The Chimborazo Volcano (6268 m) is the highest mountain in Ecuador and is a well-known climb among mountaineers. This is one of the highest mountains with non-technical routes - making it perfect for less seasoned climbers.
While everyone knows that Everest is the highest mountain on the planet, Chimborazo is actually an additional mile away from the center of the Earth. This is because the planet bulges around the middle where the volcano lies.
So if you’re looking to climb to the highest point on Earth, you’ve come to the right place! Here is a complete overview of the Chimborazo climb.
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While you can climb Chimborazo at any time during the year, the best time to climb is during the November - February period and from June to July. These months offer the clearest weather.
We don’t recommend climbing Chimborazo between March and May because there is much more snow and rain during these months. Thus, it is much more dangerous to hike during this period. The weather conditions in September and October are generally quite clear but it can be very unpredictable.
The duration of the ascent up Chimborazo depends on the route you decide to take. Many of the routes start at the two huts that sit close to 5000 meters on the mountain so it takes between 9 and 12 hours to get to the summit and back again.
There are two longer routes, one of which takes about a day and a half , while the other takes two to three days. These are for more experienced climbers and mountaineers as they are more difficult and require more skill.
The Chimborazo climb is not technically difficult but does require some mountaineering experience and a good level of fitness. The high altitude is what makes this climb quite tough as altitude sickness is a big risk.
Make sure you acclimatize properly beforehand and take note of the symptoms to ensure that you don’t put your life at risk.
You need to have a good level of fitness to be able to climb Chimborazo as you’ll be on your feet for about 10 hours straight. The terrain is also very rugged and uneven so it requires a lot of leg strength.
There are several different routes to the Chimborazo summit but most people follow the easier routes that start at the refuge huts. There are two huts: Carrel Hut (4850 m) and Whymper Hut (5000 m).
The most popular routes are the Original Route, and the North Side via Las Murallas Rojas or El Castillo. El Castillo is the most used route. All of these are grade 2 routes on the UIAA scale. This means that they are more difficult than your average hike and require some basic mountaineering skills.
Although you don’t need to be an experienced mountaineer, make sure you get some training and know how to use crampons and other climbing equipment.
You will get dropped off at one of the huts and embark on the ascent of the Chimborazo summit just before midnight. This is so that you will be able to get back to the huts by about 10 am.
As the sun rises, the snow melts and increases the risk of an avalanche or rock falls. Therefore, it is much safer to make the ascent at night and be back before the sun gets too hot.
If you’re a more avid climber and are looking for something a little more challenging, then the Thielmann Glacier Route or the South West Face is worth looking into.
Like the easier routes, the Thielmann Glacier will also take around 9 hours. However the South West Face route will take about a day and a half.
Both of these routes are classed as grade 3 so they are steeper to climb and require more skill.
For the experienced mountaineers, the West Face and the Arista del Sol routes are the most difficult climbs up Chimborazo.
The West Face will have vertical ice walls of up to 30 feet that you will need to climb. So it is very important that you know what you’re doing and you’ll definitely need an ice axe and crampons. This route is classed as a WI4.
Arista del Sol is the most challenging route on Chimborazo and is classed as a grade 5. It is also the longest route and takes about 2 to 3 days. Much of this route is on solid rock so it requires a lot of strength and mountaineering experience.
The cost of the Chimborazo climb depends on the type and length of the tour package you pay for. If you’re paying for the Chimborazo climb by itself, it should cost you between $250-$450.
Many tour operators include several mountain climbs in their packages in order to prepare you for the high altitude and help you to acclimatize before taking on Chimborazo. These can cost between $3000 and $5000.
Accommodation at the huts on Chimborazo costs about $15 a night or $30 including meals. Taxis or buses from the city to the huts may cost up to $35.
To see what the summit of Chimborazo is truly like, watch this short video by Mark Horrell. Here you can see the rugged and snowy terrain you'll be hiking on to reach the summit.
The main thing you need to do in order to prepare for the Chimborazo climb is take the time to acclimatize. Altitude sickness is the main cause of people having to turn back and descend before reaching the summit.
So if you want to successfully summit the famous volcano, take at least two weeks before your climb to acclimatize to high altitude.
Luckily, Ecuador is full of mountains, volcanoes and other high altitude areas for you to conquer before attempting Chimborazo. You could start with the Quilotoa Loop, Rucu Pichincha and Cotopaxi to help your body adapt to the high altitude and lower oxygen levels in the air.
You also need to have a good level of fitness and health to be able to successfully climb Chimborazo. Your legs and core need to be very strong in order to handle the steep slopes and rugged terrain of the volcano.
Like any other high altitude mountain, there are certain risks when climbing Chimborazo. Altitude sickness can be very dangerous if symptoms are ignored so make sure to monitor your well-being on the ascent and turn around if you start to experience any of the symptoms.
Avalanches, as well as ice and rock falls, also occur on the volcano and are very dangerous. The summit of Chimborazo is done at night to reduce the chance of being caught in an avalanche.
Yes. In order to climb Chimborazo you will need to be accompanied by a certified guide. This is because there have been a lot of fatalities on the mountain that could have been avoided with the proper guidance. Therefore, in 2012, the government in Ecuador prohibited climbing without a guide.
Make sure you book with a guide who has the proper certifications. These include international certifications (IFMGA/UIAGM) or Ecuador’s certification (ASEGUIM).
There is a limit of 2 people per guide for safety purposes.
Yes, you should get travel insurance if you are planning on climbing Chimborazo. Make sure you get a plan that covers any medical emergencies and repatriation. You should also ensure that the policy covers mountaineering and high altitude trekking up to 6000 meters.
Adie is a nature and wildlife lover living in Cape Town, South Africa. Growing up, she had many opportunities to explore the outdoors by hiking, going on safaris and venturing into the karoo with her family. This led to her love of animals, the environment and discovering new places to explore.