Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
Banos to Riobamba
Today we forgot to check the bus schedule, so we had to wait an hour at the bus station watching the Argentina vs Switzerland game. It was a fairly lively event with some Argentinian fans making for a good atmosphere. The bus to Riobamba was about 1.5 hours ($2ea), except that it dropped us about 4km from the centre of town. We shared a taxi with another traveller to get into town ($2 total).
Riobamba is not a big tourist town, though maybe when the train is fully working it will get bigger. We ended up at Hotel Los Shyris about 1 block from the train station for $14/night. It was nearby to some travel agencies (Pro Bici & Julio Verne) and cheap lunch and dinner ($2ea).
What is Chimborazo?
Chimborazo Volcano is Ecuador’s tallest peak at 6,310m. Due to the earths equatorial bulge it is the furthest point from the center of the earth, even further than the peak of Everest. It is located about 30km from Riobamba but is easily viewed from Riobamba. On a clear day it can even be seen from Banos and other major towns due to its size.
Day trip or overnight to climb the summit?
Initially Toby wanted to summit the peak, and Rodora wanted to mountain bike down so we went to various travel agents to find out costs and availability.
Cost of climbing to the peak: $200-$600 (climbing equipment, guide, transport etc)
Cost of Mountain bike tour: $50-$60
Cost of guided hiking tour: $40
Cost for us $1.60
Toby decided costs were too high to summit as there were no other potential climbers a solo trip would cost $300. Toby was also worried that he might not be conditioned enough for the altitude to get right to the top. We also knew that a solo trip by bus would be very cheap and easily achieved.
How to get there?
We decided on an early start, leaving our hotel at 5.45am by taxi ($1) as the 2km walk in the dark was a little questionable on the safety side. However, we missed a bus by a few minutes. We’re getting good at missing buses by a couple of minutes in recent weeks. You want to get on a bus headed toward Guaranda asking the conductor to let you off at the Chimborazo entrance. As at June 2014, the morning buses are at 5am, 5.45am, 7.30am (Company: 10 de Noviembre) and take 45-60 minutes for $1.10pp.
Chimborazo is visible for most of the bus trip with some spectacular views. Rodora luckily noticed we went straight past the main entrance of Chimborazo and Toby immediately asked the conductor if we were meant to get off. The conductor and driver agreed and stopped the bus for us to get out at which point they showed us a trail to go up. The minute we got off the bus we could instantly feel the cold and a strong wind, so we put on every layer we had with us.
At the start of the trail there were many Vicunas (Wild Llamas) grazing on the open land. They were very shy though so every time we went closer to take a photo they ran away.
We then started heading up the trail however it didn’t seem right as it was meant to be a main road, not just a hiking trail. As we continued hiking we could see the main road and decided to take this instead to avoid getting lost.
On the way out we realized we didn’t go through the official entrance where we think there is a $10 charge per person. Thank you to the bus driver for saving us $20.
The entrance altitude is 4,300m with an 8km road leading up to the first refuge at 4,800m. One thing Rodora hates most is walking on a road so she hitched a ride the first chance she got with a bus headed up to the refuge. This saved us an hour and half of hiking allowing us to save our energy for the top. The bus was full of University students from Quito. All of them wanted to chat with us to practice their English.
There are two refuges here and under renovation, so not in active use like many others in Ecuador (as at June 2014). Arriving at the first refuge area, it was essentially just a big car park with a couple of small buildings including a small café and a bathroom. We got straight onto the hiking as we knew clouds could cover our view in a matter of minutes. Rodora found this very difficult due to the altitude we were climbing from 4,800m to 5,100m. Many of the students were urging her to keep going when she stopped and was out of breath. However they cheated by living in Quito as it’s at 2,700m in altitude.
The scenery on the way was beautiful looking down at the surrounding rolling mountains as we climbed.
After about an hour climb (this is embarrassing as it wasn’t a long distance) Rodora finally made it to the top. Toby had gone ahead to try and get to the ice and snow line. The students thought this was no good as he didn’t wait for Rodora, so Rodora arranged for the students and her to throw snow at Toby when he came back down to join them.
This was another successful climb for Toby, the GPS showing he got to 5,141m (16,867ft), a new altitude record for him. Rodora still has the record of Everest base camp at 5,350m (17,552ft).
We then made our back to the starting point, trying to be careful not to slip on the loose trail. At the refuge we were lucky enough to meet some Colombians, who overheard our accent and wanted to talk to us as they had just spent 3 years studying in Australia. They were headed back to Riobamba so were nice enough to give us a lift all the way back to town.
Wow, what a spectacular day! Not only did we hike up over 5,000m, enjoy amazing scenery and meet some awesome locals but it only cost us $1.60 per person.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates.http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/