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This article is about the volcano. For the Ecuadorian province, see Chimborazo Province. For other uses, see Chimborazo (disambiguation).
Volcán Chimborazo, "El Taita Chimborazo".jpg
The summit of Chimborazo, the point on the Earth's surface that is farthest from the Earth's center.
Highest point
Elevation 6,268 m (20,564 ft) [note 1]
Prominence 4,123 m (13,527 ft) [2]
Ranked 17th
Listing Country high point
Coordinates 01°28′09″S 78°49′03″W / 1.46917°S 78.81750°W / -1.46917; -78.81750Coordinates: 01°28′09″S 78°49′03″W / 1.46917°S 78.81750°W / -1.46917; -78.81750
Chimborazo is located in Ecuador
Parent range Andes, Cordillera Occidental
Topo map IGM, CT-ÑIV-C1[3]
Age of rock Paleogene[4]
Mountain type Stratovolcano
Last eruption 550 CE ± 150 years[5]
Easiest route Glacier/snow climb PD

Chimborazo (Spanish pronunciation: [tʃimboˈɾaso]) is a currently inactive stratovolcano in the Cordillera Occidental range of the Andes. Its last known eruption is believed to have occurred around 550 CE.[5]

With a peak elevation of 6,268 metres (20,564 ft), Chimborazo is the highest mountain in Ecuador. 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.



Chimborazo is in the Cordillera Occidental of the Andes of central Ecuador, 150 km (93 mi) south-southwest of the capital Quito. It is a neighbor to 5,018 m high Carihuairazo. Chimborazo's summit rises 2,500 m above the surrounding highlands (~3,500 to 4,000 m) with a ~20 km wide base.

Under clear conditions the summit of Chimborazo can be seen from the coastal city Guayaquil, nearly 140 km away. The nearest cities are Riobamba (~30 km to the southeast), Ambato (~30 km to the northeast) and Guaranda (~25 km to the southwest). Chimborazo is surrounded by the Reserva de Produccion Faunistica Chimborazo which forms a protected ecosystem to preserve the habitat for the Andes native camelids of vicuña, llama and alpaca.

Chimborazo is at the main end of the Ecuadorian Volcanic Arc, north west of the town of Riobamba. Chimborazo is in la Avenida de los Volcanes (the Avenue of Volcanoes) west of the Sanancajas mountain chain. Carihuairazo, Tungurahua, Tulabug, and El Altar are all mountains that neighbor Chimborazo. The closest mountain peak, Carihuairazo, is 5.8 mi (9.3 km) from Chimborazo.[6] There are many microclimates near Chimborazo, varying from desert in the Arenal to the humid mountains in the Abraspungo valley.[7]


Ecuador Chimborazo

The top of Chimborazo is completely covered by glaciers, with some north-eastern glacier arms flowing down to 4,600 m. Its glacier is the source of water for the population of the Bolivar and Chimborazo provinces of Ecuador. Chimborazo glacier's ice mass has decreased over the past decades, which is thought by some to be due to the combined influences of global warming, ash covers from recent volcanic activity[note 2] of Tungurahua, and the El Niño phenomenon.[9][10]

As on other glaciated Ecuadorian mountains, Chimborazo's glacial ice is mined by locals (the so-called Hieleros from Spanish Hielo for Ice) to be sold in the markets of Guaranda and Riobamba. In earlier days, the people transported ice for cooling uses down to coastal towns such as Babahoyo or Vinces.[11]


Chimborazo is a dominantly andesitic-dacitic stratovolcano. About 35,000 years ago a collapse of Chimborazo produced a debris avalanche, whose deposits underlie the city of Riobamba. Chimborazo then erupted several times during the Holocene, the last time around 550 AD ± 150 years.[5] Today Chimborazo is considered inactive.


With an elevation of 6,268 m,[note 1] Chimborazo is the highest mountain in Ecuador and the Andes north of Peru; it is higher than any more northerly summit in the Americas.

Farthest point from Earth's center[edit]

The summit of Mount Everest reaches a higher elevation above sea level, but the summit of Chimborazo is widely reported to be the farthest point on the surface from Earth's center,[12][13] with Huascarán a very close second. The summit of the Chimborazo is the fixed point on Earth which has the utmost distance from the center – because of the oblate spheroid shape of the planet Earth which is "thicker" around the Equator than measured around the poles.[note 3] Chimborazo is one degree south of the Equator and the Earth's diameter at the Equator is greater than at the latitude of Everest (8,848 m (29,029 ft) above sea level), nearly 27.6° north, with sea level also elevated. Despite being 2,580 m (8,465 ft) lower in elevation above sea level, it is 6,384.4 km (3,967.1 mi) from the Earth's center, 2,168 m (7,113 ft) farther than the summit of Everest (6,382.3 km (3,965.8 mi) from the Earth's center).[note 4] However, by the criterion of elevation above sea level, Chimborazo is not even the highest peak of the Andes.

Vicuña, one of two wild South American camelids[14] Chimborazo volcano, the closest point to the sun. Alpacas in front of Chimborazo Chimborazo from the west
Text: From Top left to right: Vicuña, one of two wild South American camelids, Chimborazo volcano, Alpacas in front of Chimborazo, Chimborazo from the west.


Chimborazo is an ice-capped inactive volcano in Ecuador. Chimborazo is actually a double volcano composed of two older volcano strata.[15] Chimborazo shows four summits; Veintimilla, Whymper, Politecnica, and Nicolas Martínez. The Veintimilla peak is about 6,230 m (20,440 ft) high. The Whymper peak is the highest point on the mountain at 6,268 meters. The Politecnica peak is 5,820 m (19,094 ft) high. The last peak, Nicolas Martínez, is 5,570 m (18,274 ft) high. This peak was named after the father of Ecuadorian mountaineering. The volcano is categorized as a stratovolcano.[15] This type of volcano is characterized as having low slopes at the bottom that gradually get steeper the higher up the mountain.[16] Chimborazo has a circumference of 78 miles (126 km) and a diameter of 30 miles (48 km). Chimborazo's upper elevations are covered in glaciers that are decreasing in size due to climate change and falling ash from the nearby volcano, Tungurahua. In addition to the glaciers, the volcano is covered with craters. The volcano is dominantly andesitic to dactic. This means that the lava is blocky, or flowing down the sides of the volcano, or somewhere in between.[17]

The highest point on Chimborazo is the farthest point from the center of the earth, thus it is also the point on the earth's surface which is at some time closer to the sun than any other point on the earths surface at any time during one year. Chimborazo is the farthest point from the center of the earth because the earth bulges out at the equator and Chimborazo is located just one degree south of the equator. Mount Everest is 28° north of the equator. This is why Chimborazo is 2.1 kilometres farther from the earth's center than Everest. Chimborazo is 73.5 metres higher than the highest mountain in North America. Chimborazo is often associated with the nearby volcano Cotopaxi although the two volcanoes have completely different structures.


1839 Black ^^x2F, Hall Map of the Mountains ^ Plants of America - Geographicus - AmericaMts2-black-1839 by Alexander von Humboldt

Chimborazo experienced a collapse approximately 35,000 years ago. This collapse caused a debris avalanche that temporarily dammed the Rio Chambe.[15] The debris avalanche had an average thickness of forty meters. As a result of the Rio Chambe, an ephemeral lake was produced. The eruptions after this collapse were primarily andesitic, or blocky, coagulated lava flow. These eruptions produce pyroclastic surges that went down as far as 3800 meters.[15] There has been at least 7 eruptions in the past 10000 years. Although Chimborazo is officially considered inactive, studies show that there might be an eruption in the future.[citation needed] The average time between eruptions for Chimborazo is 1000 years.[citation needed] The last eruption was 1400 years ago, so statistically Chimborazo should erupt fairly soon.[citation needed] For this reason, Chimborazo should still be viewed as dangerous.

The Volcano was explored by French academicians from the French Geodesic Mission in 1746. Their mission was to determine the sphericity of the Earth. Their work along with another team in Lapland established that the Earth was an oblate spheroid rather than a true sphere. They did not reach the summit of Chimborazo.

Years after the French explorers, Alexander Von Humboldt also attempted to reach the summit of Chimborazo. He did not make it to the peak either. After many more failed attempts to reach the summit, English climber Edward Whymper and his Italian guides, Louis Carrel and Jean Antoine Carrel, reached the summit of Chimborazo. Whymper reached the summit on January 4, 1886. The route that Whymper took up Chimborazo is now known as the Whymper route. Edward Whymper, Louis Carrel, and Jean-Antoine Carrel were the first Europeans to summit a mountain higher than 20,000 feet.[18] Edward Whymper's ascent was disputed so he returned the same year with David Beltran and Francisco Javier Campaña.[18]


Chimborazo seen from Riobamba

Several theories regarding the origin of the name Chimborazo exist. In many dialects of Quichua or Quechua, "chimba" means "on the other side" as in "on the other side of the river" or "on the opposite bank." Other dialects pronounce this word "chimpa." Also, "razu" means "ice" or "snow." Local Quichua speakers will say that Chimborazo is a hispanicized pronunciation of "chimbarazu," meaning "the snow on the other side."[19] Another theory suggests it is a combination of the Cayapa Schingbu for Women and the Colorado/Quichua Razo for Ice/Snow resulting in Women of Ice. According to another, Chimbo is Jivaro for Throne of Master/God resulting in Icethrone of God. The locals also used to call the mountain Urcurazu, with the Quichua Urcu for Mountain resulting in Mountain of Ice.[20] In local indigenous mysticism, Chimborazo represents Taita (Father) whereas neighbouring Tungurahua is seen as Mama, hence Taita Chimborazo and Mama Tungurahua.

First ascent[edit]

Until the beginning of the 19th century, it was thought that Chimborazo was the highest mountain on Earth (measured from sea level), and such reputation led to many attempts on its summit during the 17th and 18th centuries.

In 1802, during his expedition to South America, Baron Alexander von Humboldt, accompanied by Aimé Bonpland and the Ecuadorian Carlos Montúfar, attempted to reach the summit. From his description of the mountain, it seems that before he and his companions had to return suffering from altitude sickness they reached a point at 5,875 m, higher than previously attained by any European in recorded history.[note 5] In 1831 Jean Baptiste Boussingault and Colonel Hall reached a new "highest point", estimated to be 6,006 m.[21][22] In 1880 Chimborazo's summit was first climbed by Edward Whymper and the brothers Louis and Jean-Antoine Carrel. As there were many critics who doubted that Whymper had reached the summit, later in the same year he climbed to the summit again choosing a different route (Pogyos) with the Ecuadorians David Beltrán and Francisco Campaña.[23]

SAETA Flight 232[edit]

In August 1976 SAETA Flight 232 carrying 55 passengers and four crew members aboard a Vickers Viscount from Quito to Cuenca disappeared en route. In February 2003, after 27 years,[24] the aircraft was found with the bodies of its 59 occupants at 5,400 metres (17,700 ft) elevation on Chimborazo by Ecuadorian climbers on the rarely used eastern route Integral.[25]



Sketch of Chimborazo huts, main summits, and routes

As Ecuador's highest mountain, Chimborazo is a very popular climb and can be climbed year round with the best seasons being December–January and July–August.


The easiest (Grade: PD) and most climbed routes are the Normal and the Whymper route. Both are western ridge routes starting at the Whymper hut and leading via the Ventemilla summit to the main (Whymper) summit. There are several other less used and more challenging routes on the other mountains faces and ridges leading to one of Chimborazo's summits: Main (Whymper, Ecuador), Politecnico (Central), N. Martinez (Eastern). The mountain is contained on the IGM (Instituto Geografico Militar) 1:50000 Map Chimborazo (CT-ÑIV-C1).[3]


There are two functioning Huts, the Carrel Hut (4,850 m) and the nearby Whymper Hut (5,000 m). The Carrel Hut can be reached by car from Riobamba, Ambato or Guaranda. On the north-west side there is the now defunct Zurita hut (4,900 m) which served as base for the Pogyos route.[20]


El Castillo is the most popular route up the volcano. This route is usually climbed December to February and June to September. This route involves climbing the west side of the volcano. The route starts at Whymper hut to a saddle above El Castillo. From the saddle, there is a glacier ridge then you go to the Veintemilla summit. Veintemilla summit is often the turnaround point for climbers. There is a 30-minute snow filled basin between Veintemilla summit and Whymper summit. Whymper summit is the highest point of the mountain. The El Castillo route takes around eight to twelve hours to ascend and about three to five hours to descend. Climbing Chimborazo is dangerous due to risk of avalanches, the severe weather conditions, and the fact that it is covered in glaciers. Climbing should begin at night in order to reach the summit before sunrise when the snow melts increasing the chance of avalanche and rockfall. The climb itself demands skill. The climb is often on black ice in which crampons and other high tech climbing equipment are required. On November 10, 1993 three parties of climbers, one ascending and two descending, were caught in an avalanche on the steep slopes below the Veintimilla summit. This avalanche buried ten climbers. These climbers included; six French, two Ecuadorans, one Swiss, and one Chilean into a crevasse at 18,700 feet (5,700 m). After the ten climbers were buried in snow, it took twenty people and ten days to find their bodies. This is considered the worst climbing accident in Ecuador to date.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The elevation given here was established by a differential GPS survey in 1993; see World Mountaineering in the references. The survey was carried out by a team of 10 personnel from the School of Military Survey in Newbury, United Kingdom, working in cooperation with the Ecuadorian Instituto Geografico Militar. Accuracy of ±2 m is claimed.[1] This figure is compatible with SRTM data and a more recent GPS measurement, unlike an older but still frequently given figure of 6,310 metres (20,702 ft).
  2. ^ Tungurahua's recent activity period started in 1999 with the most significant eruptions between October and December 1999 and May and July 2006.[8]
  3. ^ It has been difficult to resolve this issue definitively because of error margins in summit elevations and geoid data. Application of the formula at Earth radius#Radius at a given geodetic latitude shows that Earth's radius is 520 metres (1,710 ft) greater at Chimborazo than at Huascaran, which is 20 metres (66 ft) greater than the sea-level elevation difference (no more than 500 m or 1,600 ft), and the most recent data shows that the geoid at Chimborazo is about 5 metres (16 ft) higher than at Huascaran. This suggests that, despite being 42 metres (138 ft) lower than the 6,310 metres (20,700 ft) it was previously thought to be (and is still frequently claimed to be), Chimborazo's summit is about 25 metres (82 ft) further from the Earth's center than that of Huascaran.
  4. ^ In this ranking several other Andean peaks as well as Africa's highest mountain, Kilimanjaro, exceed Everest.
  5. ^ Incans had reached much higher altitudes previously; see Llullaillaco.


  1. ^ "Ecuador, Chimborazo/Cotopaxi (copy)". Mountain INFO (High Magazine) (136). March 1994. Retrieved 2008-08-18. 
  2. ^ ""Ecuador" Ultras". Retrieved 2012-11-06. 
  3. ^ a b "Chimborazo Ecuador, CT-ÑIV-C1". IGM (Instituto Geografico Militar, Ecuador). 1991. Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
  4. ^ Gomez, Nelson (1994). Atlas del Ecuador. Editorial Ediguias. ISBN 9978-89-009-2. 
  5. ^ a b c "Chimborazo". Global Volcanism Program. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  6. ^ Chimborazo – Climbing, Hiking & Mountaineering. 2012. Web. June 2013
  7. ^ hleduc. "Volcano of Ecuador Chimborazo volcano climbing route Chimborazo mountain Ecuador". 
  8. ^ "Actividad Volcan Tungurahua". Instituto Geofísico, EPN Ecuador. Retrieved 2007-04-28. 
  9. ^ Chaffaut, Isabelle; Marie Guillaume (2004). "El Niño and glacier melt in the tropical Andes". innovations report. Retrieved 2006-08-08. 
  10. ^ Schoterer, Ulrich; Grosjean M.; Stichler W; et al. (2003). "Glaciers and Climate in the Andes between the Equator and 30° S: What is Recorded under Extreme Environmental Conditions?". Climatic Change 59: 157. doi:10.1023/A:1024423719288. 
  11. ^ Borja, Carmen (2004). "Hieleros del Chimborazo. Entrevista a Igor Guayasamín". Ecuador Terra Incognita 29. 
  12. ^ Audrey Salkeld, ed., World Mountaineering, Bulfinch Press, 1998, ISBN 0-8212-2502-2, p. 140.
  13. ^ Krulwich, Robert (April 7, 2007). "The 'Highest' Spot on Earth?". NPR. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  14. ^ "Information Resources on the South American Camelids: Llamas, Alpacas, Guanacos, and Vicunas 1943-2006". USDA. February 2006. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  15. ^ a b c d Alcaraz et al (2005) "The debris avalanche of Chimborazo, Ecuador", 6th International Symposium on Andean Geodynamics (ISAG 2005, Barcelona), Extended Abstracts: 29-32
  16. ^ "How Volcanoes Work - Stratovolcanoes". Department of Geological Sciences. San Diego State University. Retrieved 2014-04-24. 
  17. ^ "How Volcanoes Work - Andesitic to Rhyolitic Lava". Department of Geological Sciences. San Diego State University. Retrieved 2014-04-24. 
  18. ^ a b c "Fast Facts About Chimborazo". Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  19. ^ one online Quechua dictionary which verifies this etymology is as
  20. ^ a b Schmudlach, Günter (2001). Bergführer Ecuador. Panico Alpinverlag. ISBN 3-926807-82-2. 
  21. ^ "Greatest Ascents in the Atmosphere" The Times (London). Wed, September 7, 1836. (16202), col E, p. 2.
  22. ^ McCosh, Frederick William James (1984). Boussingault: Chemist and Agriculturist. Dordrecht: D. Reidel. ISBN 90-277-1682-X. 
  23. ^ Whymper, Edward (1892). Travels Amongst the Great Andes of the Equator. John Murray. ISBN 1-904466-24-9. 
  24. ^ "Plane crash's frozen victims found 27 years later". The Sidney Morning Herald. February 19, 2003. Retrieved 2014-04-23. 
  25. ^ El Comercio (February–May 2003). "Different Saeta Chimborazo accident articles" (in Spanish). El Comercio, Quito. 
  26. ^ Marsh, Edward Howard, Sir (1917). Georgian Poetry, 1916–1917. The Poetry Bookshop. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  27. ^ Costales Cazar, Luis Alberto (2005). Sobre el Pomo de la Tierra. Editorial Freire. Retrieved 2011-11-09. 

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