Three Dead, Others Missing, Injured on Chimborazo

Climbing Survival
Chimborazo Peak (6,263m), Ecuador. Photo: Ecuador Planet/Shutterstock
Chimborazo Peak (6,263m), Ecuador. Photo: Ecuador Planet/Shutterstock

An avalanche on Ecuador’s highest peak, Chimborazo (6,263m), collided with 16 alpinists on Sunday, October 24. At the time of writing, three climbers were confirmed deceased, three were undergoing intense medical care, and three remained unaccounted for, according to Quito emergency responders.

The mountaineering group was at 6,100m, just 160m below the summit at the time. Authorities have not released the climbers’ identities, but all are believed to be Ecuadorean nationals.

Chimborazo, in the Cordillera range of the Andes, is an inactive stratovolcano. The caldera last erupted around 550 A.D. and typically lies dormant for 1,000 years between eruptions. Volcanic activity was not at play here.

Instead, bad weather and snow melt reportedly caused Sunday’s avalanche. Experts with the Geophysical Institute of Quito explained that Chimborazo’s corniced summit and severely steep grade make this peak especially dangerous.

Chimborazo’s past avalanches, eruptions

Vicuna in the valley below Chimborazo. Photo: David Torres Costales Riobamba (Dabit100)/creative commons

A vicuña below Chimborazo. Photo: David Torres Costales Riobamba/Creative Commons

This is not the first time that an avalanche on Chimborazo has proven deadly. In the 1970s, a passenger plane carrying 59 people slammed into the mountainside, which an avalanche had obscured from the pilots’ view. Authorities didn’t uncover the wreckage until 2003.

In 1994, an avalanche killed a group of 10 international ascensionists.

In 2015, climbers discovered at around 5,500m the remains of three people who perished 20 to 30 years earlier.

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About the Author

Jilli Cluff

Jilli Cluff

Jilli grew up in the rural southern Colorado mountains, later moving to Texas for college.
After seven years in corporate consulting, she was introduced to sport climbing. In 2020, Jilli left her corporate position to pursue an outdoor-oriented life.
She now works as a contributor, an editor, and a gear tester for ExplorersWeb and various other outlets within the AllGear network.
She is based out of Austin, Texas where she takes up residence with her climbing gear and one-eared blue heeler, George Michael.

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Louis-Philippe Loncke
1 month ago

I made an attempt at Chimborazo in 2013. I stopped just before reaching 6000m. I was very tired and feared for the descent. Good choice as I arrived exhausted back at the hut. Once the sun arrives it starts to melt. Rocks starts to fall. No wonder that if heavy snow and climate change, big chance of more avalanches or washouts in the future.

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Orlando Martinez
Orlando Martinez
1 month ago

In South America we are Andinistas not Alpinist because Alpes are at Europe

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