Technically the highest peak on the planet, the volcanic peak of Chimborazo is Ecuador’s Everest in the Andes.
The chunky, snow-capped profile of Chimborazo is an obstinate presence on the horizon. Visible for miles, on a clear day it can even be seen from the coastal city of Guayaquil. This inactive volcano sits robustly in the centre of Ecuador, resolute in its status as the highest mountain on the planet (at least, when measured from the Earth’s core that is).
At a height of 6,263 metres, Chimborazo is Ecuador’s highest peak but is dwarfed by many of the Earth’s mountains. So why do Ecuadorians delight in boasting that this volcano beats even Everest’s impressive statistics? Put aside what you learnt at school about the Earth being round and they actually have a point. More spherical than round, the Earth swells at its centre around the equator. So, if we’re not measuring from sea level but from the Earth’s core, Chimborazo is indeed the highest peak on the planet. Better put, to stand atop Chimborazo is to be at the furthest point from the Earth’s centre and, with feet still on terra firma, the closest point to the sun.
This thrilling idea has encouraged many a mountaineer to scale its heights, and you don’t need to be a pro to do it. There are in fact four summits, the highest being the Whymper peak, first scaled in 1880 by the English climber, Edward Whymper. The top is completely covered by a glacial cap while, down below, the volcano is encircled by a nature reserve protecting Alpacas, Llamas and Vicuñas, which make a pretty picture against the powerful silhouette of Chimborazo.
Hike to the top of Chimborazo
Although you do need a guide, Chimborazo isn’t a technical climb so even an amateur can make it to the top. The weather, acclimatisation and the right equipment still need to be considered to make the summit. On a clear day, you’ll be rewarded with views as far as Ecuador’s other high volcanic peaks including Cotopaxi and El Altar.
Trek to a Polylepis Forest
Another hike you can do at Chimborazo is to an ancient Polylepis woodland, passing the paramo and looking out for Vicuñas roaming the land as you go. There are stunning views all around as you climb this gentle slope, including the chance to spot Chimborazo’s peak, before reaching the forest itself.
Mountain biking at Chimborazo
While many assume that a trip to Chimborazo is all about the hiking, that’s not necessarily true; you can also enjoy a thrilling mountain biking adventure around the Chimborazo Wildlife Reserve. A popular route is to start biking at 4,800m above sea level from the Carrel Refuge to Calpi, getting a fantastic view of the widest face of Chimborazo as well as La Chorrera Canyon and Colta Lake.