Climbing glaciers to summit of Mount Chimborazo in Ecuador isn't highly technical. It is mountaineering, but how hard can it be, considering I went to 20,600 feet first time I used crampons and an ice axe? Okay, I used them once for practice, on a sledding hill near my house. I climbed forty feet while people walked by with their sleds, telling their kids to stay away from me.
It's also easier to climb when guide drives you to 15,000 feet. Don't get me wrong. Climbing last 5,600 feet was incredibly difficult, but not for skill required. The air missing half of its oxygen is what had me quitting twenty times on way up. It just gets difficult to move up there.
The Chimborazo Graveyard
The monuments near first refuge weren't for climbers without skill. The graveyard is a warning of unpredictability of all high places. Chimborazo is very high, it randomly shruggs off large rocks, and has weather that changes by minute. While hiking to second refuge, we could hear rocks and pieces of ice falling somewhere above.
El Refugio Edward Whymper is an unheated hut at 16,000 feet, named after English climber who first summitted mountain. Okay, it isn't entirely unheated. There's a fireplace, and if somebody feels like carrying wood up to 5000 meters, fire may raise temperature in hut by 3 degrees.
We had hot mugs of "mate de coca" a tea of coca leaves, which are also used to make another product - one that's taken up nose. We went hiking for twenty minutes - my acclimatization. We ate, and I slept for an hour before starting ascent at eleven that night.
About Mount Chimborazo
Chimborazo is in Ecuador, near Equator (100 miles south). The elevation in center of country, and moderating effect of Humboldt Current along coast, gives country near perfect weather. A bit hot in lowlands, but spring-like in Quito (the capital) , with highs in sixties to low seventies every day of year. Great weather almost everywhere--until you get high enough.
The summit of Chimborazo is furthest point from center of Earth. Our planet bulges at equator, making Mount Chimborazo even futher out there than Everest. It has distinction of being closest point to sun on planet. Unfortunately, it's also coldest place in Ecuador.
Paco, my guide, didn't care for lightweight part of my mountain climbing adventure. He frowned at my sleeping bag, which packed up smaller than a football, and weighed a pound. My 13-ounce frameless backpack didn't impress him either. It did get below freezing in hut, just as he said it would, but I stayed warm - as I said I would. No problems so far.
Unfortunately, Paco didn't speak any English, and I was just learning Spanish. Since our whole group consisted of him and me, we had some communication problems. I thought, for example, that $11 fee for "night" (a few hours) in hut was included in $130 guide fee. He thought I was a mountain climber.