The Ecuadorian Volcano that Rivals Everest
If you want to touch the sun (or at least attempt it) you have to climb to the peak of Ecuadorian volcano Chimborazo, the furthest point from the centre of the Earth, and the closest to the heavens.
1,811 m: a distance you can walk in under half an hour, but one that represents an enormous geographical difference. Thanks to these scarce 2 km, Chimborazo volcano has beaten Everest to a record: it is the mountain whose peak is furthest from the centre of the Earth, exactly 6,384 km.
Everest continues to be the highest mountain, if we measure from sea level (8,848 m compared to Chimborazo’s 6,268 m). The difference is explained by the variation in the diameter of our planet, which is much greater at the equator, leading this Ecuadorian volcano to be further from its centre.
On the western skirt of the volcano, there are ruins, which probably belong to an ancient sanctuary.
Chimborazo, located 150 km from Quito, held the title of the highest mountain until the 19th century, when Everest stole its position as a result of new measuring techniques. Now, in the 19th century, the Andean volcano can once again boast of its height, and, through GPS, it has recovered its record as the furthest point from the centre of the Earth.
In February this year, for the Third French Geodesic Mission and the 280th anniversary of the First Mission’s arrival in Ecuador, French and Ecuadorian scientists measured the height of this Andean giant down to the last centimetre, thus confirming its record.
The people who lived at the foot of the mountain would perform human sacrifices, to ensure the provision of water from the summit.
In 1822, Simón Bolívar, liberator of South America, was inspired by this volcano to write his best-known poem: My Delirium on Chimborazo. It was his only written work with a purely poetical end, and reflects the impression this mountain made on him: “Caught up in a spiritual tremor I had never before experienced, and which seemed to me a kind of divine frenzy, I left Humboldt’s tracks behind and began to leave my own marks on the eternal crystals girding Chimborazo.”
Global warming has led a large part of the ice and snow that cover the volcano to disappear, leaving several of its glaciers exposed.
The tracks of Baron Alexander Von Humboldt, considered the father of modern geography, remain metaphorically engraved on the skirt of the volcano. This naturalist and explorer, “the greatest scientific traveller who ever lived”, according to Darwin, was one of the first who tried to conquer its summit, in 1802, though without success, since he suffered altitude sickness.
The first person to manage to reach its peak was English mountaineer and explorer Edward Whymper, in 1880. Today, the shelter where climbers rest before ascending to the summit is named after him. There is normally more movement in December, January, July and August, since these are the best months to climb it. You have to follow the trail with a professional guide, who is familiar with the position and state of the glaciers that pepper the way. The climb normally takes about eight hours and is done at night, since during the day the glaciers and snow lose solidity and are more dangerous.
When the first rays of sun appear, the climbers reach the peak. At this dawn, and after having achieved the feat of climbing the volcano, they can boast that they are at the furthest point from the centre of the Earth, and the ones nearest the Sun. Even when stretching out their fingers, there is still a long way to go, although less so than at any other point on the planet.