretty good and decided that I should take advantage of the rest of the day and hike something easy to start acclimatizing. I took a taxi to the Teleferico on the other side of the city and rode to the top ($8.50 round trip). It was an overcast day and unfortunately the nearby volcanoes weren't visible.

I started down the trail at 1:49pm. Fearing that the weather would turn, I went against my conventional wisdom and decided to head for the intermediate summit, Rucu, before my main objective, Guagua. There was a sign near the start advising an 11:00am-or-earlier start just for Rucu that I blissfully ignored. Nearing the summit of Rucu, I took a semi-compacted route up the right side of the sand slope, and took a spicy second-class route to the summit, arriving around 3:20pm. There was a carunculated caracara watching me and a couple other hikers at the top. Down the ridge, Guagua Pichincha (the highest summit) was plainly visible, although it appeared to be a long way away. Nonetheless, I headed down a loose scree slope towards the trail and continued on my way.

I rolled up and down along the trail through numerous saddles, which normally wouldn't phase me, but at over 14,000 feet, took their toll on me. At the start of the final summit push, it was 4:45pm, and I started to fear that I wouldn't make it back to the Teleferico before it closed at 8:00pm. I didn't want to turn around with the summit in sight, but I began to realize it would be a big price to pay if I was late. I considered numerous backup plans, including hiking down the trail under the Teleferico in the dark or taking a closer but unknown trail back to the city in the light. I decided I would try to make it back to the Teleferico and deal with the trail there if I needed to.

I continued to Guagua Pichincha up a very horrible sand slope and made the final scramble to the summit, where I was greeted with whiteout conditions at 5:20pm. I stayed only a few minutes before starting the descend, knowing that every minute would be valuable. I plunge stepped down the sand and jogged on every portion of the trail that I could leading back to Rucu. The sun set around 6:30pm. Reascending the sand back to the saddle in the dark and clouds after already gaining nearly 5,000 feet was by far the most excruciating part of the day. I reached the top of the saddle at 7:04pm, and my chances of covering the three miles to the Teleferico before 8:00pm were looking pretty grim. I plunged stepped down the next sand slope and carefully worked through the easy scrambling sections before jogging the rest of the way. It was surreal jogging through the darkness and clouds with the city lights of Quito far below me. In many places, I couldn't see further than ten feet in front of me, and I tripped and fell a few times as I stepped into the ruts on the trail. I reached the Teleferico at 7:56pm just as they were closing up, and the attendant chastised me as he let me on. Once at the bottom, I needed to walk another mile back to the main road before I could find a taxi to take me back to my Airbnb.


1:49pm Leave Teleferico
3:15pm Arrive at Rucu Pichincha
3:25pm Leave Rucu Pichincha
5:20pm Arrive at Guagua Pichincha
5:26pm Leave Guagua Pichincha
7:04pm Arrive at saddle with Rucu
7:56pm Arrive at Teleferico
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4873 ft / 1484 m
    Total Elevation Loss:4873 ft / 1484 m
    Round-Trip Distance:12.9 mi / 20.8 km
    Grade/Class:Class 2+
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Scramble
    Gear Used:
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, White-out
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3807 ft / 1160 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 2741 ft / 836 m; Extra: 1066 ft / 324m
    Loss on way in:1066 ft / 324 m
    Distance:6.6 mi / 10.6 km
    Start Trailhead:Top of Teleferico  12955 ft / 3948 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3807 ft / 1160 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 2741 ft / 836 m; Extra: 1066 ft / 324m
    Gain on way out:1066 ft / 324 m
    Distance:6.3 mi / 10.1 km
    End Trailhead:Top of Teleferico  12955 ft / 3948 m
Ascent Part of Trip: Pichincha

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Volcán Pichincha-Rucu2019-01-03 a178 ft / 54 m
2Volcán Pichincha2019-01-03 b4873 ft / 1485 m
Total Trip Gain: 5051 ft / 1539 m    Total Trip Loss: 5051 ft / 1539 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rafee Memon
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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