Refugio Carrel and Refugio Whymper
The two refuges on Chimborazo are named after the Brit Edward Whymper and the Italian brothers Carrel, who were the first ones to climb Chimborazo in 1880.
Refugio Carrel is situated at an altitude of 4840 metres and Refugio Whymper at an altitude of 5040 metres. There are caretakers at both refuges and also equipped kitchens. Upstairs there are bunk beds and people who want to climb Chimborazo stay in both. If I get the chance to climb Chimborazo next year I would prefer to stay at Refugio Whymper as it is situated at a higher altitude (better for acclimatization and a little shorter to walk to the summit from there). It cost around $10 to stay a night in one of the refuges. The bunk beds have mattresses but you must bring your own sleeping bag. Remember that it gets very cold during the night.
It is possible to go all the way up to Refugio Carrel with car. We did so when I was on the tour with ProBici. The first thing we did after arriving was to buy hot chocolate ($1) and coffee ($0.50). After that it was time to walk up to Refugio Whymper. Also at Refugio Whymper it is possible to buy hot drinks and snacks. As the altitude is very high it is good not to walk too fast. Coming back down to the first refuguio we ate our sandwiches and some snacks before it was time to start the 5h long bicycle tour.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Mountain Climbing
Vicuñas and llamas
On the way to Chimborazo we saw llamas, a domesticated camelid which for long has been used as a pack animal and for meat and wool in the Andes. Biking down from Chimborazo we saw several vicuñas at different places. The vicuñas are wild camelids.
Vicuñas in Ecuador had been hunted to extension, but because of donations from Peru, Chile and Bolivia in 1988 and 1993 there is now a population of around 2500 vicuñas in the Chimborazo Wildlife Reserve.
Vicuñas live at an altitude of 3200 – 4800 metres in the Andean mountains. There they feed mainly on low grass. On the back their hair is light brown and on the throat and chest it is white and long. Their wool is known to be very fine and during the Inca period only royalty was allowed to wear garments made of their wool.
While biking down from Chimborazo we saw several small groups of Vicuñas. They are quite shy and have good hearing, so when they heard us approach they stopped and listened, and then quickly went away.Related to:
- National/State Park
Just off the coast of South America the Nazca Plate is going under the South American Plate. This is an ongoing submission and a result of it is the Andean mountains and all the volcanoes there.
On the way to Chimborazo we stopped and the guide pointed out a cross section of the sediment layers along the roadside. There you could clearly see how one layer was going under the other and he said this was because of the submission of the Nazca Plate. Well, the subduction zone is out in the ocean so I don't really know about this place.
Ancient Inca site
During the biking tour from Chimborazo we stopped at an old Inca site. Here some big stones are scattered around in the grass. The big flat stones are believed to have been used for different rituals. There are traces of three house foundations, but the houses have at some time been destroyed by an earthquake. The area has been excavated and items from the site can be found at museums in Quito.
There is a spring here where our guide filled our water bottles. The water was full of minerals. I drank some of it, but was also glad that I had another water bottle with ordinary water.
From this ancient Inca site you can see Volcán Chimborazo and you can also see another, smaller mountain, with a black rocky top. That is an ancient sacred place.Related to:
- Historical Travel
La Chorrera Canyon
La Chorrera Canyon is a canyon situated along the road to Chimborazo (coming from Riobamba). The rocks are vertical, almost 100 metres high at the highest point. This is where Río Chorrera has its origin.
When I was on a tour with ProBici we stopped here to have a look. As it was quite windy we could not walk to the edge (probably you should never do that), but had to lie on our stomachs and crawl forward to the edge. It is very steep so if you are afraid of heights you should not to this. While we were there we were informed about some of the plants and we also got a small dirt road pointed out to us, a road we were later going to take when we cycled from Chimborazo.
Tour to Chimborazo and mountain biking
In the morning I was picked up outside my hotel at 8:15,and then we, the guide Alejandro from Pro Bici and James from England, went to a café to pick up some sandwiches before we started the drive to Chimborazo.
At some places along the road Alejandro stopped the car to tell us interesting things to know. We also waited for two other cars with a family who were also going on the tour with Pro Bici and we met them at a canyon where we went out to look at the view and plants.
There is a road going all the way up to the lower refugio, the Carrel Refugio at 4840 metres. The first thing we did after arriving there was to buy hot chocolate ($1) and coffee ($0.50). After that it was time to walk up to the second refugio, the Whymper Refugio at 5040 metres. As the altitude is very high it is good not to walk too fast. Coming back down to the first refuguio we ate our sandwiches and some snacks before it was time to start the 5h long bicycle tour.
Before we left Alejandro gave James a walkie-talkie so that we could be in contact at places where Alejandro could not go with the car. From Refugio Carrel we followed the bumpy dirt road 8km down to the Tourist Centre at the entrance of the reserve. From there we cycled along a quite flat dirt road for a while. For me this was the hardest part because the wind was very, very strong. Besides the wind here the weather was nice during the tour.
Then we cycled along the paved main road for 1km before turning left at a path to go off road for a while. The views of Chimborazo were stunning and we saw several Vicuñas. After another kilometer on the main road we turned right and cycled on a dirt road passing through the community Pulinguí San Pablo, where Casa del Cóndor is situated. We cycled a short distance on the paved main road again and then turned left by the canyon. Now it was going uphill and the altitude was about 3800 metres. Having a cough I felt I needed to take it easy and therefore stopped a few times to catch my breath before continuing on the cycle.
Then it went downhill again and we cycled to an old Inca site where there are some large stones scattered around and where traces of three house grounds can be seen. There is also a spring with mineral rich water here and we filled our water bottles. We stayed here for a while, eating the rest of our sandwiches and snacks, but also to wait for the other group who was on their way down (it would be difficult for the cars to meet).
From the Inca site we went in the car uphill but stopped when it was starting to go downhill again and changed for the bikes again. The dirt road here was quite bumpy with lots of stones. The landscape was beautiful and we passed farmland and a village. I hoped no barking dogs were going to come running after us as that can happen during this part, but luckily they didn’t.
The last part we cycled on the main road again down to the small town San Juan. When we arrived to San Juan it had just become dark and it was around 18:30. We stopped by the church (which had been pointed out to us when we passed in the morning), put the bikes on the car and drove back to Riobamba.
It had been a great tour, it was fun going downhill from Chimborazo, we were lucky with the weather and the landscape was beautiful with stunning views of Chimborazo. Absolutely a tour to recommend.
The price of the tour was $50 (July 2013).Related to:
- Adventure Travel
- Hiking and Walking
Tourists mainly come to Riobamba for trekking, mountain biking and to organize a Chimborazo climb. For two years I have now wanted to climb Chimborazo, but last year when I was in Ecuador I broke my wrist and this year I first had a fever and then a cough, and thus not feeling well enough to acclimatize for the climb. I came to Riobamba anyway to at least do the mountain biking tour to Chimborazo with visits to the refugios.
Riobamba is situated in the central Andes at an elevation of 2750m. There are around 180 000 inhabitants in Riobamba, and the city is the capital of Provincia de Chimborazo. The name Riobamba comes from the Spanish word río (river) and a Kichwa word meaning valley. The city is situated in the Chambo River Valley.
The area was first populated by the Puhurá Indians and then for a short period by the Incas. The Spaniards founded Riobamba in 1534, not at the present location but near the village Cajabamba 17km away. In 1797 the area was struck by a terrible earthquake and Riobamaba was destroyed by a landslide. After that Riobamba was moved to its present location. In 1830 Ecuador’s first constitution was signed in Riobamab.
The average temperature in Riobamab is between 14°C and 23°C year round. There is a wet season and a dry season (May – September)
Besides trekking, mountain biking and climbing in the vicinity of Riobamba there are other things you can do as a tourist. From Riobamba you can take a train to either Urbina or Colta, there are a few museums and you can stroll around and visit some of the squares and churches. Saturday is market day and many people come in to town to sell their products. There is also a market on Thursdays.
The Vicuña Trail
Though one could be quite content to do small walks around the hostel with Chimborazo so nearby, the Vicuña Trail is the real attraction of this region. Climbers access the area via Guaranda which leads to Refugio Whymper at 5000m so this is the domain of backpackers. It is a two to three day trek that brings you around beautiful mountain lakes nestled between Chimborazo and its little brother, Carihuayrazo. There is also a vicuña reserve in the close by and hence the name of the trail. It can be done as a circuit that brings you from Urbina (where the hostel is located) to another small village off the Pan American Highway, called Doce de Octubre. Alternatively, you can go through the vicuña reserve on a dirt road, cutting across the park and wind up on the road to Guaranda. We did not get to do the hike due to poor weather but from what I’ve read it is not marked and you need some route finding abilities and a good map. You can hire guides and/or pack animals at the hostel or buy a guidebook like Kunstaeltter’s “Trekking in Ecuador” or the similar one by Bradt.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- National/State Park
Provincia del Chimborazo Hotels
foot of Chimborazo, Riobamba, Ecuador
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Hacienda Abraspungo is a bueatifully-restored farmhouse on the outskirts of Riobamba. Only a $3 cab...more
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