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David Torres Costales Chimborazo Riobamba Ecuador Montana Mas Alta del Mundo.jpg
The summit of Chimborazo, the point on the Earth's surface that is farthest from the Earth's center
Highest point
Elevation 6,263.47 m (20,549.4 ft) [note 1]
Prominence 4,118 m (13,510 ft) [1]
Ranked 18th
Isolation 846 kilometres (526 mi)
Listing Country high point
Coordinates 01°28′09″S78°49′03″W / 1.46917°S 78.81750°W / -1.46917; -78.81750 Coordinates: 01°28′09″S78°49′03″W / 1.46917°S 78.81750°W / -1.46917; -78.81750
Equador physical map.svg
Red triangle with thick white border.svg
Country Ecuador
Province Chimborazo Province
Parent range Andes, Cordillera Occidental
Topo map IGM, CT-ÑIV-C1 [2]
Age of rock Paleogene [3]
Mountain type Stratovolcano
Last eruption 550 CE ± 150 years [4]
Easiest route Glacier/snow climb PD

Chimborazo (Spanish pronunciation:  [tʃimboˈɾaso] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen )) is a currently inactive stratovolcano in the Cordillera Occidental range of the Andes. Its last known eruption is believed to have occurred around 550 A.D. [4]


With a peak elevation of 6,263 m (20,548 ft), Chimborazo is the highest mountain in Ecuador.

Chimborazo’s summit is also the farthest point on the Earth’s surface from the Earth’s center given that it is located along the planet’s equatorial bulge. Chimborazo’s summit, therefore, is at a higher point than the summit of Mount Everest which is measured from sea level. Despite this, it is only the 39th highest peak in its own range [5] . Like Everest, Chimborazo is also known for climbing, but Chimborazo’s climb demands skill, is often on black ice in which crampons and other high tech climbing equipment are required.



Chimborazo is in the Chimborazo Province of Ecuador, 150 km (93 mi) south-southwest of the city Quito, Ecuador. 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.[ citation needed ] There are many microclimates near Chimborazo, varying from desert in the Arenal to the humid mountains in the Abraspungo valley. [6]


Chimborazo from the south Ecuador Chimborazo 5923.jpg
Chimborazo from the south

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. [8] [9]

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. [10]


With an elevation of 6,263 m (20,548 ft), [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

The summit of Mount Everest is higher 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 that 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 2,585 m (8,481 ft) lower in elevation above sea level, it is 6,384.4 km (3,967.1 mi) from the Earth's center, 2,163 m (7,096 ft) farther than the summit of Everest (6,382.3 km (3,965.8 mi) from the Earth's center). [note 4] However, by height above sea level, Chimborazo is not the highest peak of the Andes.


Chimborazo is an ice-capped inactive volcano in Ecuador. Chimborazo is a double volcano composed of one volcanic edifice on top of another. [14] Chimborazo shows four summits; Whymper, Veintimilla, Politecnica, and Nicolas Martínez. The Whymper peak is the highest point on the mountain at 6,263 meters. The Veintimilla peak is about 6,230 m (20,440 ft) high. The Politecnica peak is 5,820 m (19,094 ft) high. The last peak, Nicolas Martínez, is 5,570 m (18,274 ft) high and was named after the father of Ecuadorian mountaineering. The volcano is categorized as a stratovolcano. [14] This type of volcano is characterized as having low slopes at the bottom that gradually get steeper the higher up the mountain. [15] 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 dacitic. This means that the lava is blocky, or flowing down the sides of the volcano, or somewhere in between. [16]

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.


Layers of pyroclastic rock deposited during eruptions of Chimborazo Tephra Layers at Chimborazo Volcano in Ecuador.jpg
Layers of pyroclastic rock deposited during eruptions of Chimborazo

Chimborazo is a dominantly andesitic-dacitic stratovolcano. About 35,000 years ago a collapse of Chimborazo produced a debris avalanche with an average thickness of forty meters. which underlies the city of Riobamba. It temporarily dammed the Rio Chambe, causing an ephemeral lake. [14]

Chimborazo then erupted several times during the Holocene, the last time around 550 AD ± 150 years. [4] The eruptions after the collapse were primarily andesitic, or blocky, coagulated lava flow. These eruptions produced pyroclastic surges that went down as far as 3800 meters altitude. [14] There have been at least seven eruptions in the past 10000 years. Chimborazo is officially considered inactive, but studies show that there may be an eruption in the future.[ citation needed ] The average time between eruptions for Chimborazo is 1000 years,[ citation needed ] and the last eruption was 1400 years ago.

Map from 1839 of the distribution of plants according to elevation in the Americas 1839 Black - Hall Map of the Mountains & Plants of America - Geographicus - AmericaMts2-black-1839.jpg
Map from 1839 of the distribution of plants according to elevation in the Americas


Alexander von Humboldt and his fellow scientist Aime Bonpland at the foot of the Chimborazo volcano, painting by Friedrich Georg Weitsch (1810) Humboldt-Bonpland Chimborazo.jpg
Alexander von Humboldt and his fellow scientist Aimé Bonpland at the foot of the Chimborazo volcano, painting by Friedrich Georg Weitsch (1810)

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 1746, the volcano was explored by French academicians from the French Geodesic Mission. 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.

In 1802, during his expedition to South America, Alexander von Humboldt, accompanied by Aimé Bonpland and the Ecuadorian Carlos Montúfar, tried 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 (Incans had reached much higher altitudes previously; see Llullaillaco). In 1831, Jean Baptiste Boussingault and Colonel Hall reached a new "highest point", estimated to be 6,006 m. [17] [18]

Other failed attempts to reach the summit followed.

On 4 January 1880, the English climber Edward Whymper reached the summit of Chimborazo. [19] The route that Whymper took up the mountain is now known as the Whymper route. Edward Whymper, and his Italian guides Louis Carrel and Jean-Antoine Carrel, were the first Europeans to summit a mountain higher than 20,000 feet (6,100 m). [20] 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. [21]

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 February 2003, after almost 27 years, [22] the aircraft was found with the bodies of its 59 occupants at 5,310 metres (17,420 ft) elevation on Chimborazo by Ecuadorian climbers on the rarely used eastern route Integral. [23]


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." [24] 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 Jívaro 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. [25] In local indigenous mysticism, Chimborazo represents Taita (Father) whereas neighbouring Tungurahua is seen as Mama, hence Taita Chimborazo and Mama Tungurahua.


Sketch of Chimborazo huts, main summits, and routes Chimborazo+sketch.png
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 (IFAS 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). [2]


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. [25]


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 in a crevasse at 18,700 feet (5,700 m). These climbers comprised six French, two Ecuadorians, one Swiss, and one Chilean. 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. [20]

Cultural references

See also


  1. 1 2 The elevation given here was established by a GPS survey in February 2016. The survey was carried out by a team from the French Research Institute for Development, working in cooperation with the Ecuadorian Military Geographic Institute. [11]
  2. Tungurahua's recent activity period started in 1999 with the most significant eruptions between October and December 1999 and May and July 2006. [7]
  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 the Earth's radius is 520 metres (1,710 ft) greater at Chimborazo than at Huascaran, with most recent data showing another 5 metres (16 ft) due to local variations in gravity, for a total of 525 metres (1,722 ft). Two heights are given for Huascarán - 6,746 m (22,133 ft) from the Peruvian National Geographic Institute (IGN) map, and 6,768 m (22,205 ft) from the Austrian Alpine Club (OeAV) survey map. Chimbaro is now 6,263 m (20,548 ft). Thus Chimborazo's summit is roughly either 20 metres (66 ft) or 40 metres (130 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.

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25zero is a mountaineering project, tracking equatorial glacial melt and raising awareness of the impacts of climate change, led by explorer Tim Jarvis AM. The project was founded in 2014, and focussed on bringing live footage from the peaks of three mountain glaciers to the 37,000 delegates at the COP21 summit in Paris, France, as a way of showcasing the impact of global warming on vulnerable and remote areas.


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