One of the most popular day-tours from Quito involves hiking to the glacier of Cotopaxi – the second highest volcano in Ecuador. I’d never done it, despite spending a significant amount of time here over the years, so when Pedro and Raúl came to visit, this was high on the list.
Similar to the day I hiked Volcán Pasochoa, it was already raining at 6am as we waited out the front of CarpeDM Adventures for our minibus to take us to the National Park. A couple of hours later, the weather had not improved…
Nevertheless, our intrepid group of 9 plus our guide geared up for the hike to Refugio José Rivas at 4,863m (15,953ft) above sea level.
I have to admit, there wasn’t a lot to see on the way up, though the Refugio eventually became visible in the distance.
But we did make it 🙂
And took a short break to warm up with coca tea and hot chocolate.
The refugio itself is much, much larger than I expected, and very nice. This is where those that are summiting Cotopaxi stay in preparation for their early-morning ascent.
From there, it was a further climb up to the start of the Cotopaxi glacier at 5,000m (16,404ft). Fortunately the fog started to break-up/lift so we did end up with some half-vistas while hiking up.
This was as far as we could go without a specifically-qualified guide and special equipment, so after taking innumerable photos while trying not to fall over in the snow and mud, we retraced our steps, heading back down past the Refugio to where we had left the minivan.
Down at the carpark, we managed some tantalising glimpses of the snowy peak of Cotopaxi
and the valley below
But unfortunately glimpses were as good as we got.
From there, we drove down the worst part of the gravel access road and unloaded the mountain bikes off the minivan for our run down to Laguna Limpiopungo.
This exact ride was meant to be part of the 3-day mountain biking trip I did last year with the Biking Dutchman, but we were unable to do it at the time as Cotopaxi was showing increased volcanic activity and this section of the park was closed.
There were some incredible views on the way down (it must be amazing with clear skies), and the less-than-spectacular weather made for very dramatic vistas.
It did start raining on us as we rode, so once we reached the Laguna, we packed the bikes up quickly and piled back into the minivan for the return trip to Quito.
Even with very ordinary weather, this is a good day trip – there’s a reason it is one of the most popular. Just remember, however, that you are climbing to 5,000m, so:
- take lots of warm clothes with you (even if the weather is good)
- try to spend a few days acclimatizing before you attempt it. Massive kudos to Caite for doing the climb! She had only arrived the night before from Chicago to join Pedro, Raúl and I for a few days in Ecuador.
Cost: $50 with CarpeDM Adventures including breakfast, lunch, transportation and guide
Time: Full-day trip