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Chimborazo (volcano)

The inactive stratovolcano Chimborazo is Ecuador's highest summit. Its last eruption is thought to have occurred some time in the first millennium AD. Its summit is generally regarded as the spot on the surface farthest from the centre of the Earth, at a distance of .



Chimborazo is located in the Cordillera Occidental of the Andes of central Ecuador, 150 km south-southwest of the capital Quito. It is a neighbour to 5,018 m high Carihuairazo. Chimborazo's majestic summit rises 2,500 m above the surrounding highlands 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 , Ambato and Guaranda . Chimborazo is surrounded by the Reserva de Produccion Faunistica Chimborazo which forms a protected ecosystem to preserve the habitat for the Andes native camelids vicuna, llama and alpaca.


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 due to the combined influences of global warming, ash covers from recent volcanic activity of Tungurahua, and the El Nino phenomenon.

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.


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


With an elevation of 6,268 m, 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

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 from Earth's center,Audrey Salkeld, ed., World Mountaineering, Bulfinch Press, 1998, ISBN 0-8212-2502-2, p. 140. although Huascaran is a near-tie second. Chimborazo is one degree south of the equator and the Earth's diameter at the equator is greater than at the latitude of Everest ( above sea level), nearly 28 north, with sea level also elevated. Despite being lower in elevation above sea level, it is from the Earth's centre, or farther than the summit of Everest ( from the Earth's center). Although by the criterion of from sea level, it is not even the highest peak of the Andes.



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 spanishized pronunciation of "chimbarazu," meaning "the snow on the other side." 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. In local indigenous mysticism, Chimborazo represents Taita (Father) whereas neighbouring Tungurahua is seen as Mama, hence Taita Chimborazo and Mama Tungurahua.

First ascent

Until the beginning of the nineteenth 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 seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

In 1802 during his expedition to South America, Baron Alexander von Humboldt, accompanied by Aime Bonpland and the Ecuadorian Carlos Montufar 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. In 1831 Jean Baptiste Boussingault and Colonel Hall reached a new "highest point", computed to be 6,006 m. 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 Beltran and Francisco Campana.

SAETA Flight 232

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 October 2002, after 26 years, the aircraft was found with the bodies of its 59 occupants at elevation on Chimborazo by Ecuadorian climbers on the rarely used eastern route Integral.


Chimborazo is featured on the Ecuadorian coat of arms, to represent the beauty and richness of the Ecuadorian Sierra (Highlands).

Simon Bolivar's poem, "Mi delirio sobre el Chimborazo", was inspired by the mountain.

Walter J. Turner's poem,"Romance" contains the couplet "Chimborazo, Cotopaxi/They had stolen my soul away!".


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 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 , Politecnico (Central), N. Martinez (Eastern). The mountain is contained on the IGM (Instituto Geografico Militar) 1:50000 Map Chimborazo (CT-NIV-C1).


There are two functioning Huts, the Carrel Hut and the nearby Whymper Hut . 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 which served as base for the Pogyos route.

See also

List of volcanoes in Ecuador


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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Chimborazo (volcano)

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