Rising more than 6,000 metres (19,600 feet) above the altiplano, Chimborazo is an inactive volcano in the Cordillera Occidental, at the heart of Ecuador.
Situated about 150 kilometres (93 miles) southwest of the capital, Quito, the peak is one of the most popular climbing destinations in the country.
Along with being the tallest mountain in Ecuador, Chimborazo is home to one of the largest glaciers near the equator. While several of the routes up the mountain are not very technically difficult, the peak is a physically challenging climb.
Quick Facts about Chimborazo
- Chimborazo is the tallest mountain in Ecuador and the only one that exceeds 6,000 metres in elevation.
- Due to the spheroid shape of the earth (the planet is not a perfect sphere), the summit of Chimborazo is the farthest point from the centre of the earth.
- Climbing any glaciated mountain in Ecuador is prohibited by law unless you hire a certified mountain guide.
History of Chimborazo
Chimborazo was first explored by Europeans in 1746 when a team of French explorers attempted to map and climb the peak.
By 1802, several attempts to reach the summit of Chimborazo had been made, but none got as far as Alexander von Humboldt, who had to turn back after reaching 5,875 metres (19,275 feet).
Until the beginning of the nineteenth century, Chimborazo was considered to be the highest mountain on earth.
The summit of the peak was finally reached in 1880 by the renowned British mountaineer Edward Whymper (who is most famous for being the first person to climb the Matterhorn and was also the first to climb Cayambe) and his two Italian guides, Jean-Antoine Carrel and Louis Carrel.
Experience Required for Climbing Chimborazo
There are various different routes up to the summit of Chimborazo, some of which are more technically difficult than the others. However, all of the routes are physically challenging.
It is important for all aspiring climbers to be properly acclimatized before heading up to the summit of Chimborazo as elevation is gained quickly on the ascent. Many climbers head to Cotopaxi or Cayambe before climbing Chimborazo.
Most climbs involve a moderate hike to the mountain hut on the first day and a prolonged 8 to 9 hour ascent that combines hiking and glacier trekking on the second day.
Some of the tougher routes include sustained rock climbing and ice climbing in addition to the glacier trekking.
Main Routes up Chimborazo
While there are 7 different routes up to the summit of Chimborazo, El Castillo is the most popular. Rated as a Class II, this route begins from the Whymper Hut and requires an 8 to 9 hour ascent (1,200 metres/3,900 feet) up the volcano’s glaciated north face to arrive at its main summit.
El Castillo is among the three main routes that are located on the north face. The other two are Las Murallas Rojas (Class II) and the Thielman Glacier route (Class II and III).
There is also a route up the west face (WI4) and two that follow the southwest ridge (Class II and III), one of which is the route originally used to climb the peak.
The hardest route up the mountain is eastern Arista del Sol, which is rated as Class V. It was first climbed in 1983 and requires substantial rock climbing at the beginning before arriving at the glaciated summit.