Ascent of Volcán Cayambe on 2019-01-08

Climber: Rafee Memon

Others in Party:Ivan Herrera (Guide)
Date:Tuesday, January 8, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:4x4 Vehicle
Peak:Volcán Cayambe
    Elevation:18996 ft / 5789 m

Ascent Trip Report

Fresh off of an ascent of Cotopaxi over the weekend, I was ready for the next challenge of climbing Cayambe. However, things got off to a pretty rough start. The weather had been perfect over the weekend for Cotopaxi, but they were predicting heavy rain and snow for Cayambe. Additionally, I ate something that gave me food poisoning after coming back from Cotopaxi, and I wasn't sure I would have the energy for a climb. Having already paid for a guide, I succumbed to the sunk cost fallacy and decided to give it my best shot.

We left from Quito around 10:15am and stopped in the town of Cayambe for lunch. We continued into Parque Nacional Cayambe Coca, where the road became a mix of cobblestone and dirt. About a mile before reaching the refuge, the road deteriorated significantly as we ascended steeply up huge rocks. We were greeted with a steady drizzle at the refuge. We packed for the next day, had dinner, and eventually got a glimpse of the peak as the clouds cleared around sunset. Other groups planned to start their ascents at 11pm and 12am, but given my ascent time at Cotapaxi, we decided to leave at 2am despite my depleted energy.

The rain had returned when we awoke at 1am, and my guide explained that we would need to turn around at the glacier if it was still raining. We left the refuge a little after 2am and headed up the scramble section. By the time we reached the glacier, the rain had changed to wet snow. We didn't pass any groups that had turned around, so we strapped on our crampons, roped up, and continued upwards. I was feeling pretty horrible, and I needed to stop for a few significant breaks as I drank electrolytes and waited for my stomach to settle. We slowed our pace to a more sustainable one for me.

Eventually, I could see the faint glow of headlamps above us, and at around 6am we caught up to the other groups about 300 feet below the summit. I was happy that our pace wasn't so slow after all. As sunrise approached, the surroundings became a deep blue color in the fog and snow, and the surrealness of the climb became apparent: there were gigantic icicles hanging from the summit and eerie gaping crevasses all around us. We passed a few rope teams in the final flat section, and we arrived at the summit at 6:30am. Views in all directions were obscured by clouds, but I was happy to have made it after the odds seemed stacked squarely against me.

I was feeling reenergized, but I was anxious to get back to the lodge in case my stomach took a turn for the worse. We cruised back down the glacier and arrived back at the hut at 8:11am. I packed up and had a light breakfast before we made the drive back to Quito. Frustratingly, the road back to my Airbnb was completely closed due to construction, and our detour took us through extremely sluggish traffic as we passed a protest at the Ministerio del Trabajo. Eventually, I got back to the apartment around 1pm where I had a snack and took a well-deserved nap.


2:03am Leave hut
6:30am Arrive at summit
6:43am Leave summit
8:11am Arrive at hut
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4145 ft / 1262 m
    Total Elevation Loss:4145 ft / 1262 m
    Round-Trip Distance:5.7 mi / 9.2 km
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Scramble, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Headlamp, Ski Poles, Guide, Hut Camp
    Weather:Snowing, Pleasant, Breezy, White-out
Raining near refuge
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3978 ft / 1212 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3811 ft / 1161 m; Extra: 167 ft / 50m
    Loss on way in:167 ft / 50 m
    Distance:3 mi / 4.8 km
    Route:Rock route to old summit route
    Start Trailhead:Ruales Oleas Berge Refuge  15185 ft / 4628 m
    Time:4 Hours 27 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3978 ft / 1212 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 3811 ft / 1161 m; Extra: 167 ft / 50m
    Gain on way out:167 ft / 50 m
    Distance:2.7 mi / 4.3 km
    Route:Old summit route to wind-shielded route
    End Trailhead:Ruales Oleas Berge Refuge  15185 ft / 4628 m
    Time:1 Hours 28 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rafee Memon
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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