Altar: a world apart

The mountain is an extinct Volcano, having a crater in the form of a horse-shoe (larger than that of Cotopaxi), open towards the west; with an irregular rim, carrying some of the finest rock peaks in Ecuador … The walls of the cirque are exceedingly rugged, with much snow, and the floor is occupied by a glacier, which is largely fed by falls from ‘hanging-glaciers’ on the surrounding slopes and cliffs.

Edward Whimper, 1892.

Etymology: CAPAC-URCO means ‘Great Mountain’, CAPAC means Hill and URCO means mountain.

El Altar, situated at 170 km south of Quito, is an extinct volcano which at one time was probably higher than Cotopaxi until a huge ancient eruption almost completely destroyed the cone, leaving a steep-sided and jagged crater of 3 km in diameter. For mountaneers, El Altar undoubtedly involves the most technical climbing and has one of the longest approaches.

Altar, Obispo peak
Suggested itinerary:

Day 1. We will depart from Quito in the morning, heading south towards Ambato and Baños. Before reaching Baños, we will turn towards Penipe and then head up to a small village called Candelaria. At this point we will walk through a rural village towards Hacienda Releche. Here dinner will be served, and we will spend the night.
Day 2. After an early breakfast, mules will be packed to carry our gear to our camping site. We will begin
walking with daypacks towards the campsite and stop halfway for a lunch break. Dinner will be
Day 3. Breakfast. From our campsite we will hike up towards the crater walking along a waterfall and through brushland. When we reach the crater we will descend to the Laguna Amarilla, where we will have lunch before heading back to camp. Dinner will be served.
Day 4. After breakfast, we will head back towards the Hacienda where our car will be waiting. Return to Baños or Quito.