Chimborazo (6268m) is an inactive stratovolcano, and the highest summit in Ecuador. Its summit is generally regarded as the spot on the surface farthest away from the center of the Earth.
I chose to take the bus from Quito to Riobamba. There are frequent buses, almost every half hour. The bus trip took almost 4 hours and cost less than 4 USD. In Riobamba, there are several pleasant lodges at around 10-15 USD with en suite bathrooms.
Against the norm for this time of year, there had been bad weather in Ecuador for 4-5 days in a row. This prevented me from climbing Cotopaxi solo, but now I hoped that the weather would finally change. Due to the unreliable weather, I decided to hire a local guide in Riobamba (100 USD). This would secure a summit, even if the weather and conditions were bad. Climbing alone I reckoned I would struggle to find my way in the darkness, also because I did not expect there would be any tracks to follow after the snowstorm. Compared to Cotopaxi there are very few climbers who do Chimborazo. Also it would be completely dark in the night, and the small moon would not help at all (if under any circumstances there would be clear skies). Thus a guide would make route finding a lot easier in the darkness. It is also important to find a "safe" line up to the ridge, as this part is known for frequent rock falls. It's definitely not a good place to mess around here for a long time. So for all these reasons, a guide is beneficial.
It was only the two of us who planned to climb Chimborazo this night. In fact this was quite surprisingly, given it was high season and that the night seemed to bring perfect weather conditions, millions of stars on the skies and hardly any wind at all. We started from the refuge (approx 5000 meters above sea level) at midnight. It was easy going to the ridge, only a few icy spots, but not particularly steep. On the ridge we continued gradually uphill on gravel, rocks and a little ice here and there. Later we came across solid snow, on which we continued almost endlessly. The pace lowered dramatically as we gained height. I had only acclimatized to 4800m earlier on this trip in Ecuador, so my breathing was almost as intense as with a dog when we passed 6000 meters in elevation. From there on I could take no more than a maximum of 10 steps between each short rest, in order to control the large deficit of oxygen in my blood. Eventually we also started to freeze, due to the low pace I managed to keep in the end. When we finally reached the Ventemilla summit after about 6 hours from the refuge, it was still dark, but we could see the slightly higher Whymper summit in the horizon.
The flat walk towards the Whymper summit was surprisingly hard. The snow didn't carry our weight and we frequently sunk into "holes" to our knees and hips. These conditions were quite opposite to the fairly good conditions we had experienced below the Ventemilla summit. It took a long hour of hard work and a number of short rests to get across to the highest point of Chimborazo. At least we enjoyed the spectacular sunrise as we battled in the snow. The hard work paid out in the end, as we finally reached the highest point. We celebrated, took some photos and ate some snacks before we retraced our steps to the Ventemilla summit. I was glad it was only downhills left from here. Now in daylight, I could see the long ridge of snow we had ascended in the night. It's not very steep, mainly 30 degrees and in some few places up to 40 degrees. The uneven surface of solid snow made it very unlikely to start a slide here.
However the uneven surface was tiring to descend with crampons. So I wanted to take more breaks. But the guide mentioned several times that we had to get through the dangerous area of rock fall as early as possible in the morning. So we had a fairly good pace downhill in order to reach down in time.
We managed to get safely down to the second refuge, and shortly after we packed our stuff and continued down to the first refuge, where a Lada jeep waited for us. We reached back to Riobamba early in the afternoon. I enjoyed a hot shower, before I headed across to the local Pizzeria, to fill up my empty stomach.
Chimborazo at EveryTrail