MundoAndino Home : Andes Ecuador Guide at mundoandino


Cotopaxi is a stratovolcano in the Andes Mountains, located about 45 kilometres south of Quito, Ecuador, South America.John Biggar, The High Andes: a guide for climbers, Andes Press, Scotland, 1996, ISBN 1-871890-38-1. It is the second highest summit in the country, reaching a height of 5,897 m

Cotopaxi has an almost symmetrical cone that rises from a highland plain of about 3,800 metres , with a width at its base of about 23 kilometres . It has one of the few equatorial glaciers in the world, which starts at the height of 5,000 metres . The mountain is clearly visible on the skyline from Quito. It is part of the chain of volcanoes around the Pacific plate known as the Pacific Ring of Fire.

The volcano is the subject of 1855 and 1862 paintings by Frederic Edwin Church.

History of volcano

Cotopaxi means "Smooth Neck of the Moon". The mountain was honored as a "Sacred Mountain" by local Andean Indians even prior to the beginning of Inca domination in the 15th century. It was worshiped as rain sender, that served as the guarantor of the land's fertility and at the same time it's summit was revered as a place where gods lived.

The first European, who tried to climb the mountain was Alexander von Humboldt in 1802, however he only reached a height of about 4500 m. In 1858 Moritz Wagner investigated the mountain, but he also could not reach summit. On November 27, 1872, geologist Wilhelm Rajss finally reached the summit of Cotopaxi.

In 1873 it was summited by Moritz Alfons Shtjubel (Moritz Alphons Stubel), then in 1880 by Edward Whymper. Painters Rudolf Reschreiter and Hans Meyer reached the summit in 1903 and many of Reschreiter's paintings feature a view of Cotopaxi.

Today, mountain guide companies offer regular guided climbs of the mountain. These involve driving to a height of 4300 m. At 4800 m is the Jose Ribas mountain hut, where climbers can spend the night and from which their summit bid begins.

Volcanic activity

Cotopaxi is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. However, claims that Cotopaxi is the highest active volcano in the world are incorrect. Llullaillaco volcano is considerably higher and is definitely in an active phase, having erupted as recently as 1877.

Ojos del Salado is higher still, and there are indications near its summit of recent activity, although its remoteness precludes a definitive statement as to whether it is currently active.

There have been more than 50 eruptions of Cotopaxi since 1738. Numerous valleys formed by lahars (mudflows) surround the volcano. This poses a high risk to the local population, their settlements and fields.

Cotopaxi's most violent eruptions in historical times occurred in the years 1744, 1768, and 1877. In the 1877 eruption pyroclastic flows descended all sides of the mountain, with lahars traveling more than 100 km into the Pacific Ocean and western Amazon basin draining the valley.

There was a major eruption in 1903 through 1904, and some minor activity in 1942 as well as 1975 but it did not produce any major events. In the most recent case, fumarolic activities and sulfuric emissions increased and ice around the inside and on the southeastern side of the cone started to melt.

The main danger of a huge eruption of Cotopaxi would be the flow of ice from its glacier. If there were to be a very large explosion, it would destroy most of the settlements within the valley in the suburban area of Quito .Samaniego P., Mothers P., Hall M.L., Yepes H., Castro M., Aguilar J. - LAHARZ hazard maps of the northern drainage of Cotopazi volcano, Ecuador - IAVCEI General Assembly, Pucon, Chili 2004 Another city which would be in great danger is Latacunga which is located in the south valley. In 1744 and 1768 an eruption destroyed the colonial town of Latacunga.


Climbing Cotopaxi is alpine F/PD grade, and relatively popular, with sometimes 100 climbers attempting it on weekends.John Biggar, The Andes: a guide for climbers, BigR Publishing (Andes), Scotland, 2nd edition, 1999, ISBN 0-9536087-0-0. It is normally done from the mountain hut at 4800m on north side, without any intermediate camps. A 4WD track goes up from the national park entrance to 4600m altitude, just below the hut. Adventure tourism operators in Quito offer mountain biking tours from that point downhill along the track.

In Art

Cotopaxi is commonly depicted in the traditional paintings of the indigenous people of Tigua as the volcano holds significant cultural value.


In Carib Cotopaxi means King Of Death. In Cayapa it means Burning Collar, and in Quechua it means Mass of Fire.

See also

List of volcanoes in Ecuador

List of volcanic eruptions by death toll


(translated from Spanish Wikipedia)

Didn't find what you were looking for.
Need more information for your travel research or homework?
Ask your questions at the forum about Mountains of Ecuador or help others to find answers.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Cotopaxi

Disclaimer - Privacy Policy - 2009