Ascent to Volcán Chimborazo-Below the Castillo on 2016-03-09

Climber: Seán Caulfield

Date:Wednesday, March 9, 2016
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Point Reached:Volcán Chimborazo - Below the Castillo
    Elevation:17989 ft / 5483 m
    Remaining Elevation:2572 ft / 783 m (62% left to go)

Ascent Trip Report

Guides turned us back at about 1am just below the Castillo due to a thunderstorm & avalanche further up (at around 5,550m) - the right call. Very frustrating as we were feeling great & confident of reaching the summit.

Some notes for anyone hoping to climb Chimborazo:

-Carrel Refugio fully open (52beds). $15/night for a bed, $30 with meals. Reachable by car along a bumpy dirt road (4x4 not required).
-Whymper Refugio renovation almost complete. We slept there for a few hours before and after our failed summit bid. Smaller than Carrel, will have about 24beds when finished. Open during the day for visitors, selling snacks, coffee/tea.
-Both refugios run by Andean Adventures, excellently renovated and very comfortable. Running water (not potable), indoor flushing toilets, electricity 24/7 from solar panels (charging of electronic devices possible). No mobile phone signal.
-Whymper Refugio only of use if the Ruta Normal is open - requires some snow to minimise rockfall risk, but not too much (avalanche risk). The alternative route starts from Carrel and loops around to the left.
-We did some great acclimatisation hikes before our summit bid - first a hike to the Whymper Needles (a large prominent rock formation) at about 5,300m, following a path to the right of Whymper Refugio (we actually got to almost 5,400m after hiking above the Needles, turning back when we became positively charged from electricity in the air - scary). The morning before our summit bid we hiked up to Laguna Condor Cocha (5,050m), there is a trail along a ridge from the Carrel car park, or it can be reached by taking the trail towards the Castillo from Whymper Refugio.
-My prior acclimatisation for Chimborazo went as follows: 5days in Baños (1,800m), with a few excursions to higher altitude (including 1 night camping at 2,600m watching Tungurahua erupt), 2days of the Quilotoa Loop, camping on the crater rim at about 3,800m, hiking up to the Illiniza Refugio (4,700m) and attempting a summit (reached about 5,060m), hiking up from the Chimborazo park entrance to Carrel Refugio (4,300m-4,800m), 1 extra night in Carrel with the aforementioned acclimatisation hikes. This was perfect, was feeling great before we were turned back by lightning.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1585 ft / 483 m
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Guide, Hut Camp
    Weather:Snowing, Cold, Windy, Overcast
Distant lightning, snow
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1585 ft / 483 m
    Route:Ruta Normal
    Start Trailhead:Whymper Refugio  16404 ft / 4999 m
    Time:2 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Route:Ruta Normal
    Time:1 Hours 

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