Cayambe Refuge (4,600 m / 15,092 ft). (Photo. big_g)
The Oleas – Ruales –Berge
refuge at 4,600 m (15,092 ft) is Ecuador’s best-altitude lodging. It was named after the Ecuadorian climbers Carlos Oleas, Cesar Ruales and the French climber Joseph Berge who were killed by an avalanche in 1974.
The refuge was built 19 years ago (March 1981) on the western flanks of Volcan Cayambe (5,790 m / 18,896 ft)
and it is owned and managed by Grupo de Ascencionismo del Colegio San Gabriel
The glacier (Glaciar Hermoso) can be easily seen and accessed by the right side of the refuge, although it has retreated considerably in the last years.
Getting to the refuge
Refuge's parking lot.
Even though Cayambe refuge is considered one of the best in Ecuador, its the access is considered as the worst to any high altitude refuge in the country. Roads are not well maintained and erosion has dug deep holes into the road forcing drivers to leave their vehicles at low elevations.
Road up to the refuge is very well signed as soon as you entered into the Ecological Reserve (40-minute ride).
Fifteen minutes after entering into the Ecological Reserve, the road steepens from time to time till it flattens for a while once you reach the base of the volcano. Condor nests can be seen in the cliffs from this area as well as beautiful waterfalls dropping down from the glacier.
The road steepens and switchbacks once again until reaching the refuge. There’ll be many spots where the road has been worn away by water, and huge rocks will try to stop your vehicle for going higher. This is where a good experience driver and a high clearance 4WD will show its skills. The road worsens a bit more with snow accumulation, so precaution is highly advised here due to the 30-meters drop off to the side of the road.
The parking lot (actually refuge’s drive way) can be reached 30 minutes after leaving from the flat lands at the base of the volcano and 1 and a half hours after leaving from the city of Cayambe.
Getting to Reserva Ecologica Cayambe – Coca
From Quito, drive north (1 and a half hours) to the town of Cayambe. Signs to the Ecological Reserve are located on the southern edge of the city which indicates a turn-off to the east towards Volcan Cayambe.
The main road has being extended widely in this area so you won’t have the chance to miss it. It’ll pass through a short tunnel at Hacienda Piemonte Bajo
(15 minute from the town) and through Hacienda Pie Monte Alto
20 minutes later.
You’ll pass by the guard station for the Cayambe – Coca Ecological Reserve which is unstaffed and has an old chain lying on the road.
- No fees are charged for entering into the Ecological Reserve.
- High clearance 4WD needed for access to the refuge.
The Oleas – Ruales - Berge
refuge has the following facilities:
2 equipped kitchens (kitchenware, pots, pans, mixing bowls, cutting boards, knives, spoons and gadgets)
2 living rooms
Storage facilities (ask the caretaker)
Bunk beds and mattresses (bring your own sleeping bag)
Souvenir store (stickers, magazines, wool hats)
Basic food supplies
Suite (Used by Grupo de Ascencionismo Colegio San Gabriel members exclusively)
The refuge has a capacity for 32 people. It has electricity but heater facilities.
-Foreigners USD. 22,40.
-Ecuadorians and residents USD. 11,20.
Buses leave to the city of Cayambe
from Estacion de Transferencia Norte del Metrobus
de La Ofelia
The buses “Cayambe” (green and white buses) leave every 15 minutes (USD. 1,00 / 1.30 h).
There’s no public transportation to the refuge so you’ll have to hire a truck at Cayambe’s main square or at the Market located 3 blocks north of the main square (rates are cheaper there). Rates can vary from USD. 50,00 to USD. 70,00 RT, depending on how good you are with bargain the prices.
A high clearance 4WD is a must here and an experience driver will take you up to the parking lot located at 4,600 m, right at the refuge’s drive way. (1 and a half hours from town). Ask if the vehicle you are hiring is a 4x4.
Tents can be set up 50 meters below the refuge and 50 meters below the upper glacier (not Glaciar Hermoso) located on top of the rocky hill above the refuge.