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chimborazo reserve

Chimborazo is the highest volcano is Ecuador. Due to the equatorial bulge the summit is also the furthest point from the centre of the earth. It´s high. It´s also a monster of a mountain which looms over Riobamba and the surrounding villages. The slopes rise from the valley, first as cultivated fields, then steep scree and finally a glaciated peak rounded like a camel´s hump, often covered in cloud which swirls and occasionally parts to allow you a glimpse of the summit.

The mountain is not really technically difficult to climb but the glacier, the altitude and the weather conditions all mean that summiting is far from certain. Many operators in Quito and Riobamba as well as individual guides are willing to help you try though.

If you don´t want to climb to the summit there are a number of other ways you can enjoy the volcano and the surrounding landscape.

1. Visit one of the refuges. You need to hire a car or take the occasional bus which runs along the road which links Riobamba and Guaranda. As it climbs you may see the vicuñas (small llamas) which live and breed in the reserve. At the guard post high up on the desert like arenal it is necessary to pay and then either drive or walk up an 8km rough track to the refuge. From there you can also see Volcán Carihuairazo which also the part of the reserve and 5020m high.

2. Hike in the reserve. A good route leads from Urbina (on the eastern side of the volcanoes) crosses the reserve between the two peaks and emerges at the Ambato-Guaranda road.

3. It is possible to spend a day with Baltázar Ushua, the last man who still climbs up to the Chimborazo glacier to cut blocks of ice which mules carry down to the market in Riobamba.

It costs $2 for Ecuadorian and foreign visitors to enter the park. Under 16’s and over 65’s pay 50 cents. Children under 2 years old don’t have to pay.


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