Mount Chimborazo: Climbing Glaciers Near The Equator

Driving Up Mount Chimborazo

It is easier to climb a mountain when the guide drives you to 15,000 feet. Don’t get me wrong. Climbing that last 5,600 feet was one of the most difficult things I’ve done, but not for the skill required. The fact that the air was missing half of its oxygen is what had me quitting twenty or thirty times on the way up Chimborazo. It just gets difficult to move up there.

The Graveyard

The little monuments near the first refuge weren’t for climbers without skill. The graveyard is a testament to the unpredictability of all high places. Chimborazo is very high, it randomly drops large rocks on you, and has weather that changes by the minute. Even as we were hiking to the second refuge, we could hear the rocks and pieces of ice falling somewhere above.

El Refugio Edward Whymper is a simple, unheated hut at 16,000 feet, named after the English climber who first made it to the summit of the mountain. Okay, it isn’t entirely unheated. There is a fireplace, and somebody feels like carrying wood up to 5000 meters, the fire might raise the temperature in the hut by 3 degrees.

We had “mate de coca” a tea made of coca leaves, which are also known for another product made from them–one that is taken up the nose. Then we went hiking for a short while. That was my acclimatization. We ate, and I slept for at least an hour before starting the ascent at eleven that night.

A Little About Mount Chimborazo

Chimborazo is in Ecuador, not far from the Equator (100 miles south). The elevation in the center of the country, and the moderating effect of the Humboldt Current, which runs along the west side of South America, gives the country near perfect weather. A bit hot along the coast and lowlands, but spring–like in Quito (the capital) , with daily highs in the sixties to low seventies year–round. Wonderful weather almost everywhere–until you get high enough.

Chimborazo, at it’s peak, is the furthest point from the center of the Earth. Our planet bulges at the equator, making Mount Chimborazo even futher out there than Everest. It has the distinction of being the closest point to the sun on the planet, and yet still the coldest place in Ecuador.