We leave Quito early in the morning to go by bus to El Chaupi where we were supposed to meet the owner of the refugee (Vladimir) to drive us up to the trail head for the Illinizas. We had no problems finding his house as everybody in this tiny village knew about it. Vladimirs appeared some minutes later and after we have left some equipment in the Hostal we were sitting in his car riding up a very bad road to the trail head. We were dropped by Vladimir at a shrine, which is officially at an altitude of 3900m, however we had various trip reports all stating a different altitude.
From there we first followed the last meters of the street and then the signs for the refugee. If you have doubts, just always take the right alternative. After 3h 15min, we reached the refugee, where we left our very heavy backbags to explore the way for the next morning.
Back in the refugee we met three very nice English speaking guys (British, Australian and Polish) with whom we spent a very nice evening enjoying our instant pasta, which was cooked with all of us praying that the little gas flame will keep on cooking fo all of us.
As we had to be back in El Chaupi around lunch time for our next tour (Cotopaxi), we started at 05:00 from the refugee. First we walked towards the dip between Illiniza Sur and Norte (where there is a spot for bivouacing) and then followed the cairns on the south east ridge. At around 2/3 of the way to the peak, a big wall is blocking the way which had to be passed on the right hand side (attention, there are no cairns or any signs that you have to bypass on the right hand side and also all traces seem to go to the left). After bypassing this wall, we followed the path until we reached a gully short in front of another ridge. We Followed the gully in easy scrambling upwards, which was in our case a bit slippery because of a thin layer of fresh snow. The gully had to be quit to the left, where we soon found traces which lead us back to the south east ridge which leads directly to the summit. On the summit we found a cross and some 100 meters away, there was a second summit, so we were not quite sure if we already made it. Our refugee colleagues told us afterwards, that the summit with the cross is the correct one. In theory one can see all high mountains of Ecuador from the top of Illiniza Norte! We were already very lucky that we could get some very nice impressions from Cotopaxi.
On the descend we took the sand chutes as soon as possible which dramatically increased our speed. Therefore, we had enough time to pack our backbags and walk slowly back to the parking lot (1,5 - 2h), where we were picked up by Vladimir very much on time!
We recommend this tour very much for acclimatisation (overnight stay at Nuevos Horizontes at 4,600m) and if there is no snow, the scrambling on the top is easy. However, if there is snow as it was in our case, especially the last third (starting with the traverse) has to be crossed carefully (rope not necessary for experienced hikers in our opinion).
More information, download of a book about the Andes.