Mountaineering in the Andes: 5 Summits for Beginners

Andes, Illiniza

People often associate the Andes with the Aconcagua mountain (6,960 m) in Mendoza. The highest peak in America —and also the highest in the world, outside Asia— is a pretty challenging climbHowever you don’t need to climb Aconcagua to peak the Andes. What you do need is a good fitness level, good gear, a good guide, and picking the right mountain. That’s of course where we come in. If you are just starting out in the mountaineering world and want to tackle one of the stunning Andean summits, then we say you can. Below are our five picks for you to start!

All the guides that we recommend will be there to help you every step of the way in order to make your experience all the more safe and enjoyable. And when you reach the top you will definitely feel like a hero!

1.  Villarrica Volcano (2,847 m) in Chile

andes villarrica
Villarrica Volcano, Chile PH: Nicolás Palma Meyer

The Villarrica Volcano, still alive and kicking, is located in the Villarrica National Park in the Chilean Araucania region.  Also known by its Mapuche name, Rucapillan (strong spirit), it was regarded as a volcano related to nice dreams and good weather. Perfect for first timers who want to try mountaineering in the stunning Andes, and who want to take back home a picture of lava! The ascent of this 1400-meter peak takes approximately 5 hours which means that you can tackle the summit in either a one day Villarrica ascent, or a two day climbing excursion. Not only will you get a chance to put your mountaineering skills to practice, you will also get a chance to see both snow and lava coexist.

Best time of the year to climb the Villarrica? The warm months that span from November to April.

Check out our mountaineering trips in Villarrica.

2.  Lanin Volcano (3,747 m) in Argentina/Chile

Andes Lanin
Lanin Volcano in the Andes, PH: Luis Fabra

The Lanin Volcano (3776m) is accessed via Argentina but is located on the border with Chile, also in the Villarrica area. Because it is a higher peak, and the terrain involves walking through a forest, over volcanic rock and in deep snow, the ascent is a little longer than to the top of the Villarrica Volcano. Ascents usually take two days. For example you can try this 2-day Lanin climbing trip, or this 3776 meter ascent to the Lanin Volcano. Whichever you choose, you are bound to have a great guide that will help you make your mountaineering experience in the Andes unique as you climb up the beautiful Lanin!

Best time of the year to visit Lanin? The warm months between November and March, although winter ascents can be combined with skiing as well.

Check out our mountaineering trips in Lanin.

3. Nevado Pisco (5,752 m) in Peru

andes nevado pisco
Nevado Pisco, Peru. PH: Octavio Salazar Obregon

The Nevado Pisco mountain in Peru is part of the Cordillera Blanca, which translates to “white range”. As can be expected, this segment of the Andes is covered in ice and snow!  The Pisco, of course, is no exception, and at a height of 5753 meters, it proves an interesting challenge for those starting out and looking to work their way up!  Of course, it requires a few days of hiking and a good guide to get to the top of this exhilarating terrain.  This 3-day Nevado Pisco climb expedition is a great option, as is this Nevado Pisco climb with base camp. In both cases, the professional support of a trained mountain guide will make the climb enjoyable and safe even when it gets challenging. Plus, you will get the chance to explore some stunning landscapes that include waterfalls and glaciers! We also recommend that you consider some previous acclimatization time.  A good idea would be to try some short hikes from Huaraz before going for the Nevado Pisco.

Best time of the year for Nevado Pisco? April through September.

Check out our mountaineering trips in Pisco. 

4. Illiniza North (5,126 m) in Ecuador

Illiniza North in Ecuador, PH: Fernando Iza

A little further up the Andes are the stunning Ecuadorian Illiniza twins. Located near Quito, these two volcanoes attract mountaineers year round, with Illiniza North being the lowest and easiest of the two to climb. It is 5126 meters high and ascents usually take at least two days with an overnight stay at the lovely Nuevos Horizontes hut. Going with a good guide who can show you the ropes is ideal, especially since one part of the ascent involves some fun scrambling! On this 2-day guided trekking program you get some great tips for your ascent. Otherwise, this 2-day Illiniza challenge is the best option for beginners looking to take their mountaineering skills to the next level! Whichever way you decide to get to the summit, the Illinizas are sure to dazzle you.

Best time of the year for Illiniza? Year round, but dry months of December, January and February are best.

Check out our mountaineering trips in Illiniza.

5. Huayna Potosí (6088 m) in Bolivia

Andes, Huayna Potosí
Huayna Potosí, Bolivia. PH: Eduardo Mamani Quispe

Huayna Potosí is one of the jewels of the Cordillera Real region in the Bolivian Andes. At 6088 meters, it is the highest mountain on our list, and also the most challenging. Some people climb it in two days, we recommend doing it in three. In fact, we suggest you spend some time acclimatizing before your trip. A good idea would be to try out some day trips from La Paz or at least spend a few days there! Then you can set off on this Huayna Potosí 3-day ascent, for example, where you’ll also get the chance to practice some skills at a nearby glacier before the actual ascent. Otherwise, this Huayna Potosí excursion can be arranged to fit either a 2-day or 3-day schedule. Whichever your choice, trained mountain guides will make sure this mountaineering trip is worth every second of your time! The stunning views of the altiplano, Lake Titicaca, La Paz and more, are not to be missed.

Best time of the year to visit Huayna Potosí? May to September.

Check out our mountaineering trips in Huayna Potosí. 

Ready for a unique challenge to the top of one of the Andes summits? Start training, start planning, start packing, and get ready to run out of breath as the stunning landscapes take your breath away.