At 6268m, Volcán Chimborazo is the highest peak in Ecuador. A giant of a volcano thought to have last erupted some 10,000 years ago, its base spans approximately 20km and its upper elevations are permanently covered in snow and ice. The summit was once imagined to be the highest in the world and still enjoys the distinction of being the furthest point from the centre of the earth and the closest to the sun – thanks to the bulge around the equator.
Facing Chimborazo to the northeast, Carihuairazo (5020m), a jagged trio of craggy spires that contrasts with the snowy bulk of its more famous neighbour, is a very respectable mountain in its own right and a popular preparation climb for a later attempt on Chimborazo.
Both mountains form the topographical centrepieces of the 58,560-hectare Reserva Faunística Chimborazo ($10 entrance fee, irregularly collected from the guard post on the road up to Chimborazo’s refuges), created in 1987 as a haven for alpacas, llamas and especially wild vicuñas, which disappeared from Ecuador around the time of the Conquest. Following a very successful reintroduction programme, there are now more than 2500 vicuñas eking life from the thin air and marginal terrain high up around Chimborazo.