Mountain climbing in Ecuador: The highs and lows of climbing Cotopaxi

Written by: Tamara Braun

“Is it just me or do you feel high as well?”, “No, I feel the same.”, said my husband when we landed in Quito, Ecuador. Before you ask, we weren’t high on drugs or alcohol, but we’d simply felt the effects of being 2800m above sea level. We both noticed instantly that breathing was a lot harder and that our legs felt oddly wobbly. As these symptoms are normal when acclimatizing to a higher altitude, we didn’t really pay much attention and enjoyed the sights of Quito for a couple of days, before we would start our adventure of climbing Cotopaxi, which is about 28km south of Quito.At 5897m Cotopaxi is one of the highest active volcano in the world. It last erupted in 1942, but scientists regularly measure seismic activities. What could possibly go wrong?

Due to time constraints we actually didn’t climb to the very top, as it involves a night sleepover and a very early morning climb with ice axes and crumpets. The first European who attempted to climb the summit was my fellow countryman Alexander von Humboldt, my personal hero by the way, who managed to get as far as 4500m in 1814. We actually made it further than he did, but not without Cotopaxi claiming its victims…