The second highest summit in Ecuador and one of the highest active volcanoes on earth, Cotopaxi is an enthralling sight whether you climb it or simply admire it from afar.
Reaching a height of 5,897 m (19,347 ft), Cotopaxi’s domineering aura is hard to miss and can even be seen from the capital of Quito, which lies a few hours to the north.
As part of The Pacific Ring of Fire, this stratovolcano is one of several in the region and boasts one of the few equatorial glaciers in the world.
The name Cotopaxi is derived from Quechua, the local indigenous language. Directly translated, coto means ‘neck’ and paxi means ‘moon.’ This is in reference to the summit crater that looks like crescent moon.
The Andean people honored Cotopaxi as a sacred mountain and worshiped it for sending rain and as a place where the gods lived…not an unreasonable belief when you see how massive and turbulent the volcano is.
The mountain has two options for experiencing its majesty:
- Look at it from one of the lodges – there are many options but here’s one of the best
- Get a guide and climb the monster
Although not technical, the climb is physically taxing mainly due to the extreme altitude. Due to the ice slope, you are required to use crampons and be on belay with your rope team and this can be adjustment to new climbers.
While not technical, the mountain still poses lots of danger and you should go with a guide. There are a variety of outfitters to choose from; ask your local accommodations for advice as they may have an outfitter that they partner with. The Secret Garden Cotopaxi has an outfitter that you can work with.
All in all, Cotopaxi is a mysterious and enchanting beast. There is a reason it is so respected and revered from locals and mountaineers the world over. If you find yourself in Ecuador, make the trip. It’s surprisingly accessible.