Crater of Pichincha: descending into a living crater

This however, no doubt, is a crater of Pichincha. Its depth, reckoning from the highest point of the mountain, is probably not less than two thousand feet; its breadth is fully as much, and the length of the part we saw was at least a mile. It had none of the symmetry of the crater of Cotopaxi.

Edward Whimper, 1892.

The Pichinchas are two volcanoes known as Guagua and Rucu located some 10 km due west of Quito and easily visible from the capital. This is a good trek to do in order to be in good shape before trying some of the higher mountains.

Guaguas crater
Suggested itinerary:

Day 1. Departure from Quito early in the morning. After passing a little village placed in a beautiful valley, both of which are called Lloa, we will drive up a dirt road until we reach a place called “La
Ensillada”. From this point we will hike until we reach the Defensa Civil Refuge (4,600 m – 15,093 ft). Here we will have lunch and later try for the Guagua’s summit (4,874 m, 12,380 ft), two hours round trip. Dinner will be served, and a brief explanation about what we will do the next day will be given by our guides.
Day 2. After breakfast we will descend into the crater of Guagua Pichincha where we can observe its
activity. We will walk around the crater where we will feel the force of the earth. Lunch will be served, and we will return to the refuge to spend the night. Dinner will be served.
Day 3. After an early breakfast we will leave the refuge. First, we will follow an old trail which will
lead us to “Padre Encantado”, from which point we will hike up to the Rucu’s summit (4,787 m, 12,159 ft). From the Rucu we will go down hill to a place called Cruz Loma the where our car will be waiting to take us down to Quito.