Illiniza Sur

Ecuador | Climbed 19/10/2016
years until
glacier vanishes

Illiniza Sur (South) is actually one half of two mountains that form part of a single volcano split in two by a massive eruption, the other being Illiniza Norte (North). Illiniza Sur is higher and a bit wetter than Illiniza Norte, and so has glaciers. When climbing, you reach the terminus or ‘end’ of the glaciers at about 4800m and climb on them almost all the way up to the summit.  Glaciers can continue to exist if snowfall accumulating at the top exceeds the amount melting at the bottom. Unfortunately for Illiniza Sur the altitude ‘equilibrium line’  in Ecuador (the height at which which glaciers can exist as it is cold and wet enough) is currently 5800m, far higher even than the summit of Illiniza Sur at 5230m. This means its glaciers will be among the first in Ecuador to melt.

Even though it’s not the highest peak, Illiniza Sur is very steep (up to 75 degrees) making it a tricky mountain to climb and one of the most technical peaks in Ecuador. A fall from La Rampa (the Ramp), one of the steepest sections high up on Illiniza Sur, and you will get to the bottom of the glacier 600m below very quickly – something that happened to a team of unfortunate climbers in 2012.