It’s taken me a while to get around to writing about Cayambe. For some in our group it was their first alpine ascent, for some their first 5000m peak. So I didn’t want to take anything away from that achievement for them. It’s certainly an epic achievement, a great volcano/mountain to climb and a wicked view from the summit. There’s not many places you can climb a volcano and see others surrounding it which are still active.
But for me, it was the first guided ascent I’ve done in 6 years and reaffirmed why I hadn’t done any sooner.
We had reached Cayambe hut the day before on a very long four wheel drive up – first along dusty tracks through the farms and villages, then a mud track where the road up is being repaired and finally on the most bouldery ‘track’ imaginable. I write track in inverted commas as it was like a river bed and it took pretty good driving by the guides to get up there.
The hut is well situated, providing epic views of the glacier and the side peak of Cayambe which sits on the equatorial line.
After eating, getting photos and more eating we went to bed for a few hours before an early morning ascent in the dark. As with all glacial summits, starting in the dark is required to ensure the snow is in good condition given the time the ascent takes.
We set off at 11.30pm. The first part of the route scrambles up amongst the rocks and dust to reach the glacier. This took about an hour. From here we put on crampons, harnesses and roped up in our climbing teams, and headed on to the ice. Roped up with Greg I knew I was teamed up with a good friend I’d enjoy the climb with.
As with most mountains of this nature, the ascent was a trudge. Slowly gaining altitude through a constant shuffle up the snow, following the person in front.
We reached the top at 7am, to amazing views around us. I can’t deny that the view across Ecuador is amazing, especially while we were there and Chimborazo was erupting.
After food and photos we started our descent. This was much quicker, we were off the glacier in 3 hours.
By the point we got off the glacier it also felt time to get rid of the ridiculous amount of layer we were also wearing. I went from lots of layers under a down jacket to just a t-shirt.
I’m glad I submitted Cayambe; but having got back down I made a conscious decision I didn’t want to do another volcano summit with a guide.
For me, it being lead up a mountain by a guide – essentially being towed along on a rope – wasn’t what I wanted out of my mountaineering. Since Bolivia, I’ve been keen to be more independent in my mountaineering and while I seem to be failing to improve my skills, I definitely didn’t want to be another one of those clients who only summit as a guide took them.
So while the rest of the group went off to do another summit Greg kindly joined me on the Pichincha Integral…