CHIMBORAZO VOLCANO, THE HIGHEST POINT ON EARTH
If there’s one thing everyone knows about mountains—and given the state of geography education today, that may be a pretty accurate estimate—it’s that Mount Everest, in the Himalayas, is the Earth’s highest point.
But what if it wasn’t? What if Everest, with its famous 29,029-foot peak, was actually dwarfed by a mountain you’ve probably never even heard of: an Ecuadorian volcano called Chimborazo.
According to a new measurement, carried out with the help of a GPS, the Chimborazo, in the center of Ecuador, rises 6,263.47 meters away from the center of the Earth, which places it as the furthest point from the heart of our planet, despite the fact that Everest, with its 8,848 meters high, is the top of the world.
How do you explain this? «The Earth is flatter at the poles and fatter in Ecuador. The radio difference between the poles and Ecuador is 21 kilometers» – explains to BBC Mundo Olivier Dangles, representative in the South American country of the French IRD – «When you are at sea level in Ecuador, you are 21 kilometers farther from the center of the Earth than when you are at sea level at the poles”. Therefore, Everest, in Nepal, is 6,382.6 kilometers from the center of the Earth, about two kilometers closer than Chimborazo.
This inactive stratovolcano is situated in the Cordillera Occidental range of the Andes and is, with a height of 6268m, the highest mountain and volcano in Ecuador. Looming so impressively over the country that you can see it all the way from the large port city of Guayaquil.
Chimborazo Andean Legend: Dispute between two ‘titans’
The conflict arises between the Chimborazo and Cotopaxi volcanoes, for conquering the love of the ‘maiden’ Tungurahua. Struggling to deserve the heart of the graceful and at the same time temperamental mountain, both colossi fought an epic battle. In their outbursts of fury they expelled water vapor, ashes, incandescent rocks and fire, as methods of intimidation, but at the same time to impress their beloved.
Fruit of the jealous outbursts of the Chimborazo and Cotopaxi volcanoes, which according to the story centuries ago were much larger than today, the expulsion of lava, burning rocks, boiling water and columns of smoke were permanent and modified the soil of the region, which at first would have been flat almost entirely.
These drastic changes of humor of both colossi during the courtship, produced strong earthquakes, torrential rains, hurricane winds and change in the course of rivers. This progressively modified the geography and characteristics of the soil in the three provinces, and also created the environment for animal, plant and human life that we have today.
In the end, Tungurahua gave his heart to Chimborazo, they got married and had a son, the ‘bus’ Pichincha. This plunged Cotopaxi into a deep sadness. According to the story, he will wake up when he feels that his love can be reciprocated.
Chimborazo Fauna Production Reserve
It is located between the cantons of Guano, Riobamba, Guaranda, and Ambato, belonging to the provinces of Chimborazo, Bolívar and Tungurahua. It covers 58,560 ha and includes the surrounding moors of the imposing Chimborazo volcano, considered the highest snowfall in Ecuador, and those of its neighbor. The thaws of these elevations feed the upper Pastaza river basin, a tributary of the Amazon.
One of the main reasons why the Reserve was declared was the implementation of a Program for the Reintroduction of South American Camelids. Grazing with these animals maintains the original vegetation cover and protects the water resource because unlike cattle, the lower part of their legs is padded. 80% of this protected area is held by 38 peasant organizations, communes, cooperatives and associations, and a few private owners.
Wildlife you can find
The most important group within the reserve is the camelids; the llama, the alpaca, and the vicuña. You can also find other important species from the point of view of conservation such as moor wolves, Andean weasels, moor deer, and skunks.
In the Reserve 31 species of birds typical of the Andean environments have been identified as the curiquingue, the piggy, and the swift. Other very representative birds are the condor and the Ecuadorian star hummingbird, very difficult to observe.
Activities you can do:
You can do trekking without guidance to the reserve lagoon. Get to the Machay temple, to the needles of Wimper, and even crown the top.
There is also a cycling route of medium and high difficulty.
The polylepis forest, a remnant of native forest, is one of the favorite places for visitors.
At the entrance of the reserve there is a cafeteria, craft shops, and a space for local businesses.
Hiking to Chimborazo:
Although many of its climbers spend time acclimatizing in Quito, the most convenient acclimatization point for ascents to Chimborazo is in Riobamba, the provincial capital. We recommend those interested in ascending the Chimborazo, hiring in advance the services of a professional guide and opening up with all the own and professional equipment for this activity.
Snow can be seen from the first shelter, although on colder days it even snows at the entrance to the shelter.
This sport is practiced, by preference, in the King of the Ecuadorian Andes thanks to its imponderable beauty. The Liberator, Simón Bolívar, was the first to practice it.
If you are not afraid of adventure, try Ecuador Trekking the Avenue of Volcanoes, explore the Chimborazo and the other majestic volcanoes, enjoy the wonderful landscapes that Ecuador offers.
In addition, from this volcano you can patiently observe the crossing of the train that descends between rocky alleys from Huigra and brushing the «Devil’s Nose», during the Ecuador Highlights trip.
For the natives, drinking the water of the god Chimborazo has the same meaning as the consecration of wine in the Eucharist of the Catholic religion… What are you waiting to live this once in a lifetime experience?!