Ecuador - Chimborazo Climb
Climbing Chimborazo and the high-altitude summits of Ecuador's volcanoes is a significant undertaking. Most climbers choose an adjacent two-trip itinerary to provide proper acclimatization and skill preparation.
Trip 1: Cayambe and Antisana (formerly Cotopaxi) climb. This 10-day expedition is commonly used as an acclimization and preparation for the Chimborazo ascent. During this incredible trip you will spend time exploring the towns, lakes, and markets of the Ecuadorian highlands; acclimatize by hiking up picturesque 13,700 and 15,600-foot peaks; learn or review glacier climbing skills, and ascend Cayambe (18,997') and Cotopaxi (19,348') / Antisana (18,874'). Accommodations: hotels, haciendas, and huts.
Trip 2: Chimborazo. Once properly acclimitized you will spend 5 days attempting to climb Chimborazo (20,703'). (Note: You can also add this five-day extension to the end of our Antisana and Illiniza Climb). Accommodations: lodge, camping, and hotel
The vertical relief of Chimborazo is stunning in contrast to the flat plains surrounding the peak. AAI Collection
Many people have said, "this trip has it all." The rewards range from rich cultural experiences, great hikes, and aesthetic landscapes, to excellent food, beautiful haciendas, instruction in glacier climbing skills, an ideal introduction to high altitude climbing, high quality snow and ice climbing, and amazing summit views (from the Amazon Basin to the Pacific lowlands).
In sum, the variety and beauty on this trip are awe-inspiring and the personal rewards are of such variety and depth that this is commonly one of those experiences that people describe as "a trip of a lifetime." You can also absolutely guarantee that categorization if you add on a five to seven-day boat-based journey through the Galapagos Islands after your climbs. Many who have made ascents with us here have enjoyed ending their Andean journey with a few days in that wonderful archipelago off the coast of Ecuador.
We take a conservative approach to acclimatization, and the wisdom of our itineraries is seen every year in the safety record of our trips and the tremendous success rate of our climbers. We have been guiding the high altitude peaks of Ecuador since 1977, and the days we allocate to acclimatization are based on our decades of experience. Though in our first trips we allocated nine days for climbing Cayambe and Cotopaxi, for more than two decades we have been climbing on a ten-day itinerary because we found people are much more comfortable at altitude and enjoy a summit success rate slightly over 30% higher than on a nine-day itinerary. You will find other guide services that offer eight and nine-day trips. Our experience tells us that if you subscribed to that pace, you will save a little money and vacation time but cut your summit success rate by 30% - 50%. Climbing at altitude is quite challenging, and it is important to stack the odds for success in your own favor.
Ecuador - Chimborazo Climb
Structure and Routes
Ascent of Chimborazo (20,703 ft) - 5 Days
Looking up at Chimborazo from basecamp.
Chimborazo is Ecuador's highest peak. It is a massive, five-summited mountain rising nearly 11,000 feet above Ecuador's central valley in the western of the country's two parallel cordillera. It is visible from Colombia in the north, from near the Peruvian border in the south, and from far out on the Pacific Ocean. This is a much more complex volcanic peak than most all others of its type, showing many faces that offer a wide range of challenges to alpine climbers.
Routes On Chimborazo
Almost everyone who has climbed Chimborazo has done so by one of four routes on the mountain's southeast side: The Whymper Route, the South Ridge, the Thielman Glacier direct, and the Thielman Glacier approach to the South Ridge route (the last two pioneered by AAI guides in the late 1970s). More recently and for a period of several years, those routes fell out of shape because of sequential seasons of low snow fall and warmer temperatures which combined to create rock fall issues. In that period AAI moved to the north face on another route that AAI guides established in 2007.
In 2011-2014 we returned to the southeast side of the mountain. Those routes had been in better shape because of good snowfall since October 2010. Also, Tungarahua, an active volcano in Ecuador's eastern cordillera, has been in an intermittent but fairly steady state of eruption for several years, and the ash that it has thrown into the atmosphere has been deposited in significant amounts on Chimborazo's north face, accelerating snow melt and making the route extremely icy. With belays required on a large percentage of its many pitches, the north face is not currently a practical option.
However, climate change has continued to result in melting ice and poor conditions on the normal route on the southeast side. In 2014, AAI guides took part in a successful expedition to find a new safe route to the summit. This new route, which we will return to in 2015, leaves from the Plaza Roja, near the Carrel Hut (currently closed for renovations) and climbs the Stübel Glacier. The Stübel Glacier route not only provides less risk but also more adventure, as we will be camping rather than using mountain refuges. We will employ porters to carry tents and water to camp, while climbers will carry some group and personal gear.
After our climb of Antisana, we return to our hacienda for another refreshing night in the 9000-foot (2750m) central valley. The next morning we drive up Chimborazo's flank to reach a small lodge at 13,200 feet (4023m). It sits in picturesquely on a grassy plain below Chimborazo and allows us to enjoy a good rest day and views of the altiplano surrounding Chimborazo and nearby Carihuarirazo (also known as Chimborazo's Wife). The high elevation keeps our ongoing acclimatization robust and is another perfect intermediate step up from the central valley as we prepare to move to the hut on Chimborazo.
The historical Whymper Hut provides welcome relief from the elements while on Chimborazo. AAI Collection
The next morning we make a short drive through grasslands to the south side of the mountain and then continue higher to the Plaza Roja (4,852m / 15,914 ft) located close to the Carrel hut. From there, it takes us about two hours to walk to the Stübel Camp (5,050m / 16,564ft ) where we spend the afternoon preparing for the climb the next day. Climbers help carry equipment to camp, while porters carry the tents and water.
Of our days spent in Ecuador prior to this summit climb, seven are normally at 15,250 feet (4630 m) or higher, and by this point in the itinerary, climbers should be very well acclimatized. Though it is a long climb, these factors have brought a high rate of success to our climbing teams.
Starting the climb at about midnight, we follow the Stübel glacier until it joins the Castle Saddle (5,500m / 18,044 ft). This new variant to the normal Castle Ridge route, free from rock fall, makes it a much safer line to the top. From the Stübel Camp it normally takes eight hours to get to the Whymper summit. By the time we reach the 18,500 foot level (5640 m), we will have surmounted most of the technical challenges on the mountain, and on the remainder of our route we will ascend compact and moderately angled snow. The summit crater area is a vast one that is normally covered in its entirety either in soft snow or nieve penitentes.
From the summit the panorama encompassing Ecuador's many other glaciated peaks is superb, and the views during the climb, the intricacy of the route, and the variety of moderate technical challenges encountered make this ascent of the world's highest equatorial summit an important achievement for both developing and experienced alpine climbers.
The descent to the Stübel Camp takes three hours. After returning to the camp, we pack and descend to Plaza Roja, or we will stay another night if necessary. We'll head back to Quito, or if we have an extra day because good weather facilitates an ascent on the first of our two summit days, we will return to the central valley and then travel east, part way down one of the major routes to the Amazon Basin. We will stop in the mountain valley town of Baños where the lush vegetation is home to an unusually large variety of orchids, butterflies, and hummingbirds a dramatic contrast to the flora and fauna of the alpine zones where we've been travelling and climbing. Based in a comfortable hotel near waterfalls and natural hot baths, we'll enjoy swimming, relaxing, and exploring the Rio Pastazas Canyon that flows with some drama (waterfalls!) to the Amazon. A bicycle descent of part of the canyon is an option. On our final afternoon, we'll return to Quito and look forward to a final celebratory dinner and a chance to review the highlights of our diverse and exciting trip together.
Ecuador - Chimborazo Climb
Chimborazo is preferibly climbed as a 5-day extension to the Cayambe & Antisana Skills Expediton (previously our Cotopaxi Skills Expedition) or the Antisana – Illiniza Expedition. This allows for proper acclimatization before climbing Ecuador's highest peak (20,702 ft / 6310 m).
Please click on the program links to view course dates and prices:
Cayambe and Antisana Skills Expedition (Nov-Aug)
Antisana and Illiniza Expedition (Sep-Oct)
2016-2017 Chimborazo Extension Dates
- Nov 14-18, 2016 (Successful summit of Chimborazo)
- Nov 28 - Dec 02, 2016 (Successful summit of Chimborazo)
- Dec 12-16, 2016 (Successful summit of Chimborazo)
- Dec 26-30, 2016 (Successful summit of Chimborazo)
- Jan 16-20, 2017 (Elevation reached: 16,100 ft / 4907 m)
- Jan 30 - Feb 03, 2017 (Elevation reached: 19,450 ft / 5928 m)
- Feb 20-24, 2017 (Elevation reached: 15,700 ft / 4800 m)
- May 29 - Jun 02, 2017 (Successful summit of Chimborazo)
- Jun 26-30, 2017 (Successful summit of Chimborazo)
- Jul 10-14, 2017 (Successful summit of Chimborazo)
- Jul 31 - Aug 04, 2017
- Aug 14-18, 2017
- Sep 25-29, 2017
- Oct 16-20, 2017
- Oct 30 - Nov 03, 2017
2017-2018 Chimborazo Extension Dates
- Nov 13-17, 2017
- Nov 27 - Dec 1, 2017
- Dec 11-15, 2017
- Dec 25-29, 2017
- Jan 01-05, 2018
- Jan 15-19, 2018
- Jan 29 - Feb 02, 2018
- Feb 19 - 23, 2018 - Filling
- Mar 12-16, 2018
- May 14-18, 2018
- May 28 - Jun 01, 2018
- Jun 11-15, 2018 - Filling
- Jun 25-29, 2018
- Jul 09-13, 2018
- July 30 - Aug 03, 2018
- Aug 13-17, 2018
- Sep. 24-28, 2018
- Oct. 15-19, 2018
- Oct. 29 - Nov 02, 2018
Ecuador - Chimborazo Climb
Pricing: $1290; Price is based on a minimum of 4 people per trip
Max Ratio: 2:1
Private Trip Pricing:
Climbing in Ecuador can be an amazing adventure to share with friends or family! Please contact the AAI Office for additional information on private trips, or to arrange a customized trip that fits your unique schedule and availability: 360-671-1505 (Toll Free: 1-800-424-2249) or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be happy to set something up for you!
Program Cost Inclusions and Exclusions
Inclusions: Lodging in hotels, haciendas, huts, and tents on a shared basis for the dates of your program (available on a private basis by special arrangement, subject to availability, and at added cost); meals while at huts and while climbing; group cooking equipment; admissions to museums and national parks; group climbing equipment; transportation during trip.
Exclusions: Airfare; airport transfers; personal equipment; meals in cities, hotels, haciendas, and lodges; gratuities to guides; government and airport taxes; inoculations; personal insurance; excess baggage.
Flight arrangementsshould be made so that you arrive in Quito on the first scheduled start day of the trip, and you depart the day after the last scheduled day of the trip. Please email or call our Travel Coordinator, Lisa Greif, if you would like assistance with travel arrangements (509-972-4028).
Other Programs & Custom Itineraries in Ecuador
Our El Altar Expedition may be of interest to you if you are looking for a more technical challenge on a remote and rarely climbed Ecuadorian peak. We can also provide you with custom itineraries of any length for hiking, trekking, backpacking, scrambling, and climbing.
Galapagoes Island, Amazon Basin, Rain Forest add-ons
Travelling as far as you are to get to Ecuador, you may want to take advantage of your presence there to make a visit to the Galapagos Islands--an area that is on most people's short list of "sites I have to see in my lifetime." You can meet blue-footed boobies close up, swim with penguins and seals, and photograph amazing reptiles--all with no fear of humans. We can also arrange tours to the Amazon Basin and to lodges in the Ecuadorian cloud forest. Tours can range from a few days to a week or more. Call the AAI travel coordinator if you'd like to discuss some of your ideas or our recommendations.
Ecuador - Chimborazo Climb
"I had a great experience in Ecuador, and enjoyed every minute.
The trip was very rewarding regarding beauty and the mountain
experiences, but I expected this. What I did not expect were the
friendships and relationships that developed between our lead
guide, who was a fantastic human being, and the climbers. The guide
was a very knowledgeable and experienced guide and I completely
trusted him. He was completely committed to the climbers in
situations in and out of the mountains, and we traveled
effortlessly through his country. The combination of great company
and great guiding made this trip a fantastic experience. Thanks
Mike Brennan, Scranton, PA
"Not only was my guide technically solid on the mountains, he
showed balanced decision making skills on each of the climbs. He
did a great job tailoring the trip to our individual needs and
George Henderson, Harrisburg, PA
"Our expedition was truly an excellent experience. I believe
this was due in large part to the character, skill, and personality
of our two guides. They were exceptional, made us all feel like we
could push ourselves safely, and helped me experience great
Josh Katzman, Arlington, MA
"AAI is by far the most experienced guide service in the
Adventure Travel Magazine
Ecuador - Chimborazo Climb