The day started very very very early but was completely worth it. It was just us and our guide Pablo, who picked us up in his rather weathered 4×4. He was extremely chatty and so by the time we got to Cotopaxi we knew more about Ecuadorian politics, history and culture than we do about the UK. To get there we travelled through an area called the avenue of volcanos and thanks to the beautiful weather (we lucked out as every day prior to this had been very cloudy) we were graced with magnificent views.
After entering Cotopaxi National Park we travelled up a dirt track to the parking area- we almost didn’t make it this far due to the unusual amount of snowfall the previous night. From there it took us around 45 minutes to hike to the Refugio, elevation 4,800 metres. The Refugio was little more than a tin shed but many people stay here over night in order to make it to the summit. We shared a warm and very sweet hot chocolate- the perfect rest stop. From there we climbed a further 30 minutes to reach the base or the glacier (5000 metres) – we only travelled 200 metres in elevation but at this altitude every step seemed pretty tough. There was a new layer of snow covering the ice so as soon as we stepped on to the glacier we fell arse over tit- for every step we made forward we slid a metre back. In fact we took full advantage of this and used it as a slip and slide. We also had a snow ball fight and made snow angels which was strange given that the sun was beaming and Mike was in a T. We took in the views of Quito, the surrounding volcanos and the summit of breathtaking Cotopaxi itself.
After the quick decent we hopped back in the 4×4 and went to see a beautiful lake which had numerous birds flying around it, including a Condor which are very rare in the area. We had a quick look around the National Park museum before lunch and another information filled ride back to Quito.
All in all it was a lovely day, and was only made better by our extremely enthusiastic guide Pablo. It was just a shame we didn’t have 1 more day spare (and $300) so we could climb to the summit…