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South America, Ecuador, Chimborazo, North Ridge of Veintimilla Summit

Chimborazo, North Ridge of Veintimilla Summit. On December 20-22, Byron Sykes and I, with support from Jens Larsen and Jorge Davila, climbed the striking line of the prominent north ridge of the Veintimilla summit (20,561') of Chimborazo. By 3 p.m. on December 20, we had completed crossing the “paramo” of the approach, a distance of just a few miles from the Ambato-Guaranda road. From there, three hours of hiking and loose scree scrambling led us to a bivy site at the toe of the north ridge (ca. 16,000'), just short of the snowline.

From our bivy we climbed up a short ridge that led to the prominent rock walls guarding the difficulties. These walls are a lower eastern extension of Las Murallas Rojas (the red walls). Traversing westerly on snowslopes to a notch between a large rock pillar and the rock wall on our left then allowed us a view directly up several pitches of ice, which proved the key to the route. Rockfall was constant, and it was obvious that the gully had been scoured by collapses of the Reiss Icecliff, which hangs 1,000 feet above the route on the right. We were able to scramble along rock and black ice on the left side of the gully for about three pitches to the final rock band. Sound darker rock, followed by a band of very friable frozen mud, led for 80 feet to a belay perch. We then quickly climbed back left toward the ridge crest and away from the danger of the Icecliff. An uncomfortable but dramatic bivy site was located beneath the last rocks of the route at 18,900 feet, protecting us from the hail. We started quickly on December 22, but soon encountered calf- to thigh-deep rotten snow on steepening slopes. For fear of being avalanched off our route, we began a long traverse west toward the standard route, reaching it after three hours of motivated snowplowing and crevasse crossings.

The Veintimilla summit lay 1,200 feet above us, but due to the lateness of the hour, and satisfied with our climbing, we simply opted for the descent.

Alex Van Steen