El Altar 5.405 m / 17,730 ft

The most technical of all the mountains in Ecuador

DURATION 5-6 days

DIFFICULTY Strenuous

TRIP OVERVIEW

It doesn't matter where you view it from; this ancient and extinct volcano is the most impressive in Ecuador's Andes. The fifth highest, it is the most technical of all the mountains in Ecuador. Known as "Capac Urcu" in Quichua for Sublime Mountain. El Altar presents the hardest climbing in Ecuador.
A legend says that El Altar tried to steal Tungurahua, Chimborazo’s wife. Chimborazo went to war against El Altar and won, leaving El Altar smashed. According to Indian legend, the collapse happened in 1460; geologists say that the collapse happened a lot earlier. The Spanish named the mountain El Altar, for it resemblance to a cathedral; German explorer and climber Hans Meyer christened the peaks with their individual religious names. El Altar is made up of nine major summits arranged in a reverse C-shape. Starting with the highest in the south and going around counter clockwise the
peaks’ names are as follows: Obispo; Monja Grande; Monja Chica; Tabernaculo; the three Frailes, Oriental, Central and Grande; and Canónigo.

El Obispo 5.319m / 17,451 ft is the most popular peak of El Altar because it is the easiest to get to and the highest. It has also some of the best climbing in Ecuador, which in good conditions is excellent. The choice of which the three standard ways up to Obispo, depends on the snow conditions.

Arrive/Depart: Quito or Riobamba

Group Size: 1:1 or 1:2 depending on the peak to attempt

Pre-requisites: Very good physical condition and proven alpine mountaineering and rock climbing experience

Difficulty Levels: Strenuous
EXPLAIN DIFFICULTY LEVELS

Extension: Optional days for weather contingency

Access/Depart: Drive / Hike in and out with horse support

Accomodation: Camping

Activity: Hiking / Rock and Mixed Climbing

Seasons: Better in September or from November to February

Equipment: El Altar Climbing Excursion Gear List
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ITINERARY

Summit day on El Altar begins early as we climb in the predawn hours on the route we decided upon the day before. Steep snow and ice leads to the upper superior glacier. From here a narrow gully of steep ice leads to a very exposed notch in the summit crest. From the notch we can look north into the deep inner cirques of El Altar. The last section of the climb is often the hardest with a steep rock wall above the notch presenting technical rock climbing difficulties. The holds are large but the rock is steep. Descent is by rappel and down climbing.

El Altar is a long summit day with varied climbing. It is no wonder it was the last of Ecuador's 5.000 meter summits to be ascended!

DAY
01

Travel to El Altar Volcano

  • Pick up at Quito at around 9:00
  • Lunch at Urbina
  • 5 hour drive to Vaqueria Inguisay 3.550 m /11.650 ft for night camping

Activity: Camping

Transportation: 5-hour private van/jeep transfer

Meals: Lunch / Dinner

DAY
02

Campamento Italiano (Italian Camp)

  • Hike up to Campamento Italiano 4.600 m / 15,090 ft
  • Set up camp

Activity: Trekking / Camping

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

DAY
03

Summit Attempt of Obispo

  • Climb Obispo and return to camp

Activity: Summit attempt - 7 hours climbing up / 3 hours descending

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

DAY
04

Rest Day

  • Spare day to rest and relax or explore the area

Activity: Relax / Explore / Camp

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

DAY
05

Return to Vaqueria Inguisay

  • Walk down back to Vaqueria Inguisay
  • Set up camp

Activity: 3 hours descent to campsite

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner

DAY
06

Return to Quito

  • Dismantle campsite
  • Leave around 10:00

Activity: Drive

Transportation: 5-hour private van/jeep transfer

Meals: Breakfast / Lunch

Important: Please note that this itinerary is a guideline only. We will do every effort to follow it, but in case of unforeseen circumstances we may have to make changes.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Hard climbing
  • Unique location that allows great views of the southern Ecuadorian volcanoes such as Sangay and Tungurahua (both active)
  • Good chances to see some of the last wild condors in Ecuador
  • Good view of Chimborazo
  • One of the least frequently climbed mountains of Ecuador

MAP

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COMPLIMENTARY
EXTENSIONS

Our Complimentary Extension Packages offer great opportunities to explore some of Ecuador’s most dramatic scenaries, which have earned the country a reputation as one of the most bio diverse and unique regions on the planet.

We work with carefully selected tourism operators, which will offer the same quality and high standards of service that our clients expect from us.

You can choose from a selection of various (active) outdoor activities in the Galapagos, the Cloud Forest or Amazon Jungle. We highly recommend to extent your trip with a rafting experience.

VIEW EXTENSION TOURS

WHY TAKE THIS TRIP WITH US?

Our mountain guides are an integral part of Andeanface because they understand and share our climbing principles. The quality of our guiding staff is the primary difference between us and our competitors. The guides we employ are personally known to us for several years, this has given us some of the best reputation. More importantly we consider safety on the mountains our main goal.

WHAT TO EXPECT?

Activities

Hiking, camping, steep climbing and up sailing

Terrain

Altar is by far technically the hardest climb of Ecuador

Travel

We travel to Altar by jeep, and hike for one day to the Italian camp, we have horse support for the approach

Weather

Due to its position east of the Andean range, is one of the peaks which has more challenging & unpredictable weather. Best from November to February

SUGGESTED COMBINATIONS

El Altar Climbing Excursion is for climbers with proven climbing experience who are looking for off the beat track challenges.

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