Chimborazo is Ecuador
's highest mountain, rising to a height of
20 703 feet (6310 m). The mountain is a quarternary
, although it has not erupted in historical time. The volcano is
located in central Ecuador, in the so called Inter-Andean
; a depression
zone between the western and eastern
ranges of the Andes
The Chimborazo dominates its surroundings and its ice
capped summit, can be seen from as far as the Pacific Ocean. Perhaps
this is why the Chimborazo was believed to be the highest mountain in
the world until the discovery of the Dhalaugiri in 1808, followed of
course by the discovery of Mount Everest.
But in one way the Chimborazo is the highest mountain in the
world, if one measures it from the earth's center. Because of the
earth's rotation, the planet is not a perfect sphere, but a flattened
oblate spheroid. The equatorial radius of the earth is approximately
22 kilometers greater than the polar radius. The Chimborazo is
located on the equator, and as a result has its summit
3219 m further away from the earth's center than Mount Everest.
However, most people would agree that measuring a mountain's altitude
relative to sea level makes more sense.
Although 2500 m lower than Everest, climbing Chimborazo is not
an easy task. Approximately 600 people attempt the climb each year, but
around a 100 people make it to the summit. Since 1960, more than 20
people have died on the slopes. An early attempt to climb Chimborazo was
by the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, on June 23, 1802.
At approximately 400 m below the summit, von Humboldt arrived at a
deep crevasse which forced him to turn around. Although the summit
attempt failed, von Humboldt's expedition gave him much fame back in
Another notorious visitor of the Chimborazo was the liberator of
South America, Simon Bolivar. He wrote about his travels, and
dealing with the altitude sickness in "Mi delirio sobre el
Chimborazo" ("My delirium on the Chimborazo"). His nickname for the
mountain was "the watchtower of the universe".
But it wasn't until January 4, 1880 that the Chimborazo was finally
conquered by the respected British climber Edward Whymper and his
companions Jean-Antoine Carrel and Louis Carrel. Whymper's success
was met with such disbelief that he summitted Chimborazo again only a
few months later, on July 3, 1880. This time he was accompanied by two
Ecuadorian climbers, David Beltrán and Francisco Campaña. Whymper
was very interested in studying the effects of high altitude on the
human body, and made careful notes during his climbs.
The Chimborazo is sacred to the indigenous people, who refer to the
mountain as the "Woman in Ice", "Icy Home of the Gods", and "Sacred
Winds of the Moon". People from the neighboring town Riobamba hike up
the glacier to collect ice. Some locals drink the melted ice as a tonic
for their ailments.