Our final hike of the trip is up to the Cotopaxi Refuge, which more serious trekkers use as their kicking off point to climb Cotopaxi, one of the world’s highest volcanoes at over 19,000 feet. Superficially, we aren’t too worried about the hike as it’s about 2 kilometers long and about 1000 feet up; however, on our way to the starting point, we get out of our vehicle to walk about 100 feet of particularly rough road, and we start to really respect how thin the air is.
We eventually hike up to the Refuge at 15,748 feet, all of which we realize count once we get up that high. Our heads, stomachs, lungs and muscles are all feeling the altitude. With the weather forever changing, the volcano towering ahead of us, and a vast landscape behind, we slowly and steadily make the trip up and down the short trail.