At 5897 meters above sea level and rising above the Andes mountains, Cotopaxi is the highest volcano in Ecuador - and one of the most active. Cotopaxi is a highly symmetrical conical volcano whose glaciers haven't yet affected its shape due to their relatively recent birth.
The name of the volcano comes from several Capaya words - "coto" means neck, "pagta" means sun, and "shi" means sweet. It has been translated as "sweet neck of the sun." In the ancient language of the Panzaleo it means "throat of fire." Morurco, also known as Guagua Cotopaxi, is a small hill located a bit further south which is a remnant of the ancient Cotopaxi when it was larger and much more active.
The explosive nature of the volcano's eruptions, and a massive amount of incandescent material, have generated several volcanic streams that have reached the Pacific Ocean. These flows have historically run down the banks of the Cutuchi River, the Pita River, and the Napo River. Perpetual snows can be found starting at 4,900 m. about sea level, while 2400 years ago the amount of ice and snow was much greater.