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Sleepless in Cayambe

By Jonathan Cain

Climbing towards the summit of Cayambe

We arrived in Cayambe on schedule and will be sharing a hut with several climbers from a local fire emergency response unit about to begin training for mountain rescues. The night is spent enduring the constant pinging of text messages, music and lights being turned on in the sleeping area every time someone comes or leaves. One thing to avoid before an Alpine Start (12.30am) is a night without sleep.

Cayambe is a massive mountain but for now only faint glimpses of it’s gargantuan features in the darkness. We know that there is a very large crevasse that we have to make our way around to get to the top. We won’t know how large it really is until daybreak and we were on our way down. We reach summit after nearly eight hours of climbing.

Cayambe’s glacier at sunrise

We decide to shorten our remaining route down. Our ascent had included a very steep traverse that we want to avoid at this point, so we decide to rappel down a short wall of snow and ice to access a more direct route past it. I’m the first to rappel—not as a rule, we just decide that I will lead. As I reach the narrow ledge below I smash through a thin lip of ice sending me tumbling head first down a sheer slope towards a crevasse. I use my ice axe to arrest my fall and quickly climb back to the ledge above.

Jon on the summit of Cayambe







We make our way off the glacier and into rocky terrain covered in slippery red mud. A couple of us manage to lose the trail but we all make it out okay and in fine spirits. Tomorrow, time to relax in the hot springs of Papallacta before heading up Cotopaxi.

Columbia campus skyline with text Columbia Climate School Class Day 2024 - Congratulations Graduates

Congratulations to our Columbia Climate School MA in Climate & Society Class of 2024! Learn about our May 10 Class Day celebration. #ColumbiaClimate2024

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