Stan and I had talked for a week of climbing Chimborazo, but we wanted to try a route other than the so-called Normal Route used by most climbers. We decided on the Theilman Glacier Direct, which from the accounts I had heard was either a great climb, extremely dangerous, or both. Nan thought it best to sit this one out.
We left Riobamba and traveled by taxi up the steep flanks of the mountain to the first refuge. Many climbers spend a night here as the second, "Whymper" refuge is higher on the mountain at 16,400 feet. Short on time, we continued on foot to the higher refuge, hoping our previous weeks in the mountains and in Quito would help us acclimatize sooner.
That evening we awoke at 10:45 and fixed a quick bowl of oatmeal and coffee. Outside, clouds had obscured the upper reaches of the mountain, but we decided to continue with our plan in hopes that it would clear.
The entrance onto the glacier was steeper than expected and immediately we were on hard ice of 40 degrees.
Once atop, we hurried across the ramp and out of range from the seracs above. Another long steep section of 50- to 70-degree ice led us out of harm's way and onto the ridge of the "Whymper Route," the mountain's original line of ascent.
An hour and half later of plodding, we stood atop the "Whymper Summit," the highest point on the mountain. It was 9:30 and an early-morning haze obscured what should have been an amazing view. The summit itself was a huge flat plateau as big as a football field. A single pole like a broomstick marked the summit. Taken by itself, it wasn't a particularly scenic spot, but we felt proud of our accomplishment. We snapped a few photos, then aware of the late hour began heading down. As we turned to begin the descent I paused for a moment. With Stan leading away down the slope in front of me I had the delicious sensation that the top of my head was closer to the sun than anything else on Earth.
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