I have had the chance to do an "expedition" to reach the summit of Cotopaxi, the second highest volcano of Ecuador (the first being Chimborazo). It is one of the world's highest active volcanoes and reaches 5897 meters. It is situated 50 km south of Quito, in a region called "the avenue of the volcanoes" in the Andes.


El Volcano Cotopaxi

A lot of companies in Quito organize trips to the volcano, which is supposed to be pretty easy to access. It actually depends on the season!!! And guess what... I didn´t chose the best one! 
We entered the Cotopaxi National Park with Loreana and Juan Pablo, our guide and went to a little lake first.


Laguna, a lake in the Cotopaxi National Park


View of Cotopaxi National Park

The expedition then began by the walk - short but intense - to the refuge (at about 4800 meters) where we can let our stuff, prepare gear for the ascent, watch a beautiful sunset and have a nice hot drink or meal.


The refuge at sunset


Me close to the refuge at sunset

Usually, people sleep a few hours before waking up around 11.00 pm to midnight to get ready to begin the ascent hoping to get to the summit by sunrise! In our case, we begun a bit late because of equipment problems and didn´t really get there on time for sunrise because of pretty bad muscle pain, which forced to stop pretty often. But sunrise was still beautiful, even not from the summit, which we reached about 8.00 am (2 hours after sunrise...). Before that we were lucky to have the full moon lighting the way, which was quite spectacular. The hike began by a field of volcanic rocks relatively easy to cross and then came the ice. What's the minimal equipment required? crampons, harnesses, ice axes and ropes. The ice formations were pretty impressive in some places, with crevices in some parts as well. The cold at this period of the year (August-September) was pretty intense making it hard to grab the ice axes sometimes. The winds were also pretty strong, blowing ice crystals and volcanic dust to all non protected parts, and making it hard to see from time to time. Add to that the fact that there were constant steep slopes to climb, and you'll understand why I found it to be a pretty harsh ascent, but it is worth it! I unfortunetely cannot show you photos of the summit since my camera refused to work in cold weather! but the view from the top was incredible, especially the one of the other surrounding volcanoes and the clouds playing hide-and-seek with their summits in always changing patterns. 


Another view of the volcano and the refuge 

summit climbing Cotopaxi Ecuador volcano Quito

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