Refugio Whymper Hiking Trail
Hike to the second base camp on Chimborazo
- Season: January–December
- Difficulty: Medium
- Distance: 16.4 kilometers (out‑and‑back)
- Elevation Gain: 690 meters
- Duration: 6–8 hours
About Refugio Whymper
Have you ever dreamed of going to outer space? Well, summiting Chimborazo gets you to the highest point on the Earth’s surface to the moon. It’s also the highest mountain in Ecuador, and of the Andes north of Peru. This volcano stands at an astonishing height of 6,263 m.a.s.l., with the top completely covered in glaciers. Don't worry about this volcano spewing out lava though, it hasn’t erupted since around 550 C.E. On this hike you'll reach the second refuge and the highest point that does not require a guide, Refugio Whymper. This refuge, known in English as, The Whymper Refuge, is the highest altitude refuge in the country!
The hike is demanding, but very doable and can be done all year round. Although the best times to hike are June, July, December, and January. The temperature drops quickly, so be prepared with extra clothing.
Refugio Whymper is named after the first person to summit the mountain, the British climber, Edward Whymper.
This hike is accessible from most major cities and can make a nice day trip from Quito, Guayaquil, Riobamba, Ambato or even Guaranda.
If traveling from Quito, go to the bus station called ‘Terminal de buses Quitumbe’, located in the southern end of the capital. Get a ticket for any bus heading southbound to Riobamba. This journey will be about 3.5 hours. Then from ‘Terminal Terrestre de Riobamba’, take any of the buses going to Guaranda. Tell the driver to drop you off at the entrance to Chimborazo, located 30 minutes from the town of San Juan.
This is a challenging, but easily doable hike up an incredible volcano. This part of the mountain does not have one particularly steep part, rather, it's a gradual increase in altitude. Be very aware of your footing, as there are rocks everywhere and very often snow. Sometimes, it can get very cloudy and foggy making it challenging to see.
The trail begins at the park entrance and is an altitude increase all the way to the first refuge, Refugio Hermanos Carrel, which is about 8 kilometers. You’ll be able to see, El Castillo located behind the refuge which is often hiked as well. From there, you will hike another 900 meters to the second refuge, Refugio Whymper. This part of the trail is the steepest and is where you will most likely be soon in the clouds and more snow.
On the way down, you can sometimes hitch take a taxi or hitch a ride from people who drove to the first refuge back the entrance.
- Free park entrance
- Parking (free)
- Snack bar at Refugio Whymper
Read Outtt's day hike packing guide for more tips on what to bring.
Where to stay
You can spend the night at both refuges, Refugio Hermanos Carrel and Refugio Whymper. Make sure you book in advance. Other less rustic options include Estrella del Chimborazo and Condor and Curiquingue, however, these are not located directly on the trail route.
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