Cotopaxi climb (Ecuador): Facts & Information. Climate, Difficulty, Equipment, Preparation, Cost

Clara AguirrehOctober 08, 2018

Climbing one of the highest peaks in Ecuador, in South America, was an impossible adventure until recently. After two years closed because of eruptive activity, Cotopaxi re-opened in October 2017. Now climbers from around the world have their eye set on this beautiful volcano ascent.

Thinking of taking this adventure yourself? Here’s everything you need to know for an exciting and safe mountaineering trip to Cotopaxi the second highest (5897 m) mountain in Ecuador, and one of the highest active volcanoes in the world.

Starting point

For your Cotopaxi climb, you will need to travel to Ecuador. Normally, programs start at Quito (2,800 m / 9186 ft). The Cotopaxi volcano is located just 50 km (31 mi) south of Quito, in the Cotopaxi National Park.

Some programs can also start from Baños, Riobamba, Ambato or Machachi.

Cotopaxi climb (Ecuador): Facts & Information. Routes, Climate, Difficulty, Equipment, Preparation, Cost
Cotopaxi is the second highest peak in Ecuador. Photo credit: Fernando Iza.

Duration of the ascent

The duration of this program is generally of 2 days, but this ascent requires good acclimatization. Note that already the altitude of Quito is of 2,800 m.

The ascent itself takes 2 days. Climbers usually wake up at midnight to arrive to the Cotopaxi crater at 6 am on the second day.

Have a look at this 2-day Cotopaxi volcano ascent with certified local guide Fernando.

Longer programs usually include other activities around the Cotopaxi National Park, including other ascents to nearby volcanoes or peaks.

Have a look at this 11-day Climbing program to Cotopaxi and Chimbronazo with IFMGA-certified guide Xavi.


On your Cotopaxi climb itinerary, you will spend a night at the famous Jose Rivas mountain hut (4,862 m). Built back in 1971, it sleeps 86 people was remodeled in 2009. It is very well equipped, including a bar, running water, electricity large living rooms, 2 large kitchens and lockers.

Most groups attempt the peak of Cotopaxi directly from the Jose F. Rivas hut, which is about 6 hours away.

Longer programs include spending the night in other mountain huts in the area.

Physical requirements and technical difficulty

The Cotopaxi ascent is not considered difficult, but it does require the use of technical equipment as well as some glacier climbing. Its difficulty ranges from Intermediate to Sustained.

Keep in mind that this ascent requires acclimatization. Some programs include this by attempting other peaks and volcanoes on the way to Cotopaxi; such as Pasocha (4,164 m), Rucu Pichincha (4,698 m), North Illiniza.

Climate conditions

The weather in the area of Cotopaxi is generally good, and clear. In the beginning of winter in the southern hemisphere (mostly June and July) the weather tends to be dry but windy. In the summer, December and January, the weather tends to be less windy.

Due to the climate conditions, climbing Cotopaxi is generally possible all year round.


For your Cotopaxi climb, apart from your usual mountaineering equipment, you will need crampons, crevasse rescue gear, and ice axe.

Cotopaxi climb (Ecuador): Facts & Information. Routes, Climate, Difficulty, Equipment, Preparation, Cost
The Cotopaxi peak (5897 m).

Estimated price

2-day Cotopaxi climb programs range between 280 and 590 USD. Longer programs, like those including climbing Chimborazo or Illiniza are programs of between 9 and 11 days, and can cost between 1500 and 3100 USD.

Have a look at this 11-day Climbing Cotopaxi and Chimborazo program with IFMGA-certified local guide, Fredy.

What else to do near Cotopaxi

Getting a good set of activities to do before your Cotopaxi is a great idea to deal with altitude, and ensure you have a good acclimatization.

Hiking: there are several programs available, from 1-day to 19-day trips.

Mountain biking: you can also jump on a bike for a tour on the Ecuadorian highlands around Quito, Cotopaxi and Chimborazo.

Backcountry skiing: attempt Ecuador’s triple crown of Nevado Cayambe, Cotopaxi and Chimborazo, on skis.

Ready to climb your way up to the summit of one of the most impressive active volcanoes in the world? Head to Cotopaxi this year for an unforgettable climbing experience.

Want to know more

Share this article on your network:

Other users viewed:

Need help discovering your next adventure?

Try our concierge service

Join our Newsletter

Stay up-to-date on the best adventures!