Longtime considered as the highest mountain on the planet, Chimborazo was dethroned by the Himalayan and Peruvian peaks. Nevertheless, considering the geometry of the Earth, this summit is known as the farthest point from its center (see section below for full explanation). This huge mountain is the highest point in Ecuador. It has five summits, the highest culminating at 6,310 meters (20,720 ft.).
There are many routes up its slopes. The normal route runs up the Southwest flank and is a variation of the original Whymper route. One can also climb from the East side (sun ridge route, or Arista del Sol) which involves mixed rock/ice climbing.
The Normal route sees many attempts all year long and is considered a class 4 climb with route finding and crevasses crossing.
There are two refuges on the mountain, Carrel refuge at 4,800 m (15,744 ft.) and Whymper refuge at 5,000 m (16,400 ft.) where most of the parties do their summit bid from. It is a 6-9 hours climb with slopes up to 60 degrees. People usually start their climb one or two hours before midnight and return to the hut a couple hours before noon in order to avoid rock fall danger caused by sun hit at the glacier entrance known as “El Corredor”.
There is some discussion about the actual height of the summit:
In 1993 members of the School of Military Survey in Newbury, United Kingdom measured Chimborazo's altitude with the use of a differencial GPS and got a measurement of 6,268 m. It happened that they reached Cumbre Veintimilla (under foggy conditions) or the second highest summit which actually has that altitude. In a clear day Cumbre Whymper or Maxima is located in the back of it (visible from Cumbre Veintimilla only) and it can be reached after descending and traversing a couple hundred meters in east direction. At the moment the official altitude is 6,310 m (20, 702 ft.) as stated in most of the new mountaineering and climbing guides.
From the new Terminal de buses Quitumbe located at the south of Quito, take any of the southbound buses to Riobamba (USD. 3,75 – 3:30 hours). From Terminal Terrestre de Riobamba take one of the several buses that go to Guaranda, but ask the driver to drop you off at Chimborazo entrance (there's a signed turnoff for the Chimborazo refuges). It is located 30 minutes after passing the town of San Juan.
La Reserva de Producción Faunistíca Chimborazo gets its name for the hundreds of vicuñas that can be seen poking around in the area. They were imported from Chile in 1980 and are a protected specie of the Andes
You can also hire a taxi cab (USD 20,00) for the drive to the trailhead, 1/2 hour away from the Whymper Hut.
Starting your trip from Ambato (1 hour before Riobamba) is not advisable. You will have to take a bus to Guaranda and stop at “El Arenal” where buses passing by the trailhead aren’t too frequent and the risk of getting robbed is high. There’ve been reports of robbery lately in this area.
Once at the entrance of the park it is a matter of luck how fast/ for how much $$ you can get to the lower hut. In high season there might be pick up trucks/buses going up to pick other trekkers/climbers.
Note: As January 2012, the terminal in Riobamba is under construction and the improvised terminal is a little bit of a mess. None of the buses are letting passengers off at the park entrance, including the Flota Bolivar that goes to Guaranda. However, it's possible to take a bus and get dropped off at the Reserve entrance if you don't mention it before buying your ticket to Guaranda.
Taxis from Riobamba cost USD. 35.00 one way.
Thanks Socorro for the updates!
Red Tape Starting Nov.12 2012 nobody is allowed to climb any glaciated mountain in Ecuador without hiring an accredited mountain guide. This restriction was issued by Ecuadorian Goverment after the last fatal accidents that happened in 2012 in Illiniza Sur and Norte.
There are not fees to enter Chimborazo Reserve.
No parking fees
Refuges Whymper and Carrel are currently closed due to remodelation jobs from Dec.03.2012 - June 2013).
When To Climb
Chimborazo is climbable year round however, the best climbing months are June and July and December through early January. February through May is known for bad weather, especially in the month of April.
Make sure you start before midnight so you'll be back before 10 am at the latest, for two reasons:
First, rock fall hazard. The part of the route along The Castle, a large rock wall about one hour from the Refugio Whymper, gets dangerous around that time. Lots of small and large rocks start to fall down then from this high wall due to warming temperatures.
Passing this area (El Corredor) later in the afternoon is really running between falling rocks.
Secondly, clouds will most often roll in early in the afternoon, making route finding very difficult. As there are big areas of crevasses on both sides of the normal route, losing track can be very dangerous.
**** AS JANUARY 28. 2014 WHYMPER AND CARREL REFUGES ARE CURRENTLY CLOSED TO VISITORS AND CLIMBERS DUE TO REMODELING. ****
As I said earlier, most parties climb directly from the Whymper refuge (5,000 m / 16,400 ft.). It provides bunk-beds (4 dozens), brand new mattresses, toilets, cold water, basic food supplies, stencils, gas stove, fireplace and ... cable TV (just kidding!) .
At the moment overnight in the refuge is free, but a tip to the refuge’s care takers will be highly appreciated.
You can find the same facilities in the Carrel refuge (4,800 m / 15,744 ft.) as well. Your climb will have to start an hour earlier, though.
What else do you need? Camping is also allowed anywhere on the mountain and some parties make a high camp to cut the summit push in two days which, I think, increases your chances to make it to the summit. The most recommendable are:
El Castillo high camp, lays in the hollow of a bowl, just a few meters beyond the rock outcrop and at the left side (north) of the Southwest ridge (the normal route). Not advisable if there’s fresh snow accumulation on the first dome. This camp can get pummeled at least by the windblast of avalanches coming from above.
Moraine camp, located 10 minutes away from Whymper refuge at 5,050 m. There’s a wide flat field in this area. Make sure you set camp away from the moraines and the Thielman glacier.
More information about the refuges here
North Side – Las Murallas Rojas
Beltran, Campana, Carrel, Whymper (1880)
8-9 Hours for ascent. 3900 feet
North Side via the Castillo
8-9 Hours for ascent
North Side via the Thielmann Glacier
II to III
40 Degree slopes. 8 Hours for ascent. 4300 feet
S. House 1996
Sections of 85 Degree mixed climbing. 3900 feet
Carrel, Carrel, Whymper 1880
Follows SW Ridge and Face. 8-9 Hours for ascent. 4300 feet
South West Face
L. Griffin, M. Woolridge 1984
50 Degree and steeper sections. 1 ½ days for ascent. 5000 feet
Arista del Sol
J. Anhalzer, R. Cardenas, R. Navarrete 1983
The hardest route put up so far. The first 2/3 of the route is entirely rock. Requires 2 days. 3300 Feet.
Ascent HistoryThe following is a brief overview of the history of Chimborazo ascents. I have tried to hit the highlights.
1802-French climber Aime Bonpland and German climber Alexander von Humbolt reach a height of 19,300ft before being stopped by an "insurmountable cleft".
1880-The first ascent of the mountain by Italian J.A Carrel and British climber E. Whymper via the South West Ridge.
1968-An American/German team summited the technically challenging North Ridge via the Abraspungo Glacier.
1980-In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first ascent, a large hut was opened below the South West Ridge close to the foot of the Thielmann Glacier. This hut named Refugio Whymper is now used by a lot of ascent parties as "base camp".
1993-One of the worst accidents in the history of climbing in Ecuador occured on the upper slopes of the mountain. 13 people were caught in an avalanche high on the mountain resulting in 10 deaths.
Farthest from the Earths Center???
As stated in the Overview, Chimborazo's summit is the farthest point one can get from the center of the Earth and still be on land. It is about 2160m farther from the center than Everest's summit. This is only possible because the Earth is in the shape of an oblate spheroid, i.e., it is flattened (squashed) at the poles and bulging at the equator.
Here is a diagram (based on Klenke's Excel spreadsheet). His spreadsheet can calculate the distance from the center of the earth for any point on the Earth's surface (of known elevation above sea level). If you want to know the radial distance for some mountain or place, let Klenke know and he will calculate it for you.
Thanks Klenke for the above graph and explanation.
Ecuador: Climbing and Hiking Guide, 6th Edition, by Rob Rachowiecki and Mark Thurber, (2008)
Ecuador : A Climbing Guide by Yossi Brain. (September 2000)
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 Chimborazo is CT ÑIV C1
Other PhotosBelow are just some of the wonderful pictures submitted for this peak. I will be adding more sections as time goes on. Thanks to all who have submitted these pictures.
- Ice-X Foundation
Dutch climbing foundation, supported by very enthousiastic climbers. Seven Summits on our programm (just climbed Aconcagua solo off-season). Lots of info and photos available. Site is in Dutch only yet. English version coming soon!
Great video of hut and climb up some of Whymper route
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