Located 28 kilometers south of Quito in the Andes Mountains, Cotopaxi is the highest volcano in Ecuador, reaching 19,347 feet. A part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the volcano last erupted in the early 1940s.
While claims that Cotopaxi means “Neck of the Moon” in an indigenous language are unproven, it was certainly revered by native Andean peoples, who worshiped it as the “rain sender.” Indeed, during a battle on the slopes of the volcano with Spanish conquistadors in 1534, the volcano erupted in what was seen as a divine signal. The Spanish, witnessing such an event for the first time, joined the native army in fleeing in terror.
The volcano is part of the Cotopaxi National Park and is a regular stop on tours of the country. It was first scaled in 1872 by German geologist Wilhelm Reiss and Colombian Ángel Escobar. Today, various companies offer guided climbs to the summit. After reaching the mountain hut at 4,800 feet by car, the journey really begins. Adventurers must set off at 12.30am to reach the summit before 7.30am, allowing time to return to base before snow melts and glacier crevasses shift.
© The Business Year