Located just an hour or two south of Quito, Parque Nacional Cotopaxi is home to the world's highest active volcano, and the second-highest mountain in Ecuador (after Chimborazo): Volcan Cotopaxi (5,897m asl). The national park is a beautiful and very well-protected place, and the famous volcano within is easily the highlight of its attractions. Great place to go hiking, ice-climbing, and downhill mountain-biking.
Volcan Cotopaxi, as seen on a cloudy morning.
At 1am this morning, Tony and myself — led by our trusty guide César — began our climb up Volcán Cotopaxi. Very quick "breakfast" (well, you gotta call a 12:30am wake-up meal something), and then we were on our way. We did our very best: but sadly, fate did not intend for us to reach the summit today. Close — oh, so tantalisingly close! — but no cigar. Ah well — as we say on Earth: c'est la vie.
César doesn't say much when he's up on the mountain — he's too busy stopping you from falling off the edge — but when he's back in civilisation, he's a real friendly guy. Like all climbing guides, he's incredibly fit, and ready for pretty much any emergency: as guides go, he's up there in the elite. César took Tony and myself up Cotopaxi this week, and we all agree that weather permitting, he would have gotten us to the top as well.
Call me crazy, but I'm doing it again! That's right: almost killing myself climbing Huayna Potosí, two months ago in Bolivia, just wasn't enough. I've got my crampons and my ice-axe at the ready, and I'm off in search of snow-capped peaks once more. This morning, Tony and I set off on our expedition to climb to the top of Volcán Cotopaxi, whose peak is 5,897m asl. A little lower this time (about 200m less than HP), and apparently a little easier too — but still one heck of a challenge.
Did a fun little day-tour today: downhill mountain-bike riding, on dirt tracks down Volcan Cotopaxi. This is a very popular tour, and one that you can easily arrange from a number of towns, including Quito and Baños. It was very cold at the top, but once we were headed down, we soon warmed up. Had a daredevil group, enjoyed the lovely scenery of Parque Nacional Cotopaxi, and got well taken care of during the day (transport-wise, food-wise, etc). A bit of a bumpy ride — but after the Death Road in Bolivia, you can do anything.