I was determined to go back and climb Cotopaxi. My name is Michael Rogers and I failed to reach the summit on my first attempt and knew I could do it but realized I needed more day’s acclimatization, better gear, better guides and itinerary to be successful. I climbed Kilimanjaro with Ian Taylor Trekking in 2017 and the itinerary, service and guides were world class.
Kilimanjaro’s Number 1 Guide
I have been on many treks around the world, but Athumani and team were by far the best crew. The trek was amazing and would love to go back to my Tanzanian family in the future. If you are thinking of climbing Kilimanjaro, you need to pick Ian’s 8-day Lemosho Route Itinerary. The trekking schedule allowed us to use Kosovo Camp at 16,000 feet and gave our team the best shot at the summit. The summit day was tough, but we all made it and what a view we had off the summit.
Next up Cotopaxi
My first journey to Ecuador was in 2019. One of my hiking buddies suggest we take on Cotopaxi and he had mapped out a 6-day itinerary and I though ok, I climbed Kilimanjaro in 8 days, and we could cut a few days off and be successful. I was so wrong.
There were a range of problems with our plan. The company we used didn’t have the correct acclimatization program for our trip, the technical training was nonexistent. The lodges were basic, and the guides were average.
The Weather on Cotopaxi
My previous experience with weather in the Himalaya’s, Peru, Kilimanjaro were all good. The weather on Cotopaxi varies from day to day. We had hot sun, rain, deep snow, high winds, and more challenging conditions. You need to follow Ian’s kit list and make sure you have the correct boots, gloves, and layers.
There are a number of months for climbing Cotopaxi. Favored months are January, February, May, June, July, August, September, November and December. There will be minimal rainfall and high wind, but this is never guaranteed in any month.
Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail
Looking back our approach was all wrong, our gear wasn’t good enough. I just thought that it would be the same as Kilimanjaro. The terrain is steeper, the glacier is steep. It was windy and cold, my hands were cold as I had the wrong gloves, the crampons were not fitted correctly. The scree up from the hut to the glacier was steep and challenging. Moving on snow was harder than the trail the glacier was steep, and we had less days for acclimatization. I was not ready for this challenge. We reached 17,500 feet and had to turn around. I was extremely disappointed as we made our way back to the hut. I learned a lot from this failed experience and vowed to come back better prepared.
The Return to Cotopaxi
I decided to chat with Ian about going back to Ecuador and his experience on the mountain. I looked over the itinerary, videos and decided I would try again. Ian’s itinerary made more sense and the service, set up and guides were much better than my previous experience. My favorite lodges were Cotopaxipungo and Los Mortinos on route to Cotopaxi. I really enjoyed the challenging hikes up Pasochoa and Rumiñahui.
You can not have enough training and preparation. I joined one of the Colorado mountaineering training courses to learn more about moving on snow and the different techniques that can be used. I learned ice axe techniques and skills. It was also great to practice moving on a rope work and how to use prusiks.
On this trip we all went above the hut on Cotopaxi to do some mountaineering training and we practiced moving on snow, ice axe arrest and moving roped together which was super useful.
The following day we dialed in our crampons, practicing again and again to make sure we could get our crampons on properly within 2 minutes. We also practiced crevasse rescue using prusiks which was very interesting for the whole team.
Cotopaxi is a Mountaineering Trip
Cotopaxi is not a trek; the mountain requires excellent physical fitness and acclimatization. Five days of acclimatization is not enough the first time. This time I felt better, our guide Diego was world class managing our rope team to the summit. The final 1,000 feet are steep and challenging and it was much harder than Kilimanjaro.
Every step was hard work as we edged our way to the summit. As we crested the ridge you can smell the Sulphur flowing out of this famous crater and the sun started to come up. What a view, a view I will never forget. Yes, it was cold and windy, but I really wanted to reach the summit this time and I did. A great feeling and one I will never forget.
You need to be aware of your surroundings, and when roped to others you need to be physical prepared for climbing Cotopaxi up and down. Follow Ian’s training advice for the downhill it will make a real difference.
I am considering Mera and Island Peaks in Nepal with Ian’s team. From now on I will only work with Ian’s teams. The service, lodges, food, guides and especially acclimatization is second to none. I am back training and gearing up for my next adventure with Ian Taylor Trekking. Read some reviews.