Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 0.02510°N / 77.9894°W
Additional Information Elevation: 18996 ft / 5790 m
Sign the Climber's Log


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.

Getting There

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.

Red Tape

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.

Mountain Conditions

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.


Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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mdostby - Aug 19, 2002 8:59 pm - Hasn't voted

Untitled Comment

Thanks for the adddition to the Caymabe page.


El Tigre Valderrama

El Tigre Valderrama - Aug 19, 2002 9:11 pm - Hasn't voted

Untitled Comment

Visit the Ecuador’s Map Grid System to the check the maps you may need when climbing here. This grid follows the Instituto Geografico Militar grid system. The sheet for Cayambe is CT OII E3


carolina.altamirano - Mar 7, 2006 1:56 pm - Hasn't voted

Mountain conditions

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.

Cdn66 - Nov 29, 2013 5:20 pm - Hasn't voted

November 2013: Hut under renovation

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.

denali36 - Jan 10, 2015 2:59 pm - Hasn't voted

Caution against using Safari Tours or Condor Trekking

Safari Tours, which is one of the outfitters offering guided climbs on Cayambe, employs unqualified, inexperienced amateur guides with no business leading climbing expeditions. Our itinerary included a certified English-speaking mountain guide for Cayambe and Cotopaxi, which Safari Tours failed to provide. Our guide, Christian, who worked for Condor Trekking, sub-contracted by Safari Tours, spoke no English and proved dangerously reckless by failing to adhere to basic mountain safety protocol (i.e. did not employ snow/ice anchors on steep glacial terrain). Moreover, he was uncommunicative (even in Spanish), unapproachable, and blatantly rude. The owner of Safari Tours, Eduardo seemed unwilling/unable to address the situation in any meaningful way. As such, anyone considering climbing in the Ecuadorean Andes should avoid Safari Tours and Condor Trekking on safety grounds, no matter how competitive their price may be. Your life is not worth it. - Jan 13, 2015 11:32 pm - Hasn't voted

Second on the Beware Condor Trekk

There are a couple out there with similar names, so I'll give the link of the one to avoid. We had two guides and they were both questionable. One told us not to drink water so that we "wouldn't sweat or go to the bathroom", this advice was offered when climbing up to 19,300ft on Cotopaxi, and they both left clients alone in the dark on the hike up because they could not keep up. They later denied having ditched anyone. Both guides were uncommunicative and plainly argumentative. Ecuador needs to improve certification and therefore safety. In 2013, a Canadian woman died with Condor Trekk, but I was not aware of that until after I'd already hiked with them. Careful when choosing a guide, price is not always indicative of quality.


Vroni_D - Oct 20, 2015 12:06 pm - Hasn't voted

Substitution for Cotopaxi

Since the Cotopaxi is closed at the moment, the Cayambe is the perfect substitute for this volcano. It is not very technical and just a little bit lower than the Cotopaxi. So if you plan to go to Ecuador and cannot to the Cotopaxi, then the Cayambe is a very good alternative. And the view from this volcano is spectacular!!!


andesclimbing - Jul 4, 2016 8:10 pm - Hasn't voted

Agency recommendation

Climb in Ecuador (and world wide) can be dangerous, please be sure to find a safe and reasonable prices Travel Agency for example:


Caciquero - Jan 18, 2018 12:56 pm - Hasn't voted

Cayambe is in Active status per EC IG

For what its worth Cayambe is not extinct but in Active status per Ecuador's Geophysical Institute. I've personally smelled sulfur above the refuge building. Happy trekking.


chrisc - Jun 14, 2018 6:40 pm - Hasn't voted

Technical Route - Santa Barbara Ridge (grade TD)

There is a super classic technical route on Cayambe, French grade TD. It is very uncommonly climbed but is fantastic! Lots of info and trip report here:

The traverse on Cayambe's Santa Barbara Ridge.
The traverse on Cayambe's Santa Barbara Ridge.

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