Going up to a height of 5000 meters in Cotopaxi National Park

6.45 a white pickup with bikes on the back was waiting for us outside our hostel. Inside was our guide and an 67 year old lady from England who were going with us up to the Cotopaxi Volcano, which has the second highest summit in Equador at 5897 meters above sea level.

On the way up we had to stop several times to acclimatize and let our bodies get used to the altitude bit by bit. Since our guide was a former park ranger in the national park, he used these oportunities to explain the map of where we would be going and to tell us all about the plants, animals and landscape which he seemed to know a lot about. For the first stop it was also possible to purchase warm clothing from locals waiting for tourists, and on the second stop you could drink coca tea that should help coping with the high altitudes. On the last stop before our walk there was also an oportunity to get a stamp in your passport from Cotopaxi stating the altitude you had been to.

Our trek started at the end of the road, at a parking lot at 4600 meters. The wind was blowing heavily and the snow hit us in the faces like small mosquitos would do when driving a motorbike. Luckily we had brought lots of warm clothes, and the guide provided us with some ugly boots that kept our feet dry. The weather was not in our favor, but that seemed to make it a bit more exiting and challenging, and despite the small snowstorm we all were motivated to get up to the top of the tourist trail.

We walked slowly, foot by foot. Both because our sunglases were filled with snow making it almost impossible to see anything and because of the guide stating the importance of not going up too fast to avoid altitude sickness. Panting was not allowed at all.


At 4864 meters we reached the refuge, where people would normally take a break and drink a coca tea before continuing, but since it was under reconstruction we did not get to go in and just made a small break outside by the sign instead. At that point the British woman had to lay down, and it did not take a long time before she started vomiting because of the altitude. And that was a woman who had walked the Inca Trail and climed to the top of Kilimanjaro before, so our guess was that she was not in shape that day or that she had just not been in the height long enough to be doing the trek. As we were determined to get to the top, we continued without her and the guide and made it to the glacier, meaning that we had reached our goal of passing 5000 meters! Going down afterwards was quick and easy with the thought of the achievement in the back of our minds. In total it took us between three to four hours round trip to do the trek.

When we got back to the parking lot at the bottom the guide and the girls got in the car to warm themselved, while I jumped on one of the bikes taking me almost a kilometer downhill past the Quilota Lagoon and to the place we could get our passport stamped before, where the bicycle was loaded on to the car again to drive back to the city. It had been a great tour and the fact that the weather was at its worst just made it a bit more of an achievement.



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