Close to 5,000 meters / 16,400 feet, it was the highest altitude on land I’ve ever been to in my life. From where the van dropped us off, we still needed to climb for about an hour up to reach the glacier, our destination. We were climbing one of the world’s highest active volcano. It hasn’t had much activity in the last 100 years though. I didn’t know Cotopaxi, Ecuador existed until I saw signs by CarpeDM Adventures at my hostel advertising it.
It was an hour and a half drive up the volcano and it wasn’t until we got to the drop off point where the clouds started clearing and we could see the volcano above us. The second we got out of the van, I felt a massive amount of pressure on my head due to the lack of air. I immediately took my camera out and took as many pictures as I could. Unfortunately for the rest of the journey uphill, it was the only time I could actually see the full volcano before the weather gods decided to punish us as they usually do our travels.
The snow didn’t stop us and we continued up the snow-capped volcano. I dragged my feat, nearly slipped, felt dizzy, and felt exhausted. I felt bad as the guide had to stop frequently for us to catch up. I didn’t think I could make it. We made our final stop and the guide told us we were standing on a glacier. He congratulated us and shook our hands. I didn’t show it but I was feeling emotional. I felt a huge rush of accomplishment and achievement. On our way down, we had a cup of hot chocolate and talked about our experience.
Normally we’d have a beautiful view of the volcano above us but there was a heavy thick cloud and it was snowing heavily. It was an unfortunate view but I was so happy to have made it and experienced that. At least we got to see the volcano in its full view at all.
This was the first time I’ve ever climbed that high. That emotion and sense of accomplishment, in the end, must be what athletes experience as well. To struggle and push the human body beyond what we think we could do and then survive it. It’s a rush and probably what makes it so addicting. I’d do it to feel that again.
TIPs for Visiting Cotopaxi, Ecuador:
- Go during the dry season. You might be lucky enough to catch the volcano in its full view as you hike up.
- The hike itself isn’t that bad. It’s the altitude that destroyed me. Stay in Quito for awhile and get used to the altitude.
- Do your research on how to deal with high altitudes. Our guide told us nothing. Not even to drink water.
- It doesn’t matter how fit you are when it comes to high altitudes. It affects every person differently.
- During one of the stops before you continue up with the van, there’s a stall that sells Cocoa tea. It’ll help with the altitude and provide energy.
- There’s a lot of snow and it gets cold. Bring good footwear and wear comfortable warm pants. It gets hot as you climb so a light jacket and shirt should be okay.
- If you’re biking down, you won’t be going to the snow part of the volcano. You get dropped off at the starting point and you bike down from there.
- You have the option to hike to the very top of the volcano. This is serious and it gets difficult. It goes as high as 5,897 m (19,347 ft). You sleep at the refugee camp, wake up at midnight to start your climb and reach the very top during sunrise.
- A day trip costs $40USD. I don’t think it’s worth staying in town. Cotopaxi, Ecuador is pretty close to Quito.
Have you climbed the volcano in Cotopaxi, Ecuador? Do you have any advice?
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