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Mark Brown

Chimborazo in Ecuador

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I'd like to speak with someone who's climbed Chimborazo. After reading that you can take a taxi all the way up to 15,700 and there's a hut at 16,400 with gas and water my enthusiasm is considerably waned. The entire mountain now seems defiled.

 

Can anyone tell me whether Chimborazo is worth climbing?

 

Mark

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Is anything worth climbing?

 

There are 2 huts - one at the parking area and one a short hike in. One way or another, they're both more or less at the base of the mountain. Of course, there is more than one way up the mountain, and if you want to be away from huts, etc. you could certainly go up one of the less traveled routes. Also, be aware that conditions have changed dramatically over the past few years, so route descriptions may or may not be accurate.

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Apart from your issues with human encroachment on this peak, a big hurdle currently is route conditions/choice. The snow/ice on the mountain has deteriorated severely in the last 5 years making it more technical, prone to avalanche hazard from recent snowfall, and has generally changed the nature of the standard route. There is some good news in the route category though, from what I hear.

 

Per your "chief complaint" I've never climbed it, and don't know how to answer that question for you. I have a lot of friends who have, even one there as we speak. "Defilement" is all around us, and is serious, but we are all really part of the problem. It seems like you are already at your own conclusion though.

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I climbed it back in 1994. The "hut" is large and well furnished. It's not quite as nice as the refugio at Huayna Potosi. I climbed the standard route and found it to be a glacier slog but with glacial retreat I could see it being much different. Even back then there was a short section that you had to rush through as it was prone to rockfall. One thing to keep in mind is the altitude. It's still pretty high even though you start high. I went straight from the jungle to the hut and then went for the summit the next day and got the worst case of AMS I've ever had. We made it to the 1st summit before I puked and then turned around. The main summit is only 100m higher, but it involves descending a saddle between the peaks and would have taken about an hour more to reach and I didn't have it in me.

 

If you are going all the way to Ecuador to climb, you might as well just go to Bolivia where the climbing is much better.

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Excellent! This seals it. Can you recommend anything specifically in Bolivia? In the December--February time frame I'll be trying Aconcagua, but I'd like to get ready at a higher latitude. Or I should say, lower latitude, closer to the equator.

Edited by Mark Brown

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At an earlier stage of life much was worth climbing. As I get older, less and less. My requirements change. Now there is a large spiritual component across which I cannot allow a road to be paved.

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Excellent! This seals it. Can you recommend anything specifically in Bolivia? In the December--February time frame I'll be trying Aconcagua, but I'd like to get ready at a higher latitude. Or I should say, lower latitude, closer to the equator.

 

If you are looking for something with a spiritual component, get higher (in latitude). Patagonia (not the overpopulated dumps of Paine and Fitzroy) has plenty of spiritual places left.

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Just for context, realize that the road to Chimborazo is not "plowed" to 15,7, it just goes that high. It's on the equator, Quito has a mild climate at 9,350 ft, and 15,7 looks and feels like high plains. You are hardly on the mountain at that point, just on a broad uplift. I went there in 94 and climbed to one of the sub-summits before bailing with a brutal headache--being able to fly and drive so high has its drawbacks. The climbing was typical volcano climbing on glaciers at that time, with a few cracks to find your way around or over.

 

I also climbed 2 routes on Illiniza Sur and the Italian Route on El Altar, which were good fun and somewhat more technical. I wouldn't recommend Ecuador as a destination for an experienced mountaineer, but it is a good place to get altitude experience, and the country has plenty of other great travel destinations.

 

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"I believe there are various levels of defilement. Plowing a road up to 15,700 is one I'd put at the high end."

 

 

Hopefully you don't find upon arrival that the human impact on Aconcagua is on (or above) your high end, too. You may have a challenge here, look into it before you go.

Edited by crazy_t

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I climbed it back in 1994. The "hut" is large and well furnished. It's not quite as nice as the refugio at Huayna Potosi.

 

I think the upper Chimbo hut is much nicer than the one on Huayna. It's also supposed to be haunted. There are all kinds of crazy stories about the ghosts of dead climbers haunting the locals and visiting climbers alike there.

 

The refugio at the base of Huayna is pretty cool though. I suspect thats what meagle was reffering to.

 

That said, Chimbo is dangerous. It has melted out a lot and there are huge boulders teetering above the route barely attached to the ice. Other mountains in Ecuador are a bit safer, but of course not as high.

 

I'd second the idea of going to Bolivia instead...but the seasons are opposite. Most people go to Bolivia and Peru during our summer. Most people go to Ecuador, Argentina and Patagonia during our winter...

 

Good luck!

 

Jason

Edited by Jason_Martin

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I was down there in Ecuador 3 years ago. There are a couple of interesting climbs with some technical ice - Antisana might be the best. The others that are commonly climbed - Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, Cayembe - are basically long, Rainier-esque glacier slogs. Boring. But, depending on your goals and experience, it's a great place to get some exposure to high-altitude. I agree that the interesting climbing is to be found in Bolivia and elsewhere.

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I believe there are various levels of defilement. Plowing a road up to 15,700 is one I'd put at the high end.

 

I wonder whether your issue is that this road is in a developing country, so it goes against your sense of adventure...

 

Mark_H has already made the point about the surrounding area and gives an accurate picture of the terrain. But if you still have issue with a road ending at what is essentially the base of the mountain, I think you may want to spend some time reflecting on whether having a road paved up to either sunrise or paradise on Rainier and huts on the route is a problem for you.

 

Aconcagua is a great climb, but unless you are planning to climb the south face you will be likely be disappointed by the number of commercial tents servicing the base camps selling steak and papas fritas at 13,000'; the total number of people (I think there were at least 80 people at base camp in the early season in Dec 2000 on the Polish Glacier side); and the excess of human excrement everywhere.

Edited by chelle

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