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Handy Andes by Dave Ferguson

Introduction | Bolivia | Peru | Equador | Essential Info


Of the three countries featured here, Ecuador has the least developed climbing scene, though the rumours still fly thick and fast. These rumours are not always accurate or indeed true which, when combined with political turmoil and volcanic uncertainty, tends to hinder cragging possibilities.

However, if you thought Bolivia was wonderful, Ecuador is in a league of it's own. It is far more laid-back and friendly than the other two countries described here, possibly a result of the smaller and less intense tourist industry. There are not really any "sites" to visit so tourists are more of the wander-and-absorb kind. This is an excellent approach to developing-world crag hunting.

Apart from a few solid facts, described below are a series of rumours that need to be followed up!


There is an early 80s style outdoor wall in Ciudadela Vicnetina (at the big sports complex) which is a reasonable way to spend an afternoon in the city.

On the Quito to Tena road

About an hour and a half out from Quito, on the left hand-side of the road winding up to the 4000m pass is a small bolted crag. Apparently this is the closest developed rock to Quito and is therefore quite popular. Didn't look that great from the bus though.


This popular spa town is said to have the best bolt clipping in the country. The only stuff we found was short and poxy though it sounds like we were looking in the wrong place. I subsequently heard that the way to get there is to go past the zoo and break off left down to the river. Routes range from 6b to 7b and climb bolted lines on "slippery black rock".


I heard all sorts of rumours about Cuenca in the south, none of which actually came to anything. One person told me that if you get the bus up to Cajas National Park you will see a magnificent crag on the right. I didn't. Another someone said that there are some fantastic crags in the Park itself. I saw a few small ones but it was soaking wet, something for which the area is justifiably famous. The area looked promising though, resembling the Cumbrian Lake District in many ways. Members of Cuenca climbing club told us that there's a great crag on the hill above San Joaquin on the way to (again) Cajas. We spent a sweltering few hours thrashing around hillsides to no avail, so concluded we had been sandbagged on that one.

There is however a climbing wall at the Sports Ground in Cuenca (very easy to find) and there you can hire ropes, tennis rackets and roller blades for the first free multi-sport ascent of their pretty good outdoor wall. You may even get some more helpful hints than we did.


Right, here we have some solid information. Chimborazo is the highest peak in Ecuador and home to Alpacas, Llamas, grass and frostbitten foreigners. All of these demographics have sadly overlooked the true potential of the area, a potential focused around the village of Pulingui on the modern metalled road between Riobamba and the huts on Chimborazo. A bunkhouse has been built as part of their community centre in an effort to attract foreign trekkers and climbers, and this is a great place to be based.

Twenty minutes walk up the valley is a side valley populated by a campsite, some Alpacas and a few boulders which are well worth a look at, but the main course is half an hour downhill.

A handful of foreign visitors have made preliminary stabs at developing the Canyon Chorrera, and have so far left a dozen or so multi-pitch bolt routes. David Hibler, a Canadian development worker who has been helping with community projects in Pulingui, has been the main instigator of the developments with help from a team of visiting Spaniards. The existing routes are good, but not as good as what's left. The existing routes are at the bottom of the gorge on solid vertical walls, further up the gorge the walls get higher and steeper and are covered in enticing lines that have yet to attract would-be ascentionists. A Columbian climber left a tough 5.12 finger crack that has seen little attention since; and…well that's it, bucket loads of potential for hard trad, hard sport and hard aid stuff all in a setting only C.S. Lewis could have dreamed up. If "El Cantilado" were fully developed it would surely be one of the finest crags in the world.

A good place to base yourself is the bunkhouse at Pulingui, complete with kitchen it will set you back £3 a night and the people are soooo friendly. Gear (ropes, harnesses, dodgy biners) can be hired from Riobamba, where you can (and should) also buy lots of food. Getting there is tricky, we got a lift up there but I believe the bus to Guaranda takes that road, ask at the bus station.

Introduction | Bolivia | Peru | Equador | Essential Info


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