If you’ve spent any time in Quito you will have been aware of the old volcanic peak of Pichincha as it is the highest point close to the city and marked by the cable car which takes you on to the plateau below the summit.
It is possible to catch the cable car up Pichincha and walk for a couple of hours to reach the scramble to the summit. However offered the option of the full traverse of the volcanic ridge I wasn’t going to turn that down.
Pichincha Integral is mostly a hike of around 14km, providing a full traverse of the summits which make up the volcano, with the most significant being Guagua (meaning young in Quechua) and Ruca (old).
There are some grade 1 scrambles en route, but with confidence it is totally achievable without a guide. We had one, partly as our team had already paid for him, and partly as we needed ride around to the start.
In order to do the full traverse requires a long drive around to the other side of the mountain and up a dusty track to reach a remote hut near Guagua Pichincha at 4580m.
This side of the mountain reminded me of home as the grasslands/ pampas is similar to the Peak District, albeit at a much higher altitude.
From here the ascent to the ridge was short, as we climbed up to 4776m to Guagua summit. It was worth it as in my opinion this area was the most fascinating bit of the whole route as looking down into the crater which was still steaming was amazing.
From here we descended down and crossed the plateau to reach the middle peak. Crossing this area reminded me of the many Scottish hikes I’ve done with vast plateaus of peatland in between.
We lost a significant amount of time here as our guide clearly didn’t do this route often and had no clue of a descent path down. Rather than double back he tried to wing it a bit before admitting retreat was the best option.
After refuelling we circled around the mountain tops to reach the final muddy ascent up to the rocky scramble to reach the summit of Rucu Pichincha.
Of course we spent this section of the day in cloud so reaching the summit didn’t give us a fantastic view across Quito.
However as we dropped down and followed the long descent to the cable car top at Cruz Loma at 3945m, we could see the extent of Quito’s sprawl.