Cotopaxi volcano’s south face

Checking out Ecuador’s superstar volcano

Ecuador travelogue: Chapter 22 | Read other chaptersSee photo gallery

It was raining all day for the last few days. Certainly unfavourable for visiting Ecuador’s second highest volcanic mountain. I had arranged and cancelled a visit to the Cotopaxi volcano twice already, and I couldn’t wait any longer. My couchsurfing host offered to take me and a fellow Argentinian couchsurfer to the southern face of Cotopaxi. Most tour agencies go to the northern refuge on day trips and I had seen several pictures, but the south face was never heard of. Yay couchsurfing!

↑ Cotopaxi’s southern plateau. Very rocky, barren and dry.

We drove north from Latacunga, cutting through villages and huge farmlands that flourish in the fertile soil of the volcanic plains. Cotopaxi last erupted in 1877, and it destroyed Latacunga, but now-a-days the volcano is not showing any activity. But who knows! 😀

I had never been close to a volcano before and the only imagination I had was based on shows on the Discovery channel. We parked our jeep at the end of a dirt trail from which arrows pointed to a viewpoint at approximately 4,000m (13,123 ft). View of the surroundings was majestic. Barren lands for as long as my eyes could see and low hanging clouds everywhere.


↑ Hiking to the south face, approx 4000m.

Clouds. Yeah, that was a problem and there seemed to be no respite. The three of us climbed to the mirador (lookout point) and waited for about half an hour, praying earnestly that Cotopaxi would give us a glimpse, even if it was for few minutes.

↑ Cotopaxi take 1, take 2, take 3: The clouds clear slowly, enough time for us to marvel at her beauty

Pacha mama (mother earth) yielded and the clouds were swept away by wind. Cotopaxi’s peak started peeping out through layers of cotton white clouds. The view of the snow-capped peak shrouded by wisps of cloud was quite dramatic.


↑ Cotopaxi volcano, with an almost symmetrical cone that’s covered with glacier. The peak is 5897m high and can be seen from everywhere in the region.

I wish I had more time to climb this volcano. But hey, that’s what next visits are for.