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Ascent of Volcán Cotopaxi on 2019-12-29

Climber: Eric Gilbertson

Date:Sunday, December 29, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Volcán Cotopaxi
    Location:Ecuador
    Elevation:19347 ft / 5896 m

Ascent Trip Report

I was in Ecuador to climb Chimborazo, the country highpoint, and found myself with a few extra days after my chimborazo climb went as planned with no delays. I had planned ahead in case this happened, and had arranged to climb Cotopaxi, another tall peak nearby. Cotopaxi is shorter than Chimborazo, so I would already be completely acclimated for a quick ascent.

After climbing Chimborazo I rode back to Riobamba with the guides and moved my gear into the Ecuador eco adventures lodge. I had essentially not slept the previous night, so was tired enough to fall asleep at 10am at the lodge.


I briefly got up at 5pm to boil some water for dinner of a leftover mountain house meal, then went back to bed.

The next morning I rode North to the entrance of cotopaxi national park. There i filled out paperwork for the climb. The Ecuador government requires all climbers to be accompanied by an officially licensed guide, similar to the situation on chimborazo. Ecuador eco adventures had coordinated logistics so I just needed to meet my guide at the trailhead.

I ate lunch at the restaurant at the entrance, then rode in a taxi up the rough dirt road to the trailhead at around 15000ft. It was extremely crowded with people mountain biking down the road and hiking around. From the lot i packed up my gear and hiked up 30 minutes to the refugio.

Patches of snow littered the ground and people were making snow angels and snowmen. I checked in and dropped my gear off in the bunkroom upstairs, then took a nap.

By 5pm my guide Fabian arrived and we went downstairs for dinner. A group of three college students from Montana were looking to combine with me to meet the max two client per guide ratio and I said that was fine. We played cards then went to bed at 7pm.

We got up that night at 1230am, the last ones up in the bunkroom. After a quick breakfast we were moving by 1am at the end of a pack of about 120 climbers.

We ended up passing almost everyone, and split up into two teams of three per rope when we reached the glacier. We took the direct normal route as opposed to the longer heartbreaker route.

The route wove through some impressive crevasses and we took numerous breaks to regulate our speed. I didn’t want to repeat my chimborazo experience where I summitted hours before sunrise.

We eventually reached a sheltered overhang just below the summit at 515am, catching up to the last pair of climbers (who had started at 10pm). At 530am we made the last push to the summit just as the sky was lighting up.

We got amazing views of the surrounding volcanoes- cayambe, chimborazo, and others. Though fierce clouds were building over the summit. By 6am it was socked in the clouds.

It was getting crowded with climbers, so we soon headed down. We soon dropped below the clouds and got some good pictures of the crevasses and surrounding peaks.

We followed our same route down, reaching the refuge by 8am. After breakfast in the dining hall we packed up, hiked down to the lot, and caught a ride out. I went directly to the Quito airport for a flight back to the us.

Link to full trip report and pictures.
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