Saturday 10 August 2013

Climbing and Mountain Biking Cotopaxi Volcano, Ecuador

At just under 6,000 meters (~20,000 feet), the stratovolcano of Cotopaxi is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. Prior to the Inca invasion of the 15th century, local indigenous groups around the Andes dubbed Cotopaxi a "Sacred Mountain."  With a pedigree of such caliber, over 100 climbers attempt to make it to the summit each weekend.

Unfortunately, those that wanted to make it to the summit included us!  I was actually interested in simply mountain biking, but poor planning and bad luck turned us into two sad, cold, and angry individuals. Moral of the story: If you don't like hiking or nature, don't climb a volcano in overly bleak weather!

 Cotopaxi Volcano a.k.a. a "Sacred Mountain"

We had booked our trips at 6pm the night before the tour with Ecuador Treasure, a tour company that has the friendliest customer service. We tried booking with Biking Dutchman, but 1) They didn't have tours the day we wanted and 2) They stated that they couldn't recommend other tours "Because their bikes, guides and service is way below ours." Points loss for arrogance!

Our guide stated that because of the altitude and steepness, it would take 1.5 hours just to walk up 300 meters. We would drive up the volcano, walk to the rest stop, walk some more, and then mountain bike back down.

Freezing temperatures, rain, and fog disallowed us at most points to see more than 10 feet in front of us.  Thus, the beautiful views on clear days could only be imagined. Adding to the fact that I soon became delirious due to the altitude (i.e. thinking the rest stop was only a mirage) and the mountain bike was way too big for me, this was probably the worst of my travel adventures to date.

Weather conditions on the day we climbed (left) vs. conditions on a normal day (right).  
Photograph courtesy of

Did we climb and mountain bike an active volcano?  Yes, sir!  Will either Sean or I do it ever again?  No, sir!

Smiling because we're done climbing!

Restaurant Achiote in Mariscal. Live music plays regularly too!

That night, we spoiled ourselves with an expensive dinner (well, $30+/each) at Achiote. Off to a more relaxing time at the hot springs of Papallacta!

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