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The Illinizas are two mountains that hold the 6th and 8th highest Ecuadorian peaks titles, Illiniza Sur (5,263 m / 17,267 ft.) and Illiniza Norte (5,126 m / 16,818 ft.) respectively. They used to be one whole volcano featuring a crater, but eventually split up in two. These peaks are located 55 Km south of Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, in the Occidental Andean range.


Illiniza Sur (left) and Illiniza Norte (right) as seen from the Pan American Highway. 

Illiniza Sur holds more humidity than Illiniza Norte, and therefore Sur has a permanent snow and glacier.


It is said that Illiniza Norte (North) is known for being less difficult to climb than its neighboring peak Illiniza Sur (South). Indeed, Illiniza Sur is advised for experienced climbers with knowledge on technical gear and its use on steep snow/ice ramps, while for the former the deal is good hiking and scrambling skills.


However, Illiniza Norte can feature snow/ice conditions from time to time too, turning this rocky peak into a technical one and a real challenge even for experienced climbers. In this case climbers may need at least and ice axe and maybe crampons and a rope. Wearing a helmet at all times is a must.


In the last couple years an inordinate number of even the most experienced climbers have come to grief while climbing this mountain. It seems that overestimating their skills and underestimating the difficulty of the climb is one of the main causes of unfortunate mishaps in the mountain, especially under snow/ice conditions. Rescues and body retrievals have become very common lately, especially on those peaks considered not difficult as Illiniza Norte and Rucu Pichincha. Caution is highly advised.


Other than that, Illiniza Norte is a beautiful peak which offers great hiking and scrambling routes to visitors as well as stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys of the Ecuadorian Andes. A suitable peak for those in the way to good acclimatization.