Hiking : Chimborazo

From SummitPost

Overview

Longtime consider as the highest mountain on the planet, Chimborazo was dethrone by the Himalayan and Peruvian peaks. Nevertheless, considering the geometry of the Earth, this summit is known as the farthest point from it’s center (see section below for full explanation). This huge mountain is the highest point in Ecuador. It has five summits, the highest culminating at 6267 meters. There are many routes up its slopes. The normal route runs up the Southeast flank and is a variation of the original Whymper route. One can also climb from the East side (sun ridge route) which involves mixed rock/ice climbing.

The Normal route sees many attempts all year long and is consider a class 4 climb with route finding and crevasses crossing. There are two refuges on the mountain at approx. 5000 meters and most of the parties do their summit bid directly from the huts. It is a 6-9 hours climb with slopes up to 60 degrees. People usually start their climb around midnight and return to the hut in the late morning.

Getting There

Fly to Quito and take a bus to Riobamba. There you will find good accommodations, restaurants and a lovely market on Saturdays. You can hire a taxi cab($15US) for the drive to the trailhead, 1/2 hour away from the Whymper Hut.

You can also stop at Ambato instead of Riobamba. It is more rustic but the accommodation is more complicated. From there you can take a bus towards Guaranda and stop at the lower trail head then climb up to the Whymper hut (16,250 feet) in 6-8 hours. Alternatively, as of January 2005, you can get public transportation to take you up to the entrance of the park, where you pay for the permit.

From there you have to hitchhike unless you have your private arrangement or are up for the dusty hike. From Ambato take a bus towards Guaranda, the driver will very likely know where to stop if you tell him where you want to go. If not, watch for a deserted house, painted with slogans, on the left side of the road; here you have to get off. (This house is also mentioned in the highly out of date and highly useless Bradt guide, which says you have to hike from here to the hut!)

A newly constructed (2-3 years ago) road , perpendicular to the Ambato-Guaranda road will take you to the entrance of the park. There are buses that pass this road, 1-2 each hour or alternatively hitchhiking may be a fastest option to consider. However, it is not much of a used road and not many trucks pass by. 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 trucks/buses going up to pick other trekkers/climbers.

Red Tape

Park access fees are $5-10 US. There is no parking fee but do not leave any expensive belonging in the car…Common sense implys you to carry-out what you carry-in and not to trash the mountain. There are no fees to climb the mountain.

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 are known for bad weather, especially in the month of April.

Make sure you start around midnight so you’ll be back before 1300 hours, 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 (5000m), 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 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.

Camping

As I said earlier, most parties climb directly from the hut. It provides bunk-beds (4 dozens), toilets, cold water, basic food supplies, stensils, gaz stove, fireplace and … cable TV (just kidding!) It cost a cheap $10US per night and a guardian will keep an eye on your belongings while you climb! What esle do you nead? 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.

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