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Chimborazo Clockwise

  • 4 Days / 3 Nights or pick 1-day hikes
  • Group : Private
  • Community-run lodges & refuges
  • Difficulty : 3
  • Pickup: Riobamba
  • Min Age : 10+

Chimborazo shows its many fascinating faces in this circuit trek. You will enjoy beautiful views of Ecuador’s highest peak by hiking in a clockwise direction. Discover the diverse flora and fauna in the Chimborazo Reserve: colorful paramo flowers, wild vicuñas, and high-altitude hummingbirds. Hike with the famous Ice Man and learn about the importance of Taita Chimborazo to the indigenous people.

We will stay in small lodges and refuges. If you don’t have time for the complete circuit, just pick the hike(s) you prefer; each one can be done as a single-day hike from and to Riobamba and of course, we can customize your multi-day trek.

Starting Place


What to Expect

The Chimborazo Clockwise program requires good physical fitness and basic altitude acclimatization. The first hiking days allow for further acclimatization for the final hike to the Carrel and Whymper hut. The average hiking time is 5 – 6 hours on days 1 – 3 and 6 – 7 hours on day 4.

This trek is a great option for acclimatization if you plan the Chimborazo summit climb.


  • Distance: 48 km / 30 mi
  • Trail type: rugged terrain with swampy, grassy, sandy and rocky parts
  • Altitude range 3800 m – 5000 m / 12467 – 16404 ft
  • Average day temperature: 5 – 14° C / 41 - 57° F
  • Average night temperature: 0 – 8° C / 32 – 46° F
  • Best months: May – September, November – January

Day 1Polylepis Hike (West Face)

At 8.00 a.m. you will be picked up from your accommodation. We drive for 45 minutes to the trailhead at 3850 m. / 12.632 ft. altitude. This is a rather gentle uphill hike in paramo grasslands with good chances to spot vicuñas, the wild cousins of alpacas and llamas. After about 2 hours we reach a huge rock formation, from where a small rocky trail climbs to the hidden Andean forest at 4200 m / 13.780 ft. The endemic Polylepis are the planet’s highest-altitude trees. With their gnarled trunks, intertwined branches, and paperlike bark, these trees form a fairytale forest. Look out for the Chimborazo Hillstar, an endemic hummingbird, and white-tailed deer. 

Descent and transfer to a community-run refuge at 4200 m / 13.780 ft. With clear weather, you will enjoy a spectacular mountain sunset.


Day 2Abraspungo Pass (North Face)

After breakfast we start the 5- to 6-hour Abraspungo trek. First, we head to Cocha Negra, a lagoon home to Andean teals, gulls, and lapwings. The trail then goes up to the pass between Carihuairazo and Chimborazo (4400 m / 14.435 ft) After enjoying magnificent views of both peaks, we hike down into the Abraspungo Valley. This is the most humid part of the Chimborazo Reserve, with small lakes and meltwater streams. The rich vegetation includes rosette plants, cushion plants, and lichens.

We spend the night in a cozy refuge at 4200 m / 13.780 ft. with superb mountain views: apart from Chimborazo and Carihuaraizo you can see Tungurahua, Altar, and the smoking Sangay volcano!

Day 3Hike with the Ice Man (East Face)

Early breakfast at 6.00 a.m. and transfer to the famous Hieleros (Ice Man) trailhead. This ancient craft dates back to the colonial era, when no fridges existed. Until today, the locals believe that the ice from Chimborazo has healing powers, and it is the secret ingredient of the fruit juices at La Merced market in Riobamba. 

We join the last of the ice merchants on the 6-hour round-trip hike. From the pajonal at 3900 m / 12.795 ft., we take a steep rocky trail to the ice mine at 4700 m / 15.419 ft. This is where the ice man starts his harsh job, hacking out blocks of ice of 30 kilos each. After shaping them into neat cubes and wrapping them perfectly in a bundle of paramo grass, he ties the blocks onto his donkey. You may want to try your luck at collecting some ice yourself – be warned that this is not an easy craft, it takes a lot of practice!

From the end of the hike, we have a short transfer to a small lodge at 3225 m / 10.679 ft. with a small museum dedicated to Mt. Chimborazo. 


Day 4Templo Machay (South Face)

Our last day’s hike starts at 3800 m / 12.467 ft.  We take a steep trail climbing from farmlands to paramo grass and onto the rocky slopes of Chimborazo. Even though the south flanks are very dry, it has colorful flowers like purple gentians and flame-shaped chuquiragua. You have good chances to spot small herds of vicuñas near the trail and caracara birds flying over the mountain. After about 3 hours we reach Templo Machay (4700 m / 15.419 ft.) This natural cave is a sacred site for the indigenous people, who leave small offerings to Taita (Father) Chimborazo.   

From Templo Machay you can choose: either hike another 3 hours uphill to the Carrel hut and (for those who have enough energy) the Whymper hut at 5000 m / 16.404 ft. or take the easy hike down, descending on a fun trail across sand dunes.

At the end of the hike return transfer to Riobamba.



  • 1 person (private tour): USD 855
  • Party of 2 – 3: USD 540 per person
  • Party of 4 – 5: USD 460 per person
  • Party of 6 – 8: USD 380 per person

Price Includes

  • Private transfers according to the itinerary
  • Certified naturalist guide
  • Accommodation in in community-run lodges and refuges, double room with bunk beds, shared bath (hot water not always available)
  • Meals full board plus coffee, tea, filtered water
  • Use of equipment
  • Entrance permit Chimborazo Reserve

Price Excludes

  • Travel insurance
  • Tips (optional)