For the two months I’ve lived in Riobamba, I’ve only seen Chimborazo in its entirety twice. This behemoth of a mountain is 6,263 m (20,548 ft) tall, making it the highest mountain in Ecuador. But thanks to the constant cloud cover, most times, I only see the base.
Chimborazo fun facts:
- It is the highest peak near the equator.
- Chimborazo is not the highest mountain by elevation above sea level, but its location along the equatorial bulge makes its summit the farthest point on the Earth’s surface from the Earth’s center.
Thanks to my friend, Gustavo, his car and a visit from our friend, Ashwin, I got to finally see Chimborazo up close and personal.
We got to the entrance of the park at about 9:00. There is no entrance fee, but everyone (locals and foreigners) had to sign in at the entrance. Just make sure to bring a pen. The guy who worked there had only one working pen for a crowd of 20 to use.
From the entrance, we drove up a winding, dusty unpaved road for about 20 minutes until we got to the first refuge.
As you would expect, the mountainside was bare and desolate. All I could see were rocks and clouds.
Inside the first refuge, one can use the facilities and have a warm empanada. And if needed, one can also buy a fleece jacket and a beanie!
The day I was there, the wind was blowing like crazy. I wore leggings, hiking pants, three layers of shirts and a jacket with reflective fabric, and I was still cold.
The hike from the first to the second refuge didn’t look far, but the altitude made it impossible for me to breathe. I also had a massive headache while walking up, so I had to make a few stops. Gustavo and Ashwin kept plugging away.
It took me 35 minutes to get to the second refuge. We couldn’t go inside, but we were allowed to continue a bit further up before the restricted area.
We walked to Condor Cocha, a Lake. Gustavo, who almost got to the top of Chimborazo on a hike with a guide, said this lake can be very full depending on the season.
Gustavo abandoned Ashwin and I as he is a trail runner who likes going downhill. As I am paranoid of dislocating my knee again (Mt. Fuji flashbacks) and Ashwin didn’t have on proper shoes, it took us about 20-30 minutes to get back to the first refuge while it only took Gustavo 10 minutes.
Maybe one day, I’ll try to get to the very top of Chimborazo. But then again, I’ll have to pay $250 for a guide and other fees, so maybe not. I can, however, check Chimborazo off my to-do list in Ecuador!
Here’s the DIY version to get to Chimborazo from Riobamba:
- From Terminal Terrestre, get a bus to Guaranda. The earliest bus leaves at 07:30 and is run by Coop. 10 de Noviembre. Coop. Flota Bolívar starts their buses at 08:30 and goes once an hour. Tickets cost $2.50.
- Let the driver/ticket taker know you want to go to Chimborazo. It takes about an hour from the bus station until the park entrance.
- Once you sign in at the entrance, it’ll be a good hour walk to the first refuge. Or you can hitch a ride with anyone with a car heading up. Do the same going back down.
- To catch a ride back to Riobamba, wait across the street from the park entrance and huddle with other hikers to keep warm until a bus comes by.