Cayambe is a massive glaciated extinct volcano located 65km northeast of Quito. It is both Ecuador's third highest peak and the third highest peak in the America's north of the Equator. It also has the distinction of being the highest point on the Earth's surface through which the Equator directly passes. Although technically not real difficult it is rather dangerous due to very active glaciers, crevasses and avalanches.
From Quito, Ecuador's capitol city, travel north to the town of Cayambe. Many buses travel this route daily. From the town of Cayambe it is 25km to the refuge located at 4,600m on the southwest flanks of the mountain. There are no buses and hitch-hiking is difficult. A truck or 4WD can be hired in the central square in Cayambe for a lift to the refuge for about $20-25 US dollars. They will drop you off about 2km below the refuge. All the drivers know the route.
No fees for climbing. As of March 2002 there is a $16 US dollar plus tax (aprox 15%) nightly fee for staying at the refuge. The refuge has a permanent guardian, running water, gas stove and cooking facility, and toilets.
When To Climb
Snowstorms and high winds are more frequent on Cayambe than on many other peaks in Ecuador. It can be climbed year round although October through January is said to be the best period.
Camping is allowed.
In talking with different local and international guides I've found that the conditions on this mountain change very rapidly. The Hermoso Glacier is very active with many seracs and is extremely crevassed, which if hidden by fresh snow, are dangerous. The upper glacier is constantly changing so you need to pick your way through the crevasse field. The crevasses are large deep and obvious. Route finding around the gaping bergschrund will be necessary.
We tried to climb Cayambe on March 4 and 5, it is very icy, crevasses are open, there is barely any snow, we did it until "picos jarrin" (5000 m). Conditions change rapidly. On november/2005 it was covered by compacted snow, so the climbing was easier, we did it in 5 hours.
As of November 2013, the refuge is being renovated. One of the kitchens had been torn out and the place was taken over by the workers. Not sure if climbers can sleep there until the renos are finished. Best to check ahead.