Volcan Cotopaxi outside of Quito is the second highest volcano in Ecuador, and the highest active volcano!
Cotopaxi is a female 🙂 and the translation of her name comes from Coto (meaning “neck”) and Paxi (meaning “princess”). Apparently this princess has a bad temper, and whenever she gets “full,” she explodes.
Arnie & I had the incredible experience of climbing Cotopaxi up to the ridge of the glacier, and then we biked down the side to a lake. Hiking to the top of Cotopaxi is extremely difficult and expensive, and you have to be very careful not to damage the glacier which is slowly melting away.
For you here, I have some pictures, a few descriptions, a video of our guide talking about different types of lava rocks, and a video of our bike ride down the volcano.
We started our journey @6:30 in the morning, and first stop was breakfast. The restaurant where we stopped sold some gloves & hats made from alpaca, and there was a lovely lil llama hanging out outside ready to greet us.
Breakfast was absolutely delicious, and the coffee was amazing and necessary.
From here we started our drive up to the mountain. We took this big van up to the parking area, with all of the mountain bikes on top.
When we got to our first stop, our hike began. Not going to lie, I was a bit skeptical because we were legitimately in a cloud, and could see nothing except the grey ash beneath our feet & the white clouds all around. It was also drizzling and cold.
Take a look at our start:
Before we knew it, though, the wind swept the clouds away and it started to clear up. Soon enough we were at the refugio, and ready to drink some coca tea. That’s right – coca leaves. Coca is very good at helping you adjust to the high altitude.
When you’re this high up, it is ridiculously hard to breathe, your body feels super lazy and tired, and you can start to get dizzy really easily. You can also get ridiculously horrible headaches & nausea.
Apparently the coca leaves have a way of stabilising whatever is out of whack in your system, and initially they were used to help with really bad stomach pain. It’s a shame we can’t have these leaves in real life without having to be all druggy about it.
Here are some pics from the refugio as it started to clear up:
Our hike then continued on, and we started our walk along the side of volcano to see the edge of the glacier. Andres gave us a lovely overview of the different types of rocks that you can find made from lava, and where each type of rock could be found in the “lava lake” as it starts to form then cool.
Right before we reached the glacier, the visibility improved tremendously and the whole valley under the volcano opened up. It was so cool because you can pretty much see how the lava was flowing down, and the pools / lakes that it created below.
Here are some pics right before we got to the glacier:
Then, finally, we got to the glacier edge. I was so surprised to see the glacier so white and bright. The glaciers I have seen before have all been blue, but this one was totally white. When you looked inside the crevices, you could see the blue on the inside, but it was very faint.
Here are some pics of the glacier, with the incredible red lava rocks beneath:
After our visit to the glacier edge, we headed back down and were greeted by some majestic views. When we were walking down the steep part of the volcano, it felt like you were gliding down the moon. The ashes are so soft, like the most finely ground sand you’ve ever walked on – and when you descend, you glide down on your heels. Super cool.
Views from the decent:
When we got back to the van, we got on our mountain bikes and were off down the volcano! It was sooo bumpy and I basically had to lay on the brakes the whole time, being a big chicken & all, but it was so much fun!
Poor Arnie got really bad altitude sickness right about now and we had to stop a bit early, but I won’t dwell on that too much.
Here is the video of our bike ride down:
When we finally got to the late, we were greeted with this view of the lake as it started to really rain down hard:
The last stop was back again to visit our lovely llama friend, and to have lunch. I was so hungry I didn’t take pictures, but just use your imagination – it was delicious.
I couldn’t end this post with anything better than a shout out to our two guides, Andres and Marco. Here are the guys who led us up, and brought us back down. They were great – and I’d highly recommend checking them out @ CarpeDM Tours if you are ever in Quito.
Shout out to Andres & Marco!
Feel better Arnie. Altitude sickness is no laughing matter.
Thank you, and he does feel better now, though it was really horrible hopefully we won’t face the same in the next few days in Quilotoa or when we go to the Inca Trail