Cotopaxi 3


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mountain Expedition MEDICINE, Cotopaxi, Ecuador

19 - 28 may 2023

From £1,900 self-catered / £2,300 fully-inclusive

If you love mountains as much as we do then you’ll love the Andes.   This trip is packed with activities, acclimatisation and excitement.  We’ll navigate glaciers, practice our ice axe and crampon technique and treat acute mountain sickness using a hyperbaric chamber; all whilst experiencing the incredible scenery of one of the worlds highest active volcanos.

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climb to 5,897m in one of the worlds most iconic mountain ranges

Difficulty:  Mountain expeditions present a unique challenge and we highly recommend arriving a day or two early to acclimatise.  The city of Quito city is 2850m above sea level so each night spent here will be a great advantage once in the mountains.  Some experience of alpine climbing is beneficial though not essential if you have a good level of fitness.

Suitability: As with all our courses we don't discriminate based on experience or profession.  Our courses are suitable for anyone with an interest in wilderness medicine, and it's clear the interaction between people from all backgrounds makes the learning experience all the more rich.  Whether you're a layman, expedition guide, medical elective student, doctor, nurse, paramedic or other allied health professional; as long as you have an adventurous soul we can cater for all appetites.

What's Included

Campfire Meal

Fully-inclusive = 9 breakfasts, 9 lunches and 9 dinners including a celebration meal

Cabin Bedroom

9 nights accommodation including 4 nights in mountain huts.  And as usual we save a bit of luxury for the end.


Ice axe, helmet and harness hire are all included in the fully-inclusive price.


And of course there's all the fantastic learning you'd expect from a world class medical course.

Example Itinerary

* will be tailored based on the skills and experience of the cohort as well as weather and mountain conditions.  International flights not included.

Day 1 – Welcome to the city of Quito! A UNESCO cultural heritage site squeezed in-between mountain peaks and active volcanoes.  Here you get to meet the rest of your group as we pick up last minute supplies, dish out gear and check everyone's kit.  Even at this altitude you will feel a bit out of puff walking around the city, so every step counts as training.  Briefings will be held on altitude and acclimatisation, how to deal with them and what advice you can give to others.  After being introduced to our local mountain experts we hit the hay and have a good rest before the adventure begins.


Day 2 – Acclimatisation and scenarios.  Early doors we whisk you away to our mountain-side camp at 3,000m.  We’ll practice the fundamentals of mountain expedition; fire, water, shelter and food as well as an introduction to mountain medicine.  As dusk draws in we gather in the mess tent with a warm cup of Milo in hand, as our instructors brief us on what the rest of the expedition has in store.


Day 3 – Acclimatisation and scenarios – We leave camp early for an acclimatisation hike further up the Pasachoa mountain (4,199m).  Casualties have a habit of popping up along the route and everyone gets involved in the fully inclusive scenarios.  You’ll have one more night to get used to your expedition tents before heading off for an even bigger summit next morning.

Day 4 - Rumiñahui summit attempt - As the sun shines onto our tents we wake up and gather for a hearty breakfast and a cup of mate (the local bitter tea).  After packing up camp we travel further South into the Cotopaxi National Park and set off up the Southern slopes of  Rumiñahui.  Within an hour we have stunning views overlooking Laguna de Limpiopungo and catch our first glimpse of the glaciated peak of Volcano Cotopaxi. We'll follow the trails until they thin out and we’re left scrambling over rocks and leftover lava flows to reach the summit of the mountain (4,631m).  The air feels thin here and everyone in the group will be feeling it.  That night we’re treated to a warm shower and clean sheets back in our rural hacienda.

Day 5 – A more leisurely start today as the transport arrives and we board the bus to Volcán Quilotoa.  This huge, water-filled caldera collapsed in on itself forming a giant lake in its crater.  With only an hours walk from the crater rim to the waters edge today is an opportunity to relax, take in the scenery and re-charge the batteries before some grueling days ahead. 

Day 6 – Summit attempt of Iliniza Norte (5,250m) - As is customary with alpine climbing we start our summit bid in the early hours when temperatures are low and any ice or snow is at it’s most static. With a comfy mountain hut at nearly 4,800m this mountain is perfect for acclimatisation. The lower slopes are mainly scree with a steady but not too grueling incline.  The path beyond the mountain hut is much more technical requiring harness, helmet and ropes to navigate to the summit. This mountain is notorious for weather which can change in an instant so we make the decision whether to summit today, or retire to the hut for an expedition medicine workshop.

Day 7 – Iliniza Norte – We awake in our bunks and assess the weather.  This is a second opportunity to summit or run practical medical scenarios whilst gazing down on the clouds. All the while getting more acclimatised. By midday we are heading back down the mountain to prepare for Cotopaxi.

Day 8 Glacier training day – Crampons and ice axes in hand, we drive through the Valley of Volcanoes, flanked by domes of lava, to José​ ​Ribas​ ​Hut​ ​on Volcán Cotopaxi (4,800m). From here we stash our gear and head up to the glacier field for a morning practicing the skills you’ll need for our summit attempt the following morning.  By the end of the day you’ll feel well prepared to tackle one of the true Andean peaks.  We all get an early night full of anticipation for the big day ahead.

Mountain Climber

Day 9 – Summit attempt of Cotopaxi 5,897m – Head torches, crampons and harnesses at the ready; it’s a familiar routine as our little contingent heads out once again onto the mountain.  Following our local guide we navigate snow and ice ramps, belay across ice bridges spanning crevasses, and wriggle up some short ice pitches before reaching the crater rim. One final push takes us to the Northern peak where we enjoy views of the surrounding Andes mountains as the lava bubbles below us.  That evening back in Quito we will re-live the adventures of the last ten days and start planning for the next adventure.

Day 10 - One last opportunity to enjoy Quito before we say our goodbyes.  You have the option of joining us for a city tour or exploring the temples, monuments and indigenous markets by yourselves.