Top 10 Interesting Facts About Chimborazo

This amazing mountain in the Southern Hemisphere holds a fascinating and little-known record.

In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of interesting facts about Chimborazo, a fascinating mountain in South America.

1. The mountain is located in the northwest of South America

Chimborazo is located in the province with the same name in Ecuador, a country in the northwest of South America. The peak of this mountain is located about 150 kilometers (93 miles) to the south-southwest of Quito, the capital of the country.

There are several cities located within the vicinity of the mountain as well. These include:

  • Riobamba – 30 kilometers (20 miles) to the southeast.
  • Ambato – 30 kilometers (20 miles) to the northeast.
  • Guaranda – 25 kilometers (15 miles) to the southwest.

Riobamba is the largest city in the area and also the capital of the Chimborazo Province.

Chimborazo seen from Riobamba
Seen from Riobamba / Eduardo Navas /

2. It’s part of the main mountain range on the continent

Chimborazo is part of the Cordillera Occidental range, one of the two main mountain ranges in Ecuador. This range runs across the entire country from north to south.

This mountain range is part of the biggest and most famous mountain range in South America, the Andes Mountains, the longest continental mountain range in the world which runs all across the western part of the continent.

Interesting facts about Chimborazo

3. Chimborazo is an inactive volcano

One of the most interesting facts about Chimborazo is that It’s actually an inactive composite volcano, also referred to as a stratovolcano. The last time that the volcano erupted is believed to have been around the year 550 A.D., with at least 7 major eruptions occurring in the past 10,000 years.

A major event happened about 35,000 years ago when part of the mountain collapsed resulting in a massive debris avalanche. This debris is now blocking the lava from flowing during an eruption.

Even though Chimborazo is now considered to be inactive, it remains possible that it will erupt somewhere in the future.

4. Its summit is literally the highest point on earth

Up until the 19th century, it was still assumed that Chimborazo was the highest mountain on the planet. Well, they weren’t too far off. When measured from the center of the earth, it really is!

Even though Mount Everest, with a height of 8,848.86 meters (29,031.7 feet), is much higher when measured from sea level as compared to the 6,263.47 meters (20,549.4 feet) of Chimborazo, the latter is further away from Earth’s inner core.

This is because the Earth has an oblate spheroid shape. This means that it’s much thicker around the Equator than around the Poles. Chimborazo is located just 1° to the south of the Equator while Mount Everest is located 27.6° to the north.

Chimborazo fun facts
The highest point. / David Torres Costales /

5. It’s a very prominent peak but it does have neighbors

One of the most remarkable facts about Chimborazo is that it can be seen from the coastal city of Guayaquil, which is located at a distance of nearly 140 kilometers (90 miles) from the mountain’s peak!

This means that Chimborazo is the most prominent peak in the area with a prominence of 4,118 meters (13,510 feet). It also has an isolation of 846 kilometers (526 miles) and is ranked number 18 in the world in terms of prominence.

What’s remarkable is that it does have some neighbors though, but these are much lower. Mount Carihuairazo is the closest neighbor of Chimborazo and its peak is located just 9.3 kilometers (5.8 miles) away.

Other mountains neighboring Chimborazo are Tungurahua, Tulabug, and El Altar.

Chimborazo seen from Guayaquil
Seen from Guayaquil / Epiovesan /

6. The area surrounding the mountain is a protected ecosystem

Chimborazo is located in the so-called “Avenida de Los Volcanes,” which translates to the “Volcano Avenue.” It’s situated at the end of this collection of volcanoes in the middle of a protected ecosystem.

This protected area is referred to as the “Reserva de Produccion Faunistica Chimborazo.” This region surrounding the mountain was created to protect the fauna in the area, more specifically the camelids of vicuña, llama, and alpaca, some of the best-recognized animals native to the Andes Mountains.

Camelid near Chimborazo
Vicuña on the mountain / David Torres Costales /

7. Its name is derived from a local Quichua word

It’s not exactly clear where the name Chimborazo comes from, but the most logical explanation is that it’s derived from a word in the local Quichua dialect “chimba,” which translates to “on the other side.”

the word “razu” means “ice” or “snow” which means that the literal translation of the mountain’s name is “the snow on the other side.”

The locals also referred to the mountain as “Urcurazu” which literally means “Mountain of Ice.”

Chimborazo other side of the ice
The magnificent mountain / David Torres Costales /

8. The ice on the mountain is a source of income for the Hieleros

The summit of the mountain is completely covered with glaciers resulting in a permanent ice cap. These wonderful glaciers flow down to a height of about 4,600 meters (15,091 feet) on the northeastern side, even though the ice cap is quickly diminishing due to global warming, ashes from nearby active volcanoes, and El Niño winds.

The melting of the ice could be devastating for the provinces of Bolivar and Chimborazo in Ecuador as they rely on the mountain’s ice as a source of water.

It would also put a number of people out of business. The so-called “Hieleros” are people who actively mine the ice and sell it on the markets of the nearby towns. This name is a reference to the Spanish word for ice which is “Hielo.”

Chimborazo ice cap
Chimborazo ice cap / Pixabay

9. An English climber reached the summit for the first time in 1880

The French were the first Europeans to explore Chimborazo during a scientific mission in 1746 referred to as the “Geodesic Mission.” Their objective was to determine the sphericity of the Earth, but they didn’t manage to reach the summit.

Several attempts to reach the summit were made during the 19th century, but all of them failed until January 4, 1880. This was the day that English climber Edward Whymper reached the summit of the mountain.

Whymper is also known as the first person to reach the summit of the famous Matterhorn mountain in the Alps and various other mountains near Mont Blanc.

1810 painting of Chimborazo ascend attempt
1810 painting of Chimborazo ascend attempt / Wiki Commons

10. Climbing Chimborazo is popular but only for experienced climbers

The route that Whymper took to become the first European to reach the summit of Chimborazo is now named after him and is called the “Whymper Route.” Together with the “Normal Route” it’s one of the most popular routes to climb the mountain.

Both routes use the western ridge to reach the summit and both routes start at the “Whymper hut,” which is located at a height of about 5,000 meters (16,400 feet).

Regardless of which route is taken the climb can only be done by experienced climbers who have specialized equipment. There are many technical areas and the glaciers are extremely dangerous. The mountain is also prone to avalanches which are a constant threat, regardless of your experience level.

Chimborazo is, however, a very popular mountain for climbers and is ascended by many people every year from December to February and June to September!

Summit of Chimborazo
Summit of Chimborazo / ProfessorX /