Cerro Ilaló

January 3, 2023


Quito, Ecuador

Cerro Ilaló is an old and extinct volcano not far from Quito and because of that, this is a popular objective among the locals. The summit elevation is barely above the city’s highlands but this peak boasts over 600 m topographical prominence. This is because Ilaló locates on the east side of Rio San Pedro and the river gorge separates it from the Quito area. Judging by the Gaia maps and Wikiloc the ascent of Ilaló can be done from nearly all sides with more than a handful trails to choose from. Adam and I decided to squeeze this ascent into our last day in Ecuador. Our flights were in the evening so we had most of the day to kill and we might as well bag another peak. Adam did his homework and proposed to attack this peak from the NE by driving as far up a cobblestone road as possible. Obviously hiring a private 4×4 driver would be the most ideal solution but we didn’t have time for that and we also didn’t want to spend 90$ for this lowly objective. Instead, we opted to hire Jorge and his 2WD taxi with bald tires. The worst case would be to walk from the bottom and we were fine with that, if needed.

Jorge would come to pick us up in the morning at around 7 am and we wouldn’t expect to be back until noon. The check-out time was 10 am so we had to finish packing in the previous evening to temporarily store our luggage in the laundry room. There’s a lot of hasty work to be done after coming back from Tungurahua’s ascent but we did make it work. In the morning Jorge drove us down to Tumbaco at 2400 m elevation before leaving the highways for the cobblestone roads. The road that Adam planned to use was also correctly labelled on my Gaia map so the navigation wasn’t a problem. The road condition was also overall better than expected. We did have to get out of the vehicle at one particularly steep corner but otherwise it was mostly a cruise sail. We even managed to drive a little bit of the unpaved portion towards the absolute end but eventually opted to turn around and park after encountering some muddy sections. We parked at around 3000 m elevation so this peak was shaping up to become a very short hike.

Cerro Ilaló drive-and-hike from NE. GPX DL

The weather was also better than expected. We had driven above the fog layer and we had blue skies above. We wanted to hike as quickly as possible to hopefully make the summit before the clouds engulfed in. The first portion was walking to the absolute road’s end passing several farm houses with dogs and cows. Most of the dogs were behaving properly but some were barking. From the end of the road we descended a short distance and picked up the steep trail on the north ridge of Ilaló. The next 50 m elevation gain was the crux as the trail had become extremely muddy and slippery thank to the previous day’s downpour. We did not have microspikes nor any traction device and we definitely struggled to gain purchases with just the trail runners. Thankfully there were plenty of vege to give us a belay if needed. I thought this was quite fun actually as I needed to get more jungle experience. The rest of the ascent was by following the well-defined trail on low-angled open terrain. A local hiker showed up from the opposite direction at the same time.

As you can see, we drove above the valley fog layer
Jorge opted to turn around and park here, at around 3000 m elevation
Jorge making a sketchy turn-around while Adam and I continued on foot
Adam plodding up the remaining 1-2 km to the road’s end
A local farmer with his horse
Volcán Pichincha massif in the distance
Another horse, with the summit of Ilaló behind
More about Adam plodding towards the road’s end
We faced a short stretch of descending. The summit ahead.
The west side of this peak is pretty much jungle terrain
A lone purple lupine
Adam ascending a mud tunnel…
Tricky footwork required
The weather to the south wasn’t that great.
The summit plateau was rather just a no-brainer plod
The valley to the east with more farmlands in foreground
The sea of low clouds to the north
Me on the summit of Cerro Ilaló
Adam ascended the very true summit of Cerro Ilaló…

The clock on Jorge’s taxi was ticking so we descended soon. Descending that slippery trail was even sketchier and I took one massive spill right at the beginning. I made sure to pay more attention and didn’t make a second spill and that was a success. While walking back through the farm areas one dog decided to act aggressively. Adam picked up some mud balls from the ground, tossed to the dog and it went away. Jorge then drove us back into Quito and we decided to kill several hours by firstly visiting the Nora restaurant and then the Pacarri chocolate shop.

Starting the descent after taking in enough of the views
It feels to me that agriculture is a major thing in Ecuadorian economy.
Adam didn’t make a single spill on descent. I don’t know how…
Very steep and muddy.
Finally finished that muddy trail.
Passing by that horse again.
Almost back to Jorge’s taxi
Killing time in Nora
Then killing more time in Paccari

At around 2 pm I made a spontaneous decision to call Jorge again to drive me to the top of Panecillo (3016m) which is a hill inside the city that has over 100 m prominence. This is actually a fairly popular tourism destination so I did not regret going, even though the round trip taxi cost was over 15 dollars. Adam and I then killed several more hours and went to the airport at 5 pm, again with Jorge. My flight would be in the late evening so I had several more hours to kill. The 3 flights back to Vancouver then went without event and the connections were overall easier than I thought.

Jorge drove me to the summit of Panecillo in the afternoon
Me on Panecillo, the final “summit” bagged in this trip…