Climbing Chimborazo or Carihuairazo is an adventure only for well-acclimatized, experienced mountaineers with snow- and ice-climbing gear (contact guides in Riobamba or Quito). From Riobamba, you can organize a day trip that takes you to Chimborazo's Refugio Whymper at 5000m, or just beyond, to Laguna Cóndor Cocha at 5100m.
Care should be taken to properly acclimatize if you plan to do physical activities around Chimborazo and Carihuairazo. If your accommodations are at altitude in the vicinity of Chimborazo and Carihuairazo, then they will probably be good sites to acclimatize, although you should also consult a qualified guide if you are planning hard hiking or climbs on either peak. You can arrange mountain-bike descents from the high-altitude refuges with tour operators in Riobamba.
The small indigenous community of Pulinguí San Pablo (3900m) on the Riobamba–Guaranda road is well worth an afternoon visit, and climbers and hikers can stay overnight in the simple community lodge. The Puruhá people have lived on Chimborazo’s flanks for centuries and are now working to bring tourism to the region. Locals provide basic guiding services and can take you on fascinating interpretation trails in the area.
A good acclimatization hike begins at Chimborazo Lodge and heads up to the Templo Machay (4700m), where ancient peoples made offerings to the mountain gods.
Most climbers do multiple acclimatization ascents and spend the night at increasingly higher elevations before tackling Chimborazo, which is a notoriously laborious climb that also requires technical know-how. Most parties these days follow the Normal Route, which takes eight to 10 hours to the summit and two to four to return. The Whymper Route was unsafe at the time of research.
There are no refuges on Carihuairazo, so guides usually set up a base camp on the south side of the mountain. The climb is relatively straightforward for experienced climbers, but ice-climbing gear is needed.
Cycling down Volcán Chimborazo along a new designated bike path from Refugio Carrel to the park entrance is an exhilarating way to experience the mountain. Several agencies in Riobamba, including Pro Bici and Julio Verne, offer recommended biking excursions (per person from $45), which can include a hike from the first to the second refugios. After the initial steep downhill the route gets even more beautiful as you cycle through the páramo past families of vicuña.