Climbing Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi’s shape is the most beautiful and regular of all the colossal peaks in the high Andes. It is a perfect cone covered by a thick blanket of snow which shines so brilliantly at sunset it seems detached from the azure of the sky.

Alexander von Humboldt, 1802.


Etymology: Cotopaxi in the Cayapa language means “Sweet neck of the Sun” (COTO: neck; PAGTA: sun; SHI: sweet) or in the Panzaleo language “Throat of fire”.

Cotopaxi, is the centerpiece of the Cotopaxi National Park, which is located about 55 km south of Quito and whose symmetrical cone can often be seen from the capital on a clear day. It has a circular base of approximately 20 km in diameter, its crater has a circular size of 800 m S/N, and 600 m E/W. Its cracked ice and snow cover goes from the top, down to 5,000 m (16,405 ft). Nowadays the volcanic activity of the Cotopaxi has been reduced to a constant emision of gases and steam that can be observed from the summit.

Cotopaxi Summit
Suggested itinerary:

Day 1. Early departure from Quito. After driving through the Ecuadorian highlands we will reach the National Park where we will be able to observe the famous Andean Llamas. Lunch break will be at lake Limpios. From the lake we will drive up to the parking lot (4,600 m – 15,093 ft). And start to hike up to the José Ribas Refuge (4,800 m – 15,749 ft) which will take approximatly one hour. Dinner will be served, and a brief explanation about what we will do the next day will be given by our guides.
Day 2. Midnight Breakfast. Following the standard route it will take us about six hours to reach the summit. On a clear day we will be able to see the spectacular crater of Cotopaxi and most of the Ecuadorian peaks above 5,000 m (16,405 ft). It will take us about three hours to return to the refuge. In the afternoon we will be back in Quito.