After hosting me at his family's dairy farm near Quito, Federico offered to drive me to view one of Ecuador's volcanoes—19,347' Cotopaxi. We approached the mountain via a gravel road that winds through ranch country. Along the way we crossed many streams fed by snowmelt from Cotopaxi's glaciers.
Cotopaxi hasn't erupted in more than a century. When it does, the forces unleashed are amazing. In 1877, an eruption melted the glaciers, creating lahars (mudflows) that reached all the way west to the Pacific Ocean and east to the Amazon Basin. The volcano hurled large stones, scattering them in this field some twenty miles from the mountain.
Cotoaxi receives many visitors. Small hotels and campgrounds provide rustic lodgings
A charming practice: protecting signs with thatch roofs.
Ordinarily you can see Cotopaxi from Quito, but I hadn't been able to because of persistent cloudiness. On this excursion, the clouds briefly lifted—fortunate for me.
A billboard image from a few years ago shows more extensive ice cover on Cotopaxi than today. Federico says global warming is causing the glacier to shrink.
Scores of Quiteños and foreigners climb the volcano every week. Unequipped and without time for such a venture, Federico and I instead found a cozy mountain inn. We sat before a fire sipping cinnamon tea and talking about mountain climbing. These days, I'm better at discussing than climbing. A twenty-something athlete, Federico intends to scale the volcano some day.