It snowed all afternoon and all night. The obvious decision was to call it quits, too much snow and subsequent avalanche danger. A guide and client team tried to go up anyway and encountered nasty snow, ice and avalanche conditions. The turned around about 1/3 of the way up.
Chimborazo wasn't in very good condition and in my opinion wasn't that fun when compared to the other peaks I climbed in Ecuador. Lots of falling ice and falling rock on all routes due to the dry weather I guess. The "normal route" El Castillo has been plagued by rockfall. The Wymper Route has falling ice and was shooting baseball size rocks at us.
After reaching some serious avalanche danger (we also heard but did not see a huge avalanche in the dark on the way up), we had to backtrack 1000 feet/300 meters down the mountain (very tiring at almost 20,000 feet or around 6000 meters) and do an icy traverse over to the upper Castillo Route in order and reclimb the elevation lost to reach the Veintimilla summit. It made our elevation gained 1615 meters/5300 feet that day which made me very tired at that altitude. Hopefully conditions will improve. It used to be a straight forward ascent but conditions weren't good for our trip. On the other hand, the weather was great.
Was about 1 minute away from getting crushed in a rock/ice avalanche in the rocky section of the Castillo route. Then it was very hard ice in the two steep couloirs on the ridge. Ice axe wouldn't go in and we had to front point up two 50 foot sections. I bonked hard after the steep ice at about 18,000 feet. Unfortunately after the avalanche it was unsafe to go back down so I had to climb up to 19,000 feet so I could traverse across and go down the Whymper route. Why the hell we didn't go up the seemingly much easy Whymper route is still a mystery to me. Local guides didn't serve us well today....
Climbed the Castillo route Jan. 5 and 11, and I was surprised at how much snow melted off the bottom section. In my opinion, the bottom is dangerous due to loose rock to trip over and frequent rock fall. I think it would be better approached starting left up the Castillo ridge, but there is not a road or hut there.
6.5 hours to Whymper and 3.5 hours down. It only took 1/2 hour from Vientilla to Whymper.
Made it to Veintemilla summit, but I would have liked the Whymper summit. Conditions were cold, windy, and cloudy all up the ridge and REALLY cold and windy at the Veinemilla, so I called it good enough.
Whymper summit or Veintemilla summit via the El Castillo route; choices, choices...
some thoughts for what they are worth:
Several people told me that it can take 3+ hours (round trip) to get from the Veintemilla summit to the Whymper summit when the penitentes are exposed. Conceivably, This might add up to three hours to your climb if you started at the Whymper Refugio. One safety consideration on the El Castillo route is getting down below the obvious lower section (that is prone to rockfall) before 10:00 am. The tradeoff may be that you need to leave earlier than say 12:00 am to allow for more time cross the penitente field between summits as well as making it down below the lower section by 10:00 am. The key seems to be getting a good estimate on how long it will take your party to make that "round trip" from Veintemilla to Whymper and back and then leaving that much earlier before 12:00 am. This approach also puts you on the very upper part of the mountain at the coldest time of the day and also might mean that you are still approaching the Veintemilla in the dark of the morning.
We had a party of three fairly strong and acclimatized climbers on one rope that left the EW refugio at 12:00 am. We summited the Veintemilla at ~6:15 am and were back at the EW refugio at 9:30 am. So we made it down below the rockfall-prone section at before 10:00 am, but probably wouldn't have made this "cut off" time if we had gone for the Whymper summit. There had been a bit of snow over the previous week on Chimborazo and the penitentes were fairly covered, but the snow didn't look too consolidated on the summit plateau. My guess would have been that it would have taken a bit of negotiating to get over to the Whymper. This would have no doubt eaten into our time frame of getting down the El Castillo route to try and avoid potential rockfall on the lower section.One work around for this slim-time-margin scenario might be to put a high camp on the route so that a party would have more time on the upper mountain to get over to the Whymper summit. But this would mean carrying full loads up to the ridge above the El Castillo. Hmmmm...
On a different note, I wouldn't skimp on handwear on this route. For example, I brought Black Diamond Guide gloves (retail $154) thinking they would be overkill on this mountain. They turned out to be ideal for the conditions we encountered. Something like an 8000m mitt would be probably be overkill, but would advise beefy, warm gloves/mitts for the upper mountain. I would also definitely recommend plastic double boots instead of leather w/ supergaiters. I used the newer model Koflach Arctis Expe boots and actually had cold feet very briefly near the summit. Weird.
Anyway, just one crazy alpinisto's opinion....:)
Caught in a storm at 18,000 plus... lightening. Dumped 4 inches of fresh snow during the 2 hours we bivuaced. Turned around in very dangerous avalanche loaded conditions. Went from clear skies to storm in 30 minutes.
Horrible weather all the way up and down. Could never see more than 10 meters in front. Still,made it to the top completely covered in ice.
Normal Wymper route. Climbed with a couple of friends from Oreagon who I met in Ecuador. Summit was unfortunatly in mist just like Cotopaxi!
Great weather but very tough conditions. I had to use the lower hut (4,800 meters) since the Whymper hut route had a lot of black ice. There was a lot of black ice leading up to and past the Castillo. Above the ridge there was a lot of very hard blue ice requiring multiple consecutive pitches. My axe sometimes glanced-off the surface! After this there were some crevasses and a huge penitente field up to 6-7 feet high starting below 6,000 meters and covering the Veintimilla summit. The route to the Whymper summit and the summit itself was protected by extensive penitente fields up to 10 feet high! Of course I didn't go past the Veintimilla summit.
Fun, if not a long, one day climb.
Stayed in the comfortable Whymper Refugio following climbs of Cayambe and Cotopaxi. Midnight start. Encountered some fun ice on the glacier. Pointe Veintemilla reached in fog. A great climb. (Cold beer at hut on return.) Perfect end to a great expedition.
First climb where I hit 'the wall' (I was a walking zombie, taking 10 breaths per step) Luckily, though, we were only 10 minutes from the summit.
In 1989 with some of my climbing buddies we went to Ecuador. At the time I was 18. I remember that we were racing toward the summit just for the fun of it.
Camped on the glacier at 19,200 ft. Awesome experience. First day to camp gave us blue skies and great views. We had a good strong start. I hated the Ventimilla dome. Had a little clear skies on the summit (Whymper) but it clouded in fast. There was an increadible white-out traversing back to Ventimilla, very depressing as I could not see my progress until I got there. Had a quick descent. Very enjoyable.
Our American guide brought his 10 yr old son along. He made it as well. Youngest I've ever heard of making it up Chimbo!
Chimborazo is a real challenge when the weather does not cooperate. I was not lucky, so the climb was really tough because of extremely cold and windy weather. Anyway, impressive mountain and rewarding summit!
After terrible weather on Cotopaxi, the absolutely perfect starry windless night on Chimborazo was a relief. At the Whymper summit for sunrise and nearly every volcano in Ecuador could be seen. My partner got AMS early on and the guide took her down. He then reascended and caught up with me and another rope team a few hundred meters higher. I would definitely recommend Freddy with Moggely climbing as a guide. We summitted in 6 hours. Remember- Veintimilla is not the summit.
Alpine grade PD (40 degrees, + 1500m from Refugio Carrel), with a guide of the native community of Guargalla, windy during the night and good weather in the morning. If you climb with a guide, make sure he takes you to the true summit (Cumbre Whymper). Many of them prefer turning back at Cumbre Veintemilla avoiding the long traverse to Whymper, pretending the summit is reached !
Icy! We bailed before we got in over our heads. Nobody summited that day.
I enjoyed this climb much more than Cotopaxi. Maybe I was more acclimitised but i think also because the terrain is more varied. Just the guide and I left at midnight and at Ventimillia at 7am. I must admit looked over at the whmper summit and didnt think any thing further could be gained by walking across to that mound. I was just wearing marmot spring gloves and hands got a bit chilly towards the top. Both my and my guides feet were very cold even in plastics. Wonderfully clear conditions, a bit of mist on the top slighly impeding 360 deg views. We used a screw going up on one section but just leaned right back on our crampons going down.