Refugio José Rivas (locally known as Refugio Cotopaxi) is a high mountain refuge at an elevation of 4.639m (15,219ft) above the sea level, located in the Pichincha province of Ecuador. It's one of the highest roads of the country.
Located about 50 km (31 mi) south of Quito, in the Andes Mountains, the road to the hut is totally unpaved. It’s a bumpy gravel road that has been eroded from rainstorms and is dusty in dry weather and muddy in wet. You’ll need a 4WD, high clearance vehicle. Your vehicle needs to be in good shape and be prepared for a lag in power. The road ends on the parking lot of the refuge.
Located on the northern flanks of Volcán Cotopaxi, the second highest volcano in Ecuador, in the Cotopaxi National Park, make sure the gas tank is full. The refuge has a capacity for 86 people. It was built in 1971 and extended in 2005. It is owned and operated by Grupo Ascensionismo del Colegio San Gabriel. Weather conditions can pose a problem. On a sunny day, you’ll get magnificent views of the top peak. The hut used to be an overnight destination for mountaineering teams acclimatizing before making an ascent on the peak.
The remote and exposed road to the refuge is pretty steep. Starting from Ovejería, the road to the parking lot is 9km (5.59 miles). Over this distance, the elevation gain is 779 meters. The average percentage is 8.65%.
Pic: Walter Lara