In my recent visitation to the tavern, I heard a story that came from as far away as Ecuador. A story about how 3 volcanoes came to be. As all the stories so is this one starts a long long time ago, it is vague and has questionable parts. There were two mighty warriors the handsome and powerful warrior Cotopaxi and a fierce and ruthless Chimborazo. Who fought each other for the love of a beautiful maiden Tungurahua.
They had many bloody battles over the course of the years. However, the handsome Cotopaxi lost. Eventually, Chimborazo proclaimed his victory and married Tungurahua.
Soon after, the newlyweds welcomed a son, naming him, Guagua Pichincha or in Quechua “Baby Pichincha.”
Over time because the souls these three people couldn’t be in peace they turned into volcanoes. Be it curse or divine intervention no one knows.
Legend has it that when Guagua Pichincha cries, his mother, “Mama Tungurahua” along with the defeated Cotopaxi tremble and answer back with an eruption. In anger and sadness that it was not him that won the final fight.
In the last three centuries, the Majestic Cotopaxi has erupted more than 50 times.
Not often you can see the batling volcanoes that are part of a very old legend. Maybe just maybe there is still something magical hidden there. Thus, this is one more entry in the map of future explorations. To explore and find the last pockets of the elder world.
The route I am told is not a difficult one. If we exclude the fact that you will be spending most of the time above 3000m. It is almost a hike in the park.
For most of the hike, you will be spending time alone with the fabled warrior Cotopaxi. Always having each other insight. Him looking down upon you with his year-round snowy white cape. While you looking up with your heavy backpack. Since all the food for 5-7 days will be carried on your shoulders. And at times when you won’t be looking upon this mighty being. You will be surrounded by the rugged paramo grassland. If lucky once in a while between the deep canyons and snowmelt creeks you might see the local habitats wild horses, llamas, foxes, and even pumas. And at times you might find Inca ruins. Letting you feel like you have traveled in time.
The circuit is easy to follow. Just keep the Volcano insight. While it has many possible variations among the spiderweb of roads and livestock trails. Thus you can create your own trail. But if tired or lazy I have prepared one at the bottom of this post for you to download. However, it is still required that you carry both a mobile map and also a paper map just in case.
The trail has two starts. One at Mulalo. It can also finish here. But that means you will have to walk a large part of the route near the road. Thus a reasonable abbreviation would be to trek only between Mulalo and the west park entrance or Laguna Limpiopungo. This cuts out a lot of busy road walking without sacrificing much in the scenery. (hiking counter-clockwise)
Or start at Laguna Limpiopungo and hike clockwise and arriving at Mulano.
By the way, for those who feel like fighting the Volcano, there is a possibility with a guided tour to climb to the top of it. If interested here are some articles and tour providers that can help you set it up (I am not being paid for these links) https://www.carpedm.ca/.
Key Information for the circuit
- There are no taverns along the way. Meaning own tent must be carried all the time.
- There are no places to resupply thus all essentials should be bought in the capital (city name) for roughly 7 days.
- Water is plenty but it is mandatory to filter it.
- This is a demanding walk in remote mountains with uncertain weather, where altitude can cause problems. Come fully prepared including proper acclimatization.
- Distance – 79 KM
- Time – 5-7 days
- Grade – Easy to Moderate
- Trail Type – Dirt Roads, alpine tracks