Reaching Earth´s Closest Point to the Sun

Trip Start Jul 02, 2010
Trip End Jan 05, 2012

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Saturday, August 6, 2011

With 6310 meters of altitude, the volcano Chimborazo is not only the highest summit of Ecuador but is also the farthest point from the center of the earth or the closest point to the sun! While the summit of Mount Everest reaches a higher elevation above sea level, the summit of the Chimborazo is the fixed point on Earth which has the utmost distance from the center because of the modified ball shape of the planet Earth which is "thicker" around the Equator than measured around the poles. Therefore I find the volcano exciting to climb and it represents a good challenge for my trip since it beats the altitude of Mt Kilimandjaro (5895m) in Tanzania I climbed back in September. But it wonīt be an easy climb... 

As I mentioned it in the previous album on Banos and the Amazon, my first attempt to climb Mt Chimborazo was a big failure. I was about to climb the volcano when the ascent was canceled at the last minute because of poor weather conditions. But I really want to climb it and I come back to Riobamba (nearby city where trekking agencies are located) a few days later to see if I can try again but the weather is still bad and no guides from the agency are available anyway. Bad luck! To wait for a better weather, I decide to go to the beach, partying in Montanita (not the best idea for my acclimation to high altitude) with my Spanish friends and I come back to Riobamba the following week, for the third time!! The weather is better then and I check again with my agency, Andean Adventures, who kindly accept to give me a good discount for a second try.

My ascent is scheduled with the same guide, Fabian, from my initial attempt. I decide to go one day earlier at the first mountain shelter of Chimborazo at the altitude of 4800m to get acclimated. The summit of Chimborazo has indeed an altitude of 6310m and I still remember the strong headaches I had when I climbed Mt Kilimandjaro in Tanzania. I stay at the shelter of Mt Chimborazo for two days until Fabian meets me for our second attempt. The D-Day, I am quite stressed and keep looking at the weather all day since I donīt want my bad experience of the first attempt to repeat. Fortunately, the weather is great, there is no wind, and the sky is pretty clear. After a warm tea in the late afternoon, we try to get some sleep in the cold second shelter of Mt Chimborazo, located at 5000m. Very excited about the climb, I can t sleep and we finally leave at 11.30pm with Fabian to start the ascent. The weather is good, I feel acclimated, letīs go!!

We start walking on a rocky trail and quickly put our crampons as ice appears on the way. I was told the climb was very difficult and should be done only if you have prior mountaineering experience. But so far so good and we keep a good pace while I don t want to go too fast, not to suffer from the altitude later on. The sky is beautiful, full of stars, and there is no wind, perfect conditions! But quickly it gets more difficult as we start ascending the volcano. After two hours walking on rocks with ice, we finally get to the ice climbing part. Using our ice climbing equipment including helmet, rope, crampons and ice tools, we then climb a 800 meters slope, almost vertical, which offers beautiful views on the surroundings when you look back but which is really really hard to climb.

Because of the altitude, I get tired very quickly after each effort made and climbing the volcano seems to me endless! I have to stop and rest every ten meters and because of the verticality of the slope we are climbing, we canīt stop safely everywhere and have to stop in safe spots. Other factors not helping me during the ascent: (i) my headlamp runs out of battery at some point so I have to climb in the dark, (ii) I had not taken food with me fearing the altitude sickness but I finally get really hungry on the way up which makes me very weak since I had a very light dinner and no sleep before starting the climb! Fortunately Fabian is very helpful and after a lot of work, we finally finish the painful ascent and reach the summit around 7am. Since we did the climbing at night, I donīt have unfortunately pictures from the ascent but see attached nice ones from the summit.

The scenery is indeed amazing from the summit. We get there for sunrise, and we can see from there all the other volcanos of Ecuador, including the volcano Sangay which erupted three times when we were there, amazing!!! While the climb was really painful, I fortunately didnīt suffer much from the altitude compared to the nightmare we had at the top of Kilimandjaro. This should be explained by the good acclimation I got in the past months trekking in other countries of South America. Memorable moment at the summit where we enjoy the scenery with the mutliple volcanos of Ecuador all around us, while being on Earthīs closest point to the sun!!

While I found the climb really really difficult, I will never forget this magic climb to the roof of Ecuador and, finding a little bit of energy left after the exhausting climb, I go back really happy to Riobamba to continue my adventures!
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