Ascent of Volcán Cotopaxi on 2019-01-06

Climber: Rafee Memon

Others in Party:David Trujillo (Guide)
Date:Sunday, January 6, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Hi-Clearance Vehicle
Peak:Volcán Cotopaxi
    Elevation:19347 ft / 5896 m

Ascent Trip Report

Cotopaxi was my primary objective for my trip to Ecuador. I corresponded with many tour operators in the weeks leading up to my trip, but many were anxious to pin down dates well in advance. The weather can turn very quickly in Ecuador, so I decided to risk it and find a guide with short notice when I saw a window of good weather. That window presented itself over the weekend only a few days after I arrived in the country. I had hoped to get two warm-up hikes at high elevation, but I would need to rely on my run on Pichincha when I first arrived and my season at elevation in the Sierra Nevada. I found a tour operator in town and told them my plan, only to be told it would be impossible to find a guide with such short notice over a weekend. However, when I expressed interest in booking other hikes as well, they were able to set me up. I booked a climb of Cayambe for the following two days and tentatively agreed to a climb of Chimborazo after that. (Later, I backed out of Chimborazo thinking that I would be too exhausted; it turned out that I would get food poisoning anyway.)

We hit the road from Quito around 10:30am to Parque Nacional Cotopaxi with a few other climbers and guides. We stopped for lunch and bathrooms at the entrance to the park, and then continued the drive up the dirt road to the parking lot below the refuge. The mountain was mostly shrouded in clouds, but we got a glimpse of the summit from near its base, along with horses, a fox, and other tourists. We packed up our bags and made the short but steep hike to the refuge, where we had an entire room of bunks for our group. The other groups worked through basic snow skills, while I walked up the trail towards the glacier to about 5000m to breathe some thin air. By then, the clouds had rolled in, and a light drizzle began. We had dinner and set our alarms -- other groups planned to leave at midnight, but my guide, David, said that we would be alright leaving at 1am.

I couldn't sleep much past 11pm, but I got out of bed at midnight, got dressed, and had a small breakfast of bread, jam, and tea. We were the last ones to leave the lodge just before 1am. On the mountain above us, we could see many headlamps working their way upwards below the now-clear starry sky, while lightning flashed over Quito below us. We started our ascent and eventually passed every group ahead of us until we were in the front of the pack around 3am. At this point, David said that we were moving too quickly; we would arrive at the summit well before sunrise and need to descend before it began to avoid the cold and wind. We slowed our pace significantly and took many unnecessarily-long breaks, only starting again once our hands became too cold.

Nearing the summit after the final steep climb, I joked that we should climb up the final snow obstacle to kill time rather than take one of the walk-up routes around it. David obliged, and he cleared a path through the snow and around a crevasse. I followed his path and minutes later we were standing at the summit at 5:14am, just in time for first light. The next groups began arriving about ten minutes later, and together we watched the sky work through the spectrum of colors as the sun rose. My insistence on picking this day for a climb had paid off, as we had clear views to all nearby volcanoes, including Iliniza, Pichincha, Cayambe, Antisana, and Chimborazo. David hadn't wanted to stay long at the summit, but the warmth from the sun and the company of 30-40 others made our stay more pleasant.

Over an hour later, we started our descent, eventually joining up with another rope team from our initial group. We passed another familiar team still on their way up, slowly but steadily making progress. We arrived back at the hut a little after 8am where we had a more proper breakfast of a pastry, granola, fruit, and hot chocolate. Another team from our group didn't summit due to altitude sickness and got a few extra hours of sleep. The guides arranged for transportation for the group still on the mountain, and we descended back to the parking lot, loaded up, and drove back to Quito. After stopping by the main office, I was back at my Airbnb around 1pm.


Saturday, January 5
2:22pm Leave parking lot
3:13pm Arrive at hut

Sunday, January 6
12:57am Leave hut
5:14am Arrive at summit
6:22am Leave summit
8:03am Arrive at hut
9:34am Leave hut
9:48am Arrive at parking lot
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4200 ft / 1280 m
    Total Elevation Loss:4200 ft / 1280 m
    Round-Trip Distance:4.8 mi / 7.7 km
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Headlamp, Ski Poles, Guide, Hut Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Cool, Windy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4200 ft / 1280 m
    Distance:2.6 mi / 4.2 km
    Start Trailhead:Parking lot  15147 ft / 4616 m
    Time:4 Hours 17 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:4200 ft / 1280 m
    Distance:2.2 mi / 3.5 km
    End Trailhead:Parking lot  15147 ft / 4616 m
    Time:1 Hours 41 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rafee Memon
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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