The Cayambe volcano (5,790 m) is my favorite mountain in Ecuador. Whenever I feel stressed out or tired of the city, I plan a escapade to climb the Cayambe. It is a great and noble mountain.
It was almost 3 months that I had not climbed any mountain. In part was because of the weather conditions that in the last few months have been terrible: we had rain, low temperatures and sudden changes on the weather conditions. But last weekend, there was no excuse and I went climbing Cayambe with 6 friends.
Last Saturday the weather wasn’t any better. It was a dark afternoon when we left Quito and took the road to the northern part of Ecuador where the Cayambe is located. It was raining almost all the way from Quito to the refuge (2 hours). Once there, we set up 3 tents to camp close to the refuge, had something light for dinner and went to sleep because we would have to wake up at 00h30.
We woke up at 00h30, the weather was perfect, no wind, no snow, no rain, but cold, too cold for my toes, but great snow conditions. It was solid and easy to walk on. We started walking at 01h30. The route was very logical, almost straight, until the last big crevasse at 5,600m where we had to make a 200m traverse in the north-east direction, to reach the plateau right underneath the summit. We got to the summit at 07h30, after 6 hours of climbing. On our way down, the weather changes again, the clouds cover the mountain and starts snowing. The mountain only gave us a few hours of good weather. . . Happy and hungry we went back to rainy Quito.
Climbing Cayambe is always an interesting task, the route changes very quick, it is like climbing a new mountain each time. Yesterday it was a very interesting route, highly recommended.
The best way is to go in a 4×4 jeep, after these months of continuous rain, the road is terrible: big loose rocks in a steep road. If you go in a good jeep with a good driver, you can get to the mountain refugee at 4,600m of altitude without any effort.
The refuge is quite comfortable, they have one big shared bedroom for 32 persons, stove and kitchen facilities, a few hours of electricity at night. But don´t forget to bring your sleeping bag, your food for cooking, headlamp (extra batteries) and potable drinking water.
The weather conditions change so quick, it is hard to tell when is going to be a good weather for climbing.
For climbing Cayambe, take all your climbing gear: harness, crampons, plastic boots, helmet, headlamp, ice ax, rope, carabiners, long underwear, wool socks, fleece or polar warm jacket and pants, and a breathable rainproof jacket and pants, I would recommend a down jacket if you usually feel cold.
The route changes quick:
After a full day of snow the route goes almost straight. You should climb with someone that has already been there because there are lots of crevasses in the ice that sometimes are slightly covered with recent snow and are easy to fall in.
Alejo, thank you very much for the pictures!