At last we got to see a volcano in South America. Three previous mountains were covered in mist for days.
At 5,897m Cotopaxi is the world’s third highest active volcano. It has erupted 50 times since records began in 1738 and due to the amount of snow on the summit, each eruption causes Lahars (rivers of melted snow and silt) which run down the mountain at up to 40mph travelling for over 100km. These have caused many deaths in the past and levelled the nearby city of Latacunga twice.
Our guide Marcelo, drove us to the end of the road, and we set off together to climb up to the Jose Ribas Refuge. The sunny views quickly turned to mist and snow but we made it. At 4,864m this Refuge is higher than Mont Blanc and our panting lungs confirmed this. Because of recent mini-eruptions, it’s currently the highest you can go.
There was a hearty atmosphere with many nationalities crowded into the small cafe. Three steaming mugs of hot chocolate later and we were ready to climb back down. Hail hit us and at the bottom we could no longer see Cotopaxi. Just as well we started early to get that sunny view.