Ecuador – Avenue of Volcanos, Inca Trails and a burgeoning mountain bike scene.
Overview ||Day 1-Ilalo and Lumbisi || Day 2-Pululahua || Day 3-Chota Trails || Day 4-Rucu Pichincha || Day 5-Quilotoa || Day 7-Mama Rumi || Day 8-Camino Del Rey || Day 9-I-Line || Day 10-La Paz || Cuyabeno Lodge
Day 6 – Chimborazo and Hieleros trail
On our 6th day we hit the literal highest point of our trip following days of acclimatization to altitude. Chimborazo was the landmark of the day. It’s last thought activity was in 550AD and it is believed to be dormant. Chimbo tops out at 6280m and is the tallest peak in Ecuador. If you were to measure the height of Chimborazo from the center of the earth it would be approximately 2km taller then Everest thus giving it the somewhat tongue-in-cheek reputation of being bigger than Everest.
The top of Chimbo is completely covered by glaciers so getting to the peak by bike would be problematic. We therefore contented ourselves by starting the day by scrambling to 5020m to the high refugio of Chimborazo just short of snowline. We then descended to the Panamerican Highway at 4360m.
Following Chimborazo we dropped onto the Ruta los Hieleros/Ice Route. As on other glaciated Ecuadorian mountains, Chimborazo’s glacial ice used to be mined by locals (the so-called Hieleros from Spanish “Hielo” for Ice) to be sold in the markets of Guaranda and Riobamba. In earlier days, the people transported ice for cooling to Incan coastal towns and were still doing so as late as the 80s (more in this BBC documentary). More mundanely the route is primarily single track and if you didn’t know better the Incans rode mountain bikes as portions of the trail have perfectly sculpted natural turns and berms as it drops 2200m to the Guaranda valleys.
Of note you must have a naturalist guide to enter the Chimborazo National Park. You cannot hire a guide on the spot but must pre-arrange for someone 24hours in advance. No exceptions are made. Be warned of this as other biking and outdoors parties have been turned back from Chimbo if they do not have a guide
Our first view of Chimborazo which likes to hike in the clouds
The first stop. You need a guide to go past this location.
The wild Vicuña graze around Chimborazo
The Refugio at 5000m.
A cairn along the route to the second Refugio
Chimborazo comparison to Everest.
Riding down the lower section of Chimborazo
We head towards the Hieleros trail
You can see the Hieleros trail along the flank of the next slope.
Some techy parts.
Walking past a section of Pine Forest that’s being harvested.
The trail continues through the grassy fields.
We stop for beer
Elevation Profile for Chimborazo and Hieleros trail to the Guaranda valley
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Where to stay
We stayed at the Posada La Estacion in Urbina. This small Refugio is housed in the old station building in Urbina and has been run by Rodrigo Donoso for over 20 years. Rodrigo is an accomplished climber who owns and runs the Refugio. He also guides climbers who want to climb Chimborazo, Tungurahua & Cotopaxi, mountains which he has climbed probably hundreds of times. Rodrigo also runs Alta Montaña which runs guided trips and arranges accommodations and acclimitization in the area.
Rodrigo, Gabriel, Lee.