Hiking Cotopaxi up to 5000 meters altitude

We made it up to the glacier at Cotopaxis northern side. Yes, indeed at the northern side. As we are in the southern hemisphere this is the easier one. The snow and ice only starts at about 5000 meters altitude. For making it up all the way to the top we would have needed much more solid climbing gear.

Just back from the sea-level after visiting Galapagos we didn’t even think about it. The air is noticeable thinner at above 3000 meters and you need some time to acclimatize. Additionally the day we ascended it was very windy, making it a cold and gray scenery, except…

But let’s take a step at a time.

The bus from Quito to Latacunga dropped us at the right junction in the middle of nowhere. Luckily Thorsten managed to spot two park rangers on their way home and they agreed to give us a lift to our remote accommodation. In exchange for what is worth about two beers they drove us about 2 kilometers on a very bad gravel road.

At our nice lodge for exploring the Cotopaxi region, we immediately found some new friends.

For the first day we explored the surroundings by mountain bike. Most roads unpaved gravel, many paths with potholes, a constant up and down, some ways literally leading into nowhere…

After some time our muscles were burning, our lungs working at their maximum capacity, but at 3200 meters the air has already quite some oxygen less than we are used to.

However the scenery was more than making up for the efforts. By bike you get quickly into contact with people around, you can stop wherever you want and observe everyday-life in the Andes. Getting up late and not being able to speak much Spanish, we got some strange looks greeting others with “buenos dias” instead of the afternoon version “buenas tardes” *smiley winking*

And then Thorsten push the pedals a bit too hard in an attempt to make it up the next hill. Look closer at the next picture and you notice the result.

Yes, the bicycle chain is broken. The way back was even harder, a lot of pushing and walking was the only option.

Second day was the one selected to visit Cotopaxi and the weather forecast was getting worse for the coming days. The way up by 4WD first lead us to a small lake at around 3800 meters altitude. What a stunning view!

Making our way up from 4600m to 4800m was extremely cumbersome as you need to literally get up a sand dune. Very fine lava sand forcing you to make 2 steps up while you glide 1 back at the same time. (@Pete: Like in Morocco, just some few thousand meters higher)

We were glad once we made it up to the mountain hut. A nice place to warm up and regain some strength before continuing further.

After this it’s only some further 200 meters up to where the snow cap and glacier of the Cotopaxi start. We were lucky and could enjoy a fantastic view onto the 4712m high volcano Ruminahui and down to Laguna de Limpiopungo which we walked around earlier that day.

What a feeling to be at 5000m, something we have never done before *smiley smiling*

We happily returned to our lodge, not yet knowing that we soon should find out, why you shouldn’t just eat some warmed up soup up at a mountain hut. We were about to find out when we headed on to the Quilotoa Loop.

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