El Corazón – a one day adventure
El Corazón (translated as “the heart” in Spanish) is a volcano located in the Andes mountain range near Quito, Ecuador. At 4 784m in altitude, El Corazón is a climbing adventure that can be easily accomplished in a day for those who are acclimatized. When mountain climbing in Ecuador, one has a choice from a gluttony of beautiful volcanoes and El Corazón, to put it bluntly is not on everyone’s peak bagging list. But this should not put you off visiting this area, unlike other popular tourist climbing peaks like Rucu Pichincha, you probably won’t bump into another soul. The defining feature of El Corazón is a pulse raising ridge line that leads to it’s summit. On Christmas Day in 2016, I roped three travelers (James, Ryan and Chloe) staying with me at The Secret Garden Cotopaxi, into joining me on this one day climbing adventure, and it turned out to be one of the highlights of my stay in Ecuador.
How to get there
We got a taxi from the hostel to the start of the route which is located at the Reserva Ecologica Los Illinizas (a 30 minute drive from the town of Machachi. Entrance to the reserve was around $5 which we paid at the adjacent hacienda. We started hiking at around 9am to allow for some time in case we got lost in the mist 🙂
The walk in
We spent the first hour walking up a winding dirt road to the start of the hiking path. We found the path leading to mountain clearly sign-posted on a U bend. From here I reckon one could very easily stray off the route especially in poor visibility. We picked a path (one of the many) and found our way up a misty valley. We exited the valley to the left and followed a whale back ridge line that lead to the base of the mountain. Here I started to feel the altitude, but managed a steady hiking pace up switch back paths to the summit ridge line.
Scrambling along the ridge
Once you are on the ridge proper, the journey starts to get fun! From the start of the ridge to the summit takes around an hour. This part of the mountain can get fairly narrow with some loose rocks – so we had to tread carefully. We climbed fairly quickly in the heavy mist around blocks and up short, steep rocky sections until we arrived at the summit. Depending on the time of year, you may get amazing views of the vista and Volcan Cotopaxi. Unfortunately, we could not see anything, but hey it was Christmas Day, so we had a feast instead. James brought his delicious HRM mint cake from England which was heavenly.
James, a British climber moving confidently on the ridge.
What to take
When climbing in Ecuador – always take a rain jacket as well as pack in a warm fleece, gloves, 2-3 L water (no water en route), snacks and a solid pair of walking shoes with good grip. Try and climb Pasachoa (4200m) before attempting El Corazón for acclimatization. Climbing this peak without a guide is possible. However, I would recommend taking one if you are not an experienced mountaineer or good at navigation.