Ascent of Volcán Cotopaxi on 2008-12-14

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Petter Bjorstad
Adam Helman
Date:Sunday, December 14, 2008
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Volcán Cotopaxi
    Elevation:19347 ft / 5896 m

Ascent Trip Report

Cotopaxi, 5897m, P2404m

Stats: 6km, 1020mH

Time: Sun 14 Dec 2008: 7h round trip.

Hut: Cotopaxi hut.

Start: From N, Cotopaxi hut trailhead.

The normal trailhead is located N of the mountain, at 6433m. From here a good trail (direct or zigzag alternatives according to taste) climbs to the Cotopaxi Refuge. From the back of the refuge an obvious trail heads W, initially stony but soon on snow, trending S and climbing steep snow to a ridge, which continues to climb steeply (roughly SE). An area of minor crevassing is reached (5541m): when we were there it could be crossed easily or bypassed at its L (E) end. The trail continues S at a moderate gradient, then curves round to the L (SE) and steepens considerably, crossing a steep slope with a serious drop-off (very steep snow then cliffs) to the L. At the top of the section there is a slight drop (5m) to pass the N end of a deep crevasse (exposed). Then easy slopes continue S / E to the summit.

Large crevasses, all easily avoided at time of our visit. Near the summit a steep traverse is made across a steep slope with a big drop-off. We were belayed for this short section (20m) in descent.

Fairly compact flat snowy plateau, with view across smallish circular crater. Big view from Chimborazo (S) to Cayambe (N)

We climbed this peak having acclimatised on Pasochoa, Pichincha, Imbabura, and in Petter´s case Cotacachi. Having stayed overnight in Quito, Friday midday we arrived at Tambo Paxi, a very nice (and relatively expensive) mountain lodge at 3765m with excellent views of Cotopaxi (early morning when not in cloud) and Sincholagua (4873m, a very fine looking peak and apparently quite difficult: not an Ultra). There was just one other group, containing some American Embassy staff. Saturday we drove to the Cotopaxi trailhead at midday and hiked up to the hut (40mins), had a meal at 6pm then to bed.

Summit day we woke at midnight, had breakfast and started hiking at 01:05. The trail is initially on stony then easy snow on the snowfield and lower glacier. We put on crampons and rope at 02:05 at the start of the first steep climb. There were probably around 50 people with us and we were gradually overtaking groups. The NW ridge was reached at 03:20 and the first big crevasse at 04:10. The climb was straightforward until approx 5700m when the trail steepens considerably and crosses a steep slope as a narrow snowy shelf with an intimidating drop-off to the L. This was the "crux", and the snow was relatively loose on the way up.

The summit (06:05 until 06:50) view was very fine, including Illiniza, Chimborazo and many others which our guide pointed out. In descent, Diego belayed us down the "crux" which seemed much easier than in ascent, the snow having consolidated with time and foot traffic. The rest of the descent was quick and easy. We were back at the refuge at 08:45. After sorting out our gear, we descended to the trailhead and left the Park by its western entrance. We stayed Sunday and Monday nights nearby at Cuello de Luna mountain lodge, resting before the main trip objective, Chimborazo. Although Monday was a rest day, Petter and I climbed Loma Santa Cruz Chica in the morning. This summit has its own Peakbagger page.

For guiding and trip logistics, see my Chimborazo report

There is a set of photographs on

For further details and photographs, see trip reports by Petter Bjorstad
also Adam Helman's trip report
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3425 ft / 1043 m
    Extra Gain:33 ft / 10 m
    Round-Trip Distance:3.7 mi / 6 km
    Route:N face (Normal route)
    Trailhead:Cotopaxi refuge  15988 ft / 4873 m
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Snow Climb, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Guide, Hut Camp
    Weather:Cool, Calm, Clear
Clear night and early morning
Ascent Statistics
    Time:5 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:1 Hours 55 Minutes

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