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Summiting Cotopaxi - Climbing Cotopaxi National Park - Ecuador

Even novice climbers can summit the glacier-topped peak with the help of a good guide, glacier climbing equipment and a hardy jacket. The views from the top on a clear day are incredible, providing dreamy views of the mountainous Andean landscape for hundreds of kilometers in every direction.

Even so, it’s a physically demanding climb (if not technically demanding), depending on snowfall and current glacier conditions. Proper acclimatization, good fitness and training are essential. A week in Quito or any other Andean town with ample walking and summiting of a lesser peak or two should be sufficient.

Though the route has changed over the years due to recession and shifting of the glacier brought about by global climate change, you generally head up the right (east) side of the volcano’s north face to the huge rock wall called Yanasacha, and then the route cuts back left (west), traversing a steep slope to the summit. The ascent along this route, which is usually well-marked by footprints and wands, takes between five and seven hours, and the descent approximately half that time. If there is any doubt about your pace and climbing time, start earlier rather than later, as the snow becomes sticky and difficult to traverse soon after sunrise. Climbers usually stay at the José Ribas refuge and depart from there 11 p.m.-midnight.

Another, less frequent route is on Cotopaxi’s southern slope.

Cotopaxi may be climbed any time of the year, though June-July tends to be windy and December-February has calmer winds. Though not very technical by mountaineering standards, Cotopaxi is not without its dangers. Along the lower section of the mountain you will encounter a number of large crevasses spanned by ice bridges and, just after Yanasacha, you must climb a short but steep, nearly vertical, wall of ice and snow in order to access the final stretch of glacier leading up to the crater.


Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador

Climbing Types:
Mountain climbing

Getting There

Climbing tours of Volcán Cotopaxi can be booked with a number of agencies in Quito. Additionally, several of the hotels and haciendas in the national park also offer these expeditions.

Travel Tips:

It may not be possible to make it to the top, due to weather or a weak member of the group.

Price Description:

Relative price: High End

Travel Skills: intermediate/somewhat difficult.

You Need to Bring:

Warm wind- and rain-resistant clothing (including thermal underwear, jacket, pants, leggings, hat and gloves), climbing boots, head lamp, mountain sun glasses; the tour agency and guides should provide the proper climbing equipment: crampons, waist harness, carabiners (2), slings (cordinos, 7 mm diameter, various sizes), rope, ice pick / axe, helmet; water (at least 1 lt), basic first aid kit, sun screen.

Other volcanoes and mountains in the area may be climbed: Rumiñahui, Morurco, Chiguilasin Chico and Sincholagua.

Currencies accepted
US dollar

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

25 Oct 2013

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