Cayambe with its 5.790 m altitude is Ecuador’s 3rd highest mountain and by now – due to the volcanic activity of Cotopaxi and impossibility of climbing it – the most popular one.
Anyway, for hitting a record, you’re better off with Cayambe as it counts with the highest snow covered point on the equator line.
The tour is usually scheduled for 2 days. On day one you drive up to the refuge Ruales Oleas Berge at approximately 4.700 m via a really bad dirt road – a 4-wheel-drive is an absolute must and not even all of them can make it. The refuge is compared to Cotopaxi rather small and counts with beds for more or less 25 persons. Coming late or without reservation, you might have to bring your tent!
Around midnight the ascent starts, first along a rocky but easy route till reaching the glacier and then it’s about putting on crampons. The ascent is quite interesting, you start along a common glacier but finishing this one you have to cross a field of penitents before the zone with crevasses starts.
The last part is a bit steeper, but first sun rays might warm you up, if you are lucky with the weather. In any case a poncho (even being a 1 USD thing) can make your life much more comfortable when climbing Cayambe, as quite often it’s humid and rainy.
The views are amazing and really motivating to keep going, step by step the summit a bit closer. On days like these, usually the amount of aspirants reaching the summit is quite good and no amount of money can pay for the happiness in the mountaineers’ faces after having reached the summit of Ecuador’s 3rd highest mountain.
And it’s definitely worthwhile, enjoying a nice breakfast and the views of the surrounding volcanoes before taking the same route back down to the refuge.