The practice of mountaineering activities along the «Avenue of the Volcanoes» will allow you to conquer the dazzling Ecuadorian iconic peaks. The 350 kilometers of the Andes Mountain Range will take you on an exciting journey to the closest point to the sun, the Chimborazo (6,268 masl); conquer the Cotopaxi summit (5,897 masl), the highest active volcano in the world; crown the summit of Cayambe (5,790 masl), one of the few snow-capped mountains on the planet located at latitude 0, the middle of the world, or a trekking to Rucu Pichincha (4,696 masl) a few minutes away from the city of Quito.
After watching the first minutes of the video «Ascensión al nevado Cayambe«, through the social networks of ViajaEcuador. I was struck by the visuals of a bunch of local enthusiasts reached their snowy summit; the only volcano in the world whose summit’s glacier is crossed by the equator.
According to the video, this historic event for Ecuadorian mountaineering happened 31 years ago and we could not just watch it. We went in search for the story that moved these sport men and women to the top.
Silvia Meza and Fausto Peña, native «Cayambeños», are the main characters in this event that marked a milestone for the mountaineering activities in Cayambe and the country as well. These mountaineers with happy faces and sunbaithed skin tells us that the adventure began on June 29, 1989, but the first attempt was a fail due to the bad weather in the colossus.
These intrepid Cayambenians immediately prepared for a new attempt to reach the Cayambe’s summit, they started at the Ruales-Oleas-Berge basecamp, which despite being at 4,600 masl, is accessible by 4 × 4 vehicles along a bumpy mountain road.
Climbers still remember that November 3, 1989, early hours when a hustle of boots, ice axes and backpacks broke the silence of the night. It was 1 am and you have to leave basecamp early to avoid the heat of the morning sun breaking down the snow and slowing down the march. They carry out the last gear check-up of so as not to forget anything even though they are already dressed in high mountain clothing and the crampons ready in their backpacks. The check out time of indicates 01:30 in the morning.
Washington Herrera (+) lead the expedition from Quito along with Roberto Silva (+) who dedicated his entire life to the mountains as a certified guide, Fausto Peña, Julio Torres, José Luis Flores and Silvia Meza who become the first woman to reach the summit at 5,790 meters above sea level.
They keep intact the memory of the group reaching out the summit at 08:35 and they stayed for 30 minutes at the mountain top, thanks to the good weather conditions that granted the best view of The Avenue of the Volcanoes.
Breaking the myth
Silvia Meza, with lively eyes and a wide smile, assures that the mountain is part of her life. Since she was a young girl she used to accompanied her elder sister Digna Meza (+), a mountaineer worldwide recognized. Step by step, she evaluated how beautiful outdoor adventure activities are. At school she joined a Mountaineering Club where her teachers saw the potential of this young woman and therefore signed her for the mountaineering team of Imbabura, Silvia and her sister Digna where involved in several international mountain gatherings.
Silvia tells us that the mountain has left her, more than sportive lessons “a teaching for life, because in this activity you learn to deal with yourself. You do not fight against the mountain, you fight to overcome your own fears; it forges objectives, goals that are useful in daily life, at home, at work, with children, that is, mountaineering. It forms the character and the desire to keep going and do not give up”.
Silvia reminds her childhood house view of the majestic Cayambe volcano and starring at it for long time in the morning, afternoon and night. The changing lights of the colossus. And it is there where the dream was born that one day she would stand at the top of the Cayambe. «Throughout the city there was a rumor that became a myth that locals will never manage to conquer the majestic snow-capped peak. We got to proof them wrong for it is possible for a Cayambenian to climb the third highest snow-capped mountain in Ecuador ”.
While they were climbing, she says, the height begins to take its toll. At each step you have to stop and catch your breath to fill the lungs. It is a good time to look back and enjoy the spectacular scope that opens up on the horizon as you contemplate the Antisana volcano, then the Cotopaxi and in the background the Chimborazo.
She gracefully remembers when she lost a crampon on a wall of ice, a fundamental piece to reach the summit. This forced her to go back and pick it up to put it back to her boot all on a sudden to avoid freezing. He nostalgically recalls that this delay of approximately 30 minutes earned him a call from the team leader.
Its meaning comes from three native languages: in the caranqui language ‘kayan’ means ice; in Quechua, ‘cajan’, which means high and cold place, and in quitu ‘bi’ which means water or source of life.
After meeting these two iconic climbers I wonder what else is there to be discovered in this millennial city that is getting al set to celebrate the festivities of San Pedro de Cayambe.