Did you know that Mount Everest isn’t actually the tallest mountain?
Mountaineering enthusiasts might have heard of Chimborazo, which is a stratovolcano situated in the stretch of the Andes called the Cordillera Occidental.
Primarily, it is famous for being the highest mountain that can be found in the country of Ecuador. However, its location is situated close to the Equator, meaning that it can claim a number of other honors as well. For instance, Chimborazo isn’t the highest mountain when measuring the length between elevation and sea level, but it can claim to be the furthest point on Earth’s surface from the Earth’s center because of its position on what is called the equatorial bulge. On top of that, Chimborazo is the part of the planet that is closest to our moon as well, thus making its name that much more illustrious.
Our Experience with Chimborazo
With that said, while these facts about Chimborazo can be very interesting, they are no match for the actual climbing of the mountain. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Chimborazo is a popular place for mountaineers, so it should come as no surprise to learn that there are a number of routes upwards.
With an elevation of 6,263 m (20,548 ft), Chimborazo is the highest mountain in Ecuador and the Andes north of Peru; it is higher than any more northerly summit in the Americas.
However, being well-established doesn’t exactly remove the challenge of the climb, particularly since the mountain is situated so high up. Suffice to say that while we started out strong in the morning, we were struggling more than a little later on, so much so that there were times when even a single footstep felt like it was ladened with 100 kg.
Still, the eventual lunch on the ice-covered summit was well-worth it, not just because we could boast about our achievement to our friends and family members but also because it has made us wonder what the summits of other famous mountains might look like in person.
Chimborazo can be climbed all-year round, although the best periods to do it are from June to July or January to February. The best option is to start the ascent before midnight, in order to be back no later than 10 a.m., as sunlight adds the risk of rock fall and the cloudy afternoon weather reduces the visibility of the trail.
Great feeling to realise the fact we were climbing the world’s highest mountain after all!
Small explanation: Earth isn’t a perfect sphere, but a squashed one that is flattened at the top and bottom and bulges out slightly in the middle. That shape gives an advantage to any mountains that happen to lie along the equator.
Now about equator…
Where is the Real Equator Line in Ecuador?
Speaking of which, one of the other places that people might want to check out in Ecuador is the Quisato Sundial. Partly, this is because the Quisato Sundial stands as a monument to the astronomical capabilities of the pre-Hispanic cultures in the region, meaning that it is a real connection to the past.
The words “quitsa to” mean “centre of the world” in the language of the Tsáchila people, and one of the goals of the monument is to link Ecuador’s modern identity as an equatorial nation to the ancient cultures of the region, who well understood these techniques of charting celestial movements and knew the position of the equator to a degree that is only just becoming clear.
However, it is amusing to note that the Quisato Sundial is also supposed to be situated on the actual Equator, which is something of an embarrassment for the more official Middle of the World monument. To their credit, the people at the Middle of the World monument are perfectly OK with the fact that it is not quite what it purports to be, which is why they are perfectly OK with pointing out the Quisato Sundial for those who are interested.
Photography © Gurcan Sarisoy
featured image ©Bernard Gagnon