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.

The flight of the Condor

THE FLIGHT OF THE CONDOR
The length of the lava-stream of Antisanilla can hardly be less than seven to eight miles. I clambered to the top, and got little reward, for the farther side, as well as its upper and lower extremities, were lost in mist. Its red colouring is probably superficial, and the nucleus of the mass, I conjecture, is a very dark and compact lava, specimens of which were broken out with some labour.

Edward Whimper, 1892.

From Antisana it is a 3 day trip southeast towards Sincholagua and Cotopaxi’s Volcanoes.

A Condor flying free
Suggested itinerary:

Day 1. Departure from Quito to the east on a road enriched by a spectacular landscape, we will cross a 4,100 m (13,452 ft) pass and immediately descend to Papallacta village, where we will set up our
campsite. There will be some time to enjoy natural hot springs, the best in Ecuador. Dinner will be served.
Day 2. After breakfast we will pack our gear onto horses, then we will head southeast towards Rio Tambo, until we arrive at Laguna Volcan, where we will set up our campsite. Dinner will be served.
Day 3. The day will begin with a rather long uphill hike, bringing us to the western flanks of Antizana. A wide variety of wild flowers and plants as well as birds including The Great Condor can be seen. Campsite by a fresh water stream, dinner.
Day 4. Today we will continue southeast on a gentle trail, towards Sincholahua peak. Some birds of prey as well as large herds of sheeps will be seen. Campsite and dinner.
Day 5. After breakfast we break down our campsite and prepare ourselves to hike up in the direction of the saddle betwen Sincholahua and Cerro Chico and immediately descend to the shores of Rio Pita. After crossing Pita River we will reach Cotopaxi National Park, where our vehicles will be waiting for us to bring us to the José Ribas Refuge (4,800 m – 15,749 ft) where we will spend the night. Dinner will be served.
Day 6. Midnight Breakfast. Following the standard route it will take us about six hours to reach the summit. From the summit on a clear day we’ll be able to see its crater and most of the peaks over 5,000 m (16,405 ft) in Ecuador. Down to the refuge it will take us about three hours. In the afternoon we will be back in Quito.

Cotopaxi: the way of the condor

THE WAY OF THE CONDOR 
… As there is not much probablility of considerable error in any of the determinations, it would seem that Cotopaxi has materially increased its elevation in the course of the last century and a half.

Edward Whimper, 1892.

The history of Cotopaxi’s activity is the most dramatic in Ecuador, it has caused the most death and destruction. Records of its eruptions date back to 1534, 1742, 1743, 1744, 1766, 1768, 1853 and the last one in 1877.

 

Near to the summit of Cotopaxi
Suggested itinerary:

Day 1. We leave Quito early in the morning and arrive at a recreation area within Cotopaxi National Park
called “El Boliche”. From this point we will start to hike upwards towards a ridge which we will follow until the base of Rumiñahui. Here we will take a brief lunch break and afterwards turn south along a gentle ridge and eventually reach our camp where we will spend the night.
Dinner will be served.
Day 2. After breakfast we will cross over flat plains for approximately 3 hours. We will arrive at some
archeological ruins called Pucara Salitre where the guides will give a description of the ruins. Lunch will be served, and from this point 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 3. Summit attempt. 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.

Cotopaxi: hiking between 3,600 & 4,200 metres high

HIKING BETWEEN 3,600 & 4,200 METRES
Cotopaxi shows no signs of approaching decrepitude, and for many centuries yet to come it may remain the highest active volcano in the world; or perchance the imprisoned forces may find an easier outlet, through barriers offering less resistance, and either Sangai, Tungurahua, or Pichincha may become the premier volcano of the Equator.

Edward Whimper, 1892.

Cotopaxi, is the centerpiece of the Cotopaxi National Park, which lies about 55 km south of Quito and whose symmetrical cone can often be seen from the capital on a clear day. Within its borders, the park has an administrative centre and museum. There are also picnic areas, camping sites, huts, and a refuge. Inside
this national park are smaller peaks such as Rumiñahui (4,712 m, 11,968 ft) and Morurco (4,840 m, 12,294 ft)
which offer excellent hiking and camping opportunities.

Cotopaxi trek
Suggested itinerary:

Day 1. We leave Quito early in the morning and arrive at a recreation area within Cotapaxi National Park called “El Boliche”. From this point we will start to hike upwards towards a ridge which
we will follow until the base of Rumiñahui. Here we will take a brief lunch break and afterwards turn south along a gentle ridge and eventually reach our camp where we will spend the night. Dinner will be served.
Day 2. After breakfast we will cross over flat plains for approximately 3 hours. We will arrive at some archeological ruins called Pucara Salitre where the guides will give a description of the
ruins. Lunch will be served, and we will return to Quito by early evening.