Ascent of Sincholagua on 2017-01-15

Climber: Harvest Mondello

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Sunday, January 15, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
    Elevation:16010 ft / 4879 m

Ascent Trip Report

Volcàn Sincholagua: NW Ridge Route: AD / Alpine Grade II / Class 4. One technical pitch. Rock scramble with snow fields. 4,410 net elevation gain. 4,910 cumulative elevation gain. 12 miles RT. There's several small snow fields en route but no glaciers on the volcano.

Solo climb with no pro. Car to car. I'd recommend this as a two day climb for acclimatization purposes. There's no water at the high camp so bring lots of it.

This climb reminded me of a peak in Oregon called North Sister; remote traversing & a loose summit block with decent rock up higher.

See beta:

The views of Cotopaxi and the surrounding area are breathtaking. Sinchologua's spires and scree approach reminds me of Three Fingered Jack in the Oregon.


The word Sincholagua means "Steep Upwards" in the native Quechua language.

FA Edward Whymper and the Louis & Jean-Antoine Carrel in 1880.

Logistics of getting to the trailhead:

Follow the "Avenida de los Volcanes" (Avenue of the Volcanoes) road from south of Quito which is the back road to Cotopaxi National Park. The road is bumpy but you'd be fine without 4x4.
About 1/2 miles to 1 mile from the Guard Station into Cotopaxi National Park (don't enter the park) pull over into one of several dirt turnouts on the side of the highway. Guided groups in buses sometimes park here. Park out of view of the guard hut so nobody thinks you're trying to sneak into Cotopaxi. Note that you'll overlook Cotopaxi National Park but never enter the park on your hike or climb. Again, some climbers take an earlier exit on a road onto private property with houses. This would be trespassing and the locals don't like this and may be hostile if you do. Begin your approach here (the approach above).

The Approach: Via a ridge from the Southwest. 2,200 elevation gain 4 miles each way. Low point Rio Pita at 11,600 elevation and ends at 13,800 elevation at the end of a dirt road on the SW ridge.

Begin at 12,100 feet just before Cotopaxi National Park entrance where buses sometimes park with guided climbers. None of the approach and climb is in the National Park. There's a shorter alternative approach from the North but I was told by locals that it's on private property and the farmer that owns it will shoot all trespassers including climbers. They were not joking! Be sure to get an early start of hiking the approach and the climb in one day because thunderstorms & fog are common in the afternoon.

Go cross country East (downhill) ) from where you park along the road and you'll drop to 11,600 elevation as you reach the Rio Pita, a small river, below the road. Follow the road south (towards the NP) to a bridge next to a hydro station.

Once across the bridge look for a faint trail, avoiding cows. The trail immediately crosses directly over one small stream and straight uphill (East). The trail will intersect with a dirt road shortly after. If you miss the trail just bushwhack uphill away from the stream until you intersect with the road. Take a climbers right on the dirt road and note your return location (it's hard to miss).

Follow this dirt road as it winds uphill past a radio station.

When the dirt road ends a distinct trail begins. Soon you'll be at an open area that can be used as a base camp at 13,800. There is where the climb begins.

For a high camp follow this road towards a ridge and then along the ridge. Where the road ends a climbers trail begins. Follow this to the high camp on the ridge 14,500. There may be snow to melt but you're unlikely to find flowing water.

This approach took me 2 hours up an 1 hour down jogging both ways.

The Climb:

Northwest Ridge Route. 2,210 elevation gain & 2.5 mile each way. Begins on the rocky SW ridge at the end of the dirt road at 13,800. The high camp option is at 14,450.

It's mostly easy scrambling on loose scree. The trail is marked by cairns and is all on loose andesite & basalt scree & boulders on the way up. There's a false summit spire that looks tough. Pass this on the SW side and scramble across exposed scree to the true summit spire. There's some snow fields but not glaciers on this peak.

The crux is at the summit block of the true summit. There’s a short 20 foot section of class 4 on rotten rock a followed by a 60 feet of class 4 on solid rock (as long as you stay on the main route). The entire pitch for both sections is only 80 feet / just under 25 meters so a 50 meter rope for one rappel or a 30 meter rope for two pitches of rappelling will do. Use route finding skills to stay on course. Most parties opt to protect with webbing set up for dividing the 80 feet into two pitches. There's slings for anchors on both pitch sections - be sure to check that they are properly tied, secured and not old before using these.

The climb took me 3 1/2 hours up & 2 hours back down to the high camp.

Trip total 5 1/2 hours up & 3 down is 8 1/2 hours car to car.

Recommended gear: Trail runners & gators. Helmet. Optional rope (50m or 30 m) & anchor materials plus personal harness / belay device ect.

Weather: Fog & rain this day with some winds 5-15 mph. The rains didn't start until afternoon as is usual.


Lightning is your number one danger here. The basalt on the high peaks here is partially magnetic and tends to attract lightning strikes. Going earlier in the day ensures you're off the peak in time for the usual afternoon storms.

Horned cows are known to chase hikers on the approach. Keep your distance.

Rock fall is a concern on much of the hike.

Fog can also be a concern for viability.

The pitch to the summit block is mostly solid but does have some rotten rock, especially on the lower section, so be aware and stay on the well worn climb to the summit.

Nearby scenic sites and hostals:

The views of the nearby Cotopaxi National Park is beautiful - with small horses grazing below her peak. The refugio and lower hostal Tombopaxi (12,300) have outstanding food, people and architecture.However, the park rangers won't let you into the park with climbing gear unless you have someone navigate or a guide with you. Cotopaxi means "Collar of the Moon" and she lives up to the beautiful name.

Favorite quote from a local:

"This is a paradise because you pay all your sins on the way up and here you don't have any worries" ~Marco Antonio Rubio (Refugio Jose Ribas)
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4910 ft / 1496 m
    Total Elevation Loss:4910 ft / 1496 m
    Round-Trip Distance:13 mi / 20.9 km
    Grade/Class:AD / AG II / Class 4
    Quality:10 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Rock Climb
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Drizzle, Pleasant, Breezy, Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4410 ft / 1344 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3910 ft / 1191 m; Extra: 500 ft / 152m
    Loss on way in:500 ft / 152 m
    Distance:6.5 mi / 10.5 km
    Route:NW Ridge (solo)(C2C)
    Start Trailhead:12100 ft / 3688 m
    Time:5 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:4410 ft / 1344 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 3910 ft / 1191 m; Extra: 500 ft / 152m
    Gain on way out:500 ft / 152 m
    Distance:6.5 mi / 10.5 km
    Route:NW Ridge
    End Trailhead:12100 ft / 3688 m
    Time:3 Hours 
Ascent Part of Trip: Ecuador Jan. '17 (6 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
1(Attempt) Volcán Altar2017-01-114859 ft / 1481 m
2Volcán Tungurahua2017-01-127180 ft / 2188 m
3Sincholagua2017-01-154910 ft / 1497 m
4Volcán Pichincha2017-01-16 
5Volcán Pichincha-Rucu2017-01-16 
6Padre Encantado2017-01-16 
Total Trip Gain: 16949 ft / 5166 m    Total Trip Loss: 16949 ft / 5166 m

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