(June 6 – written by Dave)
Wow – what a day. I’ll start with the punch line – Chimborazo!
As noted last night we rolled the dice with a mountain weather forecast and today headed for the pass that goes closest to Chinborazo – the mountain whose top is the closest point on the earth to the sun. Anyone who’s spent any time in the high country would know that a mountain forecast isn’t worth a lot. Conditions can change in an instant. One second you can see blue sky, the next nothing but clouds. Our in our case today, clouds one second, blue sky the next.
We started the day with clouds and we were questioning our choice to ride up close to Chimborazo. We had a long ways to go to reach the pass but clouds tend to build in the mountains as the day wears on. But we’d made or plan and we stuck with it. At least for the first 500 meters where we discovered that the route we mapped did not allow bikes. No worries, we’ll just re-gig a different route out of town. And what a route it ended up being. We had a super steep section where we were both in our lowest gears for a couple K. Eventually we made it back to the planned route only adding 2-3K to the day’s total, too bad those extra Ks were up such a steep hill.
For the next 30k we rode uphill. The grade wasn’t too bad but the altitude made it hard. We only stopped twice but we were moving pretty slow. We had morning tea at a roadside cafe. Coffee was as we’ve come to expect in these cafes. They ask you if you want hot water or hot milk – we get milk. Then you add the instant coffee from the jar on the table. If you are lucky, the last guy didn’t put his wet spoon in the coffee, making the entire jar fossilized coffee. Our jar was fine. And the break was appreciated.
We continued to climb, even well past the point where there was supposed to be a flat spot. The extra Ks kind of messed up our profile information, or maybe it was the altitude affecting our minds. We made our second stop at the town Mocha – where we had a snack and refiled our water bottles. The next 11K were steeper but we managed. And best of all by now, getting close to noon, the skies were clearing. We could see some blue.
We were probably only 5K from the top when I happened to look over a little ridge on the right and all of sudden, there was Chimborazo, right in our face. At this point fluffy clouds were dancing around making it hard to see the whole summit but we were hopeful. In fact, I was ecstatic to be able to see anything.
We spent the next 30 minutes trying to make the pass. We were slowed stopping for photos at every corner. The clouds were lifting more and more with each turn. Both of us were paying more attention to the every clearer mountain on our right than we were the road or the elevation. We reached the top to find no clouds and almost forgot that we’d ridden to a new high point for the trip at 3,604 meters. We had a great lunch stop, took hundreds of photos and just enjoyed being there – wow, what a place to have lunch.
Chimborazo seemed so far above us. The peak’s elevation is “only” 6,263 meters above sea level, but when measured from the centre of the earth it is further from the centre than any point on earth. That means that today we looked at the point on earth that is closest to the sun – pretty cool. And we saw it without clouds – wow, how lucky is that!
Eventually we tore ourselves away and rode down into Riobamba. It was 25k and mostly downhill. We had to rug up a little but the sun now was in full force and we had to strip a layer about half way down. On the way down we kept looking back over our shoulders and in our mirrors at Chimborazo – and getting a few more photos.
We pulled into town and checked out a hostel before settling on the Bella Casona hotel. It’s a little over our budget but we met the owner while were out front talking about what to do. He is a cyclist and decided that we should have a discount to help us with our discussions – decision made – we are staying here. It’s so nice here that we’ve decided to take a day off tomorrow. We are feeling good but a bit tired from the climbing and altitude. You can see Chimborazo from town so I’m sure that we’ll get a few photos as well.
Meanwhile – I tried hard today to cull but I’ve ended up with too many photos. I guess that’s ok, I mean how many times do you ride past the world’s tallest mountain on your bicycle…?