Alpine Climbing the Cotopaxi Volcano

Cotopaxi | Ecuador
Trip Highlights

Top three reasons to climb Cotopaxi

  • Trip Highlight

    One of the most iconic natural attractions of the country

  • Trip Highlight

    The volcano features one of the few glaciers along the equator

  • Trip Highlight

    With 19,347ft (5,897m) it is one of the largest active volcanoes in the world

How often do you get the chance to climb a snow capped 5,897 (19,347 ft) active volcano? Cotopaxi, one of the country’s most majestic peaks, offers dozens of alpine climbs, fascinating landscapes, alpine glaciers, and vibrant communities along the way. This active stratovolcano is located in the heart of Ecuador, just 30 miles south of Quito, the capital of Ecuador. As you fly into Quito, you’ll notice the majestic volcano from your window and realize why so many outdoor enthusiasts choose to summit it every year! Gracefully rising from a beautiful paramo plateau, it boasts a snow-capped crater, glaciers, stone mountain huts, and mesmerizing vistas. Cotopaxi is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and despite its activity, it is not very technical, making it an amazing climbing experience for both those new to climbing and experienced mountaineers! Find out more about climbing Cotopaxi in Ecuador’s Avenue of the Volcanoes from Wlady Ortiz, local guide and founder of Ecuador Eco Adventure.


Dry season is usually from July through August, and from December to January

Nearest city

Quito, Ecuador, is only 2.5 hours away


2 days

Skill level

Intermediate to advanced


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Basic Alpine Climb of Cotopaxi With a Guide

2 days

This active volcano in Ecuador is a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts of all skill levels and experience. It is less technical than many other summits, making it perfect for anyone new to climbing, but due to its activity and spectacular vistas, it is also ideal for climbers who like adrenaline and adventure! Don’t let that intimidate you — your experienced and professional guide will always put your safety first and help you perfect your climbing skills before the summit. Cotopaxi will definitely challenge you, but the feeling of conquering the world’s fifth highest active volcano will make it all worth it!

Trip Highlights


Day 1: Preparing for the summit

After meeting with your guides, head to Cotopaxi and prepare for the summit. Check your equipment and go over the itinerary before hiking up to the first refuge. After you reach the refuge, begin with mountaineering instruction and let your guide explain the climb in detail. Enjoy an early dinner and sleep to regain energy that you’ll definitely need for the summit!

Cotopaxi Volcano View from Bicentennial Park (old airport Mariscal Sucre) in Quito-Ecuador

Day 2: Summit and descent

Wake up in the middle of the night and get ready for the summit! Begin climbing and expect to reach the top in the early morning hours. Enjoy the colorful sunrise from 19,347 ft and appreciate the moment before going back down. Get back to the refuge and reward yourself with a short break and a snack before heading back to the parking lot. 

Cotopaxi Climbing

Reviews (4)

Fantastic Adventure!!
Julie Hodson about Ecuador Eco Adventures on Tripadvisor
We attempted to climb 5 volcanoes in 12 days. We could of never made it happen without Eco Adventures. They were extremely organized and efficient. The hotels and lodges we stayed at were out of this world and the food was amazing. Our guides where fun, knowledgeable and very experienced. I really can’t say enough about our experience with Ecuador Eco Adventures. Above all we had a blast!
Best trip ever! Hands down!
daniellehL2900EL about Ecuador Eco Adventures on Tripadvisor

My husband, myself, and two friends just came back from an incredible trip guided by Ecuador eco adventures. Really can’t put into words how wonderful all the members of Ecuador Eco Adventures were. We are already planning our next trip back and will most definitely be using them as our mountain guides again!

Smooth summit attempt for Cotopaxi, even though we had to abandon
Joshua W about Ecuador Eco Adventures on Tripadvisor

We used Ecuador Eco Adventures for a summit attempt for Cotopaxi. Everything was well communicated and taken care of ahead of time. Emails were quickly responded to, and we used WhatsApp in country to tidy up any loose ends. Our park permits, refuge reservations, and equipment rentals were all ready for us when we were picked up.
Our guide, Wily, was very friendly and competent in leading us up Cotopaxi. He told us he had been up Cotopaxi more than 400 times. He showed us everything we needed to know and matched his instruction to our level of (in)experience. He knew when we needed to turn back for safety and we were grateful for his experience.
Although we were unable to summit Cotopaxi this trip, we would definitely recommend Wily and Ecuador Eco Adventure, and would use them again for future attempts.

Cotopaxi and Chimborazo!
cking553 about Ecuador Eco Adventures on Tripadvisor

My climbing partner and I just returned to the States after using Vlady to organize our Cotopaxi and Chimborazo climbs.

Vlady’s guides are fantastic. Each one has climbed Coto/Chimborazo between 300-400 times. You will be in great hands.
Having climbed in many other countries, the refugio on Cotopaxi and high camp on Chimborazo were awesome! I HIGHLY recommend the extra bucks for high camp on Chimborazo.
Vlady lives in Riobamba and knows the best restaurants to dine at, as well.
I am sure you will have a great experience with Vlady and his team of top notch guides.

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Things to know

Things to know

Covid measures in Cotopaxi, Ecuador

57hours is committed to providing safe outdoor adventure experiences. We require all guides using our platform to have a COVID-19 safety plan and to make the details of that plan accessible to travelers. In most cases, group sizes will be reduced, guides will avoid overcrowded locations, and other safety measures will be met depending on the location and activity. 

We also expect clients to respect local regulations and take measures to protect themselves, guides and the communities they’re travelling to. For more information on COVID-19 measures in Ecuador, please refer to the Covid-19 Information by the US Embassy and Consulate in Ecuador.

Please contact us if you have any questions or require further information. We are happy to provide you with the most up-to-date information!

What’s included?

What you get in this adventure:

    • Experienced ASEGUIM certified local mountain guides with extensive knowledge of the area
    • Two days of alpine rock climbing (additional days for acclimatization possible with an additional fee)
    • All transportation and logistics to and from Cotopaxi
    • All gear and mountain climbing equipment 
    • Warm clothing suitable for high altitude and freezing weather
    • Accommodation in the Refugio
    • Dinner in the Refugio and snacks and drinks during the climb
    • National Park permits
    • Lessons in climbing

What’s not included:

    • Backpack
    • Lunches
    • Transportation
    • Accommodation prior and after the trip

How fit do I need to be?

This alpine climbing adventure is ideal for intermediate to experienced climbers. You will need a good level of fitness as you will be moving for a minimum of four hours on the rocks plus some additional hiking. Even though climbing is all about using good movement technique rather than muscling up a cliff using brute strength, time spent in the alpine environment will test you. Be prepared for full days of strenuous climbing in cold temperatures and changeable weather conditions.

What if I’ve never alpine climbed before?

If you’ve never alpine climbed before, this might not be the ideal option for you — it depends on your previous experience. Alpine climbing is not for first-time rock climbers, but if you have some experience in rock climbing, there are routes that you can successfully complete with the help of a guide. These days with a guide are meant to develop skills and techniques that will take your climbing to the next level. You will spend time on rock, snow and ice terrain to round out the skill set with guides that have years and years of mountain experience to share with you.

What about required equipment?

Here’s a list of the equipment you need to bring:

    • Fleece or wool hat
    • Neck gaiter
    • Face mask
    • Lightweight and midweight gloves
    • Hardshell jacket with hood (Gore-Tex or equivalent)
    • Lightweight wind shell
    • Down or synthetic jacket with hood
    • Long-sleeved base layer
    • Long base layer pants (tights work well in the summer)
    • Hardshell pants
    • Softshell pants (wind-proof or wind-resistant)
    • Leg gaiters (ankle to mid calf height works best in summer)
    • Liner socks and wool socks
    • Underwear 
    • Mountaineering boots that work with crampons (can be rented)
    • Rock shoes (can be rented)
    • Daypack large enough to carry all the items listed (around 40L)
    • Sunglasses or a visor hat
    • Headlamp
    • Ice axe (can be rented)
    • Crampons (can be rented)
    • Water bottle or hydration pack
    • Food you can eat on-the-go
    • Bowl, mug, and spork
    • Toiletries (sunscreen, hand sanitizer, blister kit, toilet paper, etc.)
    • Pee bottle  — optional
    • Camera — optional

Group sizes and age requirements

Group sizes and prices:

    • For the private alpine climbing adventure, max client to guide ratio is 2:1 and cost is per person. 
    • Costs per person decrease as the group grows, making it a perfect opportunity to go climbing with your friends and family.

If you are traveling with a bigger group, let us know and we will make arrangements.

Min. age requirements:

    • If you are older than 18, you’re good to go.

If your group has climbers under the age of 18, contact us prior to booking to make arrangements.

Getting there and meeting location

One of your quickest options for getting to Cotopaxi National Park is Quito International Airport, located only two and a half hours away. From there you can rent a car or take a shuttle to Riobamba where you’ll meet with your guides. Transportation from Quito to Riobamba can also be organized by the guide for an additional fee.

Once you and your guide agree on the details of your itinerary, your guide will suggest the best exact place to meet. Depending on your wishes and objectives, fitness level, and previous climbing experience, your guide will choose the most appropriate location for alpine climbing.

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