Chimborazo Volcano

Chimborazo Volcano, Ecuador

Chimborazo Volcano



Whymper Summit:6268m
Veintimilla Summit:6214m
Politécnica Summit:5820m
Nicolás Martínez Summit:5570m
Carrel Refuge:4855m
Whymper Refuge:5035m
Access Control:4370m
Urbina Train Station:3622m


The Chimborazo with its 6268m is the highest mountain in Ecuador. Its diameter is approximately 20km at its base, and its glaciers start at over 5000 meters, this being a higher glacier start line than that of the other Ecuadorian snowcapped mountains. Its southern flank is especially dry and it would not be unusual to find the start at heights above 5600 meters. The glaciers of the Chimborazo have been baptized with the name of famous explorers and visitors of the mountain; among the most outstanding we have: Stübel, Thielmann, Humboldt and García Moreno. These glaciers descend between rock walls creating huge seracs and crevasses. The main summits of the Chimborazo are four: Veintimilla, Whymper (or Máxima), Politécnica and Nicolás Martínez. The first two are frequently climbed; On the other hand, the Polytechnic and Nicolás Martínez summits have few climbs and a higher difficulty, especially the Nicolás Martínez peak, which is the lowest, although the most difficult of the Chimborazo.

Glaciares del Chimborazo

The Chimborazo was considered for some time as "the highest mountain in the world", a name that probably had its origin with the first explorers who visited it, among them the famous Alexander von Humboldt. At that time little or nothing was known about the great mountains of the Himalayas and those located south of the Equator. It was this fame that proved to be an irresistible temptation to the famous English mountaineer Edward Whymper; who after conquering the Matterhorn (Matterhorn) which was considered as one of the last great peaks of the old continent, since most of the desired mountains had already been conquered, decided to join the Carrel brothers to go out in search of new adventures in lands almost unknown to Europeans. Edward Whymper and the Carrel brothers were the first to ascend to the summit of Chimborazo; at a time when it was considered impossible to do so and nobody had an idea of ​​how the human body could react at that altitude. But they were not completely wrong about "the highest mountain in the world", because in recent times it has been determined that the summit of the Chimborazo is the furthest point from the center of the Earth, likewise, it could be said that it is the "closest to the Sun".

National Park: Reserva de Producción Faunística Chimborazo

South face
South face
Way to the Veintimilla Summit
Way to the Veintimilla Summit
Whymper Summit
Whymper Summit


Western Cordillera; 27 kilometers in a straight line to the northwest of Riobamba; 30 km southwest of Ambato; 150 km southwest of Quito. There are some ways to approach this mountain:

1) Ambato Approach: Just arriving at Ambato from Quito, you take the "Rodrigo Pachano Lalama" avenue to the right that goes around the western side of Ambato and leads to the Ficoa neighborhood. This avenue ends up calling "The Guaytambos" while it crosses the district of Ficoa towards the south, little beyond the Tungurahua Club, changes the name to "Manuelita Sáenz". Continue south until you come to Antonio Clavijo Avenue, where you have to turn right to take the E491 motorway in the direction of Guaranda. This highway is paved. Approximately 64 kilometers away you can see the sign on the left that indicates the detour to Riobamba and the refuge of Chimborazo. 10 km. additional by this asphalted road and will appear on the left the sign of the detour to the Chimborazo refuges. Right in this place is the access control to the "Reserve of Chimborazo Faunistic Production". The last section is ballasted and arrives at Carrel Refuge after approximately 7.3km, it’s normally possible to get there in any vehicle. In total 81.3km, 1h30min, from Ambato – Ficoa to the Carrel Refuge parking lot.

2) Riobamba Approach: Take the E35 highway in Riobamba, which goes northwest towards the towns of Licán and Calpi, then the 492 highway until you pass the town of San Juan and take the detour to the right that leads to Ambato. From Riobamba there are approximately 18.2 km until this detour, and an additional 23 km per pavement to the access control to the reserve and the refuges. In total 41.2km to the Carrel Refuge parking lot.

3) "Abraspungo" Approach: This approach is used above all to ascend to the Carihuairazo. Also it has served in few occasions to ascend to the Chimborazo by its North face. Continue along the Ambato Guaranda until you come to the detour to the left that leads to the Carihuairazo refuge. Just ahead you can see the sign that indicates access to the Cunuyacu Community. If you have left Ambato, this detour will be 13.2 kilometers before reaching the detour to Riobamba and the refuges of Chimborazo.

4) "Urbina" Approach: Starting from the old Urbina train station, you can find some 4×4 roads that lead to the eastern slope of the Chimborazo. This approach route is little frequented and is used only to ascend to the Nicolás Martínez summit. One of the best ways to approach the eastern face of Chimborazo, when coming from Quito, is to take the paved detour to the Urbina Train Station and continue until you find a sign to the right that indicates access to San Rafael de Chuquipogyo little town. Or simply, start the walk at the Urbina station.

Ambato Approach:
Ficoa – Access Control1h20min74km
Access Control – Carrel Refuge14min7.3km
Riobamba Approach:
Riobamba – Access Control54min41.2km
Guaranda Approach:
Guaranda – Access Control45min41.4km
"Abraspungo" Approach:
Ambato (Ficoa) – "Comunidad Cunuyacu" Sign1h51km
"Comunidad Cunuyacu" Sign – Carihuairazo Refuge8min4km
"Urbina" Approach:
Ambato – Deviation to Urbina Station45min31km
Deviation to Urbina Station – Urbina Station5min3km


  • It usually takes two days to ascend to the summit of this mountain.
  • If you do not have private transportation, it is convenient to rent a pickup truck at the central plaza of Riobamba or Guaranda, sometimes you can find them more easily at the markets. The round trip value is approximately US $ 45, which can be shared among all occupants (about 5 or 6 maximum)
  • It is forbidden to drive the vehicle outside the established routes. This infraction is subject to a fine.
  • Vicuñas abound in the paramos of Chimborazo and often cross the roads, so caution is required.
  • Caring for flora and fauna; hunting is prohibited.
  • Do not litter.
  • There is no need to pay entrance to the reserve; but you have to comply with the entrance schedule. Access control allows entry from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Next to the access control there is a small museum, a handicraft shop and a coffee shop. If for some reason you do not arrive at the established time, it is possible to camp at this place, with access to hygienic services.
  • The hike from the access control to the Carrel Refuge is 7.2 km, not recommended for people not acclimatized to altitude.
  • The vehicle is parked next to the Carrel Refuge at 4855 meters and you can climb a little less than 200 meters to the Whymper at 5035 meters , an average time will be between 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  • It is very important to be careful with the altitude and to be alert to the altitude sickness symptoms. You will go up in a short time from the valley at 2800 meters until 4855m at the Carrel Refuge. This is 2055 meters. At this altitude, the oxygen level and atmospheric pressure are much lower than at sea level, which can cause decompensation in unaccustomed people, very typical in people who come from the coast. In case of persistent cough, dizziness, nausea, headache, confusion, breathing difficulty, you should immediately get down and seek a doctor.
  • Solar radiation is very strong in Ecuador, much more in the mountains. It is always recommended to use sunscreen.
  • The visit to Chimborazo can be considered a classic in Ecuador; the landscape is very attractive and the Chimborazo very impressive.
  • If you want to hit the snow for the first time, you should know that this will be possible depending on the time of year and weather conditions. When the mountain is dry it may be necessary to climb above 5,200 meters, and expose yourself to many dangers of loose rocks, avalanches, falling rocks, etc. Therefore, it is not advised to try it in these conditions. In other seasons, when it has snowed and the mountain is cold, it is possible to find snow from the Carrel refuge.
  • A very recommended walk is to climb from the Carrel to the Whymper refuge, and continue along the trails a little further up to Condor Cocha lagoon, always with caution about the dangers already mentioned. There are some other interesting alternatives of trekking: the path of the "Agujas de Whymper", or that of "Templo Machay".
  • The Chimborazo is very attractive for mountain biking. You can go downhill from the Carrel refuge to the access control by a special bicycles path; or hike following the many paths that exist in the area.
  • Likewise, climbing lovers can find their paradise at the San Juan cliff. Via Riobamba – Guaranda, approximately 10 minutes past the town of San Juan on the left.

Climbing and Hiking

There are some attractive hiking trails at the Chimborazo area; here are some of them:
  • Hike from the Carrel Refuge to the Whymper Refuge
  • Whymper Refuge - Condor Cocha Lagoon
  • Whymper Refuge - Agujas de Whymper
  • Carrel Refuge - Templo Machay
  • Árbol Solitario - Templo Machay Route
  • Climbing to the Chimborazo Summit
  • Bosque de Polylepis Route
  • Abraspungo Trail
Click for more information


Espeletia barclayana
Espeletia barclayana
Ageratina cutervensis
Ageratina cutervensis
Castilleja arvensis
Castilleja arvensis
Bidens andicola
Bidens andicola


First visits and opened routes:
  • Attempt to the summit: Alexander von Humboldt, 1803
  • Simón Bolívar visit: My Delirium on the Chimborazo, 1822
  • Attempt: M. Boussingault, 1831
  • Veintimilla and Whymper summits (first conquerors): Edward Whymper and the Carrel brothers, 1880
  • Veintimilla and Whymper (first national): Nicolás Martinez, Paul Suzor and Dr. Pierre Reimburg, 1911
  • North and Whymper Summits (north face): J. Richard Hechtel, George Barnes, Herbert Hultgren, William Ross, Margaret Young, 1968
  • Chimborazo Integral (the 4 summits): Carlos Cevallos, Jorge Castillo, Maximiliano Yépez and Rómulo Pazmiño, 1983
  • Chimborazo Integral, Arista del Sol route: Iván Vallejo and Oswaldo Morales, 1989
Click to read about their visits and ascents


The Chimborazo volcano is located 150 km south of Quito and at 6268 meters above sea level, it is the highest volcano in the Northern Andes. It is built on the Western Cordillera, being the southernmost volcano of this mountain range. It is a volcano composed of three successive buildings. Basal building, mainly effusive, which would have been active between 120 and 60 thousand years before the present. Its construction would have occurred in two stages, the last being the formation of a complex of domes. This building was affected by a large sectoral collapse that occurred 60-65 thousand years ago, the same one that produced an avalanche of debris whose deposit is distributed over the plain of the city of Riobamba, covering an area of ​​280 km2 with an average thickness of 40 m and an estimated total volume between 10 and 13 km3. After the emplacement of this avalanche, the activity recommenced in the eastern zone of the collapse scar, progressively building the Intermediate building. The activity of this one took place between 60 and 35 ka AP (Samaniego et al., 2012). The remnants of this building are the Politécnica and Martínez summits. Finally the activity migrated towards the west of the building initiating the construction of the youngest building whose summit, Whymper, is also the highest.

The estimated average eruptive rate for the Chimborazo during its history is approx. 0.8 km3 / ka. However, there is a decrease in the same from the oldest building to the current, with the eruptive rate of the latter being around 0.1 km3 / ka. During the Holocene, the eruptive activity of the Chimborazo consisted of explosive events of small volume at regular intervals. The most recent eruption would have taken place between the beginning of the 5th century and the end of the 7th century. The average interval between eruptions is 1000 years and therefore the Chimborazo is considered as a potentially active volcano. The presence of the glacier cap on the summit, the steep slope of its flanks and its location so close to the populated areas of Riobamba and Ambato, are factors that result in a high potential risk.

Source: Instituto Geofísico de la EPN

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