Altar (Capa Urcu) Expedition - 6 days
DAY 1: Quito-Riobamba-Hacienda Releche-camp at Hacienda Releche.
DAY 2: Hacienda Releche-Valley of Collanes-Camp at Valley of Collanes.
DAY 3: Camp at Collanes-Ascension to the caldron, old crater of Altar located at 4,500 meters. Glacial area surrounded by peaks of ice and rock that rise above 5,000 meters. Return to camp of Collanes.
DAY 4: Camp at Collanes, Northwestern Cliffs of the Altar at 4,600 meters. Paramo area (puna) covered with hay and multicolored flowers. A superb view above the glacial valley of Collanes and the rock peaks of the Northern part of Altar, the hanging glaciers and wildlife. Return to camp.
DAY 5: Camp at Collanes-Negro Paccha, a peak of 5,000 meters located at the end of the Bishop, surrounded by impressive glaciers and lakes. Return to camp.
DAY 6: Camp at Collanes, Hacienda Releche, Riobamba or Baños.
The Altar is located at the eastern range, toward the east of the city of Riobamba, from where it can be seen like a wide crown. Its pointed peaks rising above the rounder glacier seem to penetrate into the sky. It is the most beautiful and grandiose mountain in all of Ecuador. Because of its shape and splendor it is considered "the masterpiece of volcanic creation".
The Incas called it Capac Urcu, which means sublime mountain. The Spanish conquistadors, impressed by its pointed peaks and hanging glaciers, wanted to see in it gothic altars of their beloved imperial Spain.
Later, during the colonial times, it was always referred to in relation to the name Altar, due to its numerous peaks, such as Bishop, Acolyte, which were named sometimes for their shapes or for their location.
The peaks of the Altar from a semi-circle, from North to East and from East to South. The opening towards the West, where the caldron (its old crater) is left uncovered, allowing the view of five glaciers from which great masses of ice and snow are constantly falling in great avalanches.
To the South of the Caldron is the highest peak, "The Bishop", a mass of various unnamed peaks with the highest point reaching 5,404 meters. The "Canon" is located to the North of the caldron, at 5,355 meters, with its hanging glaciers, which precipitate to the bottom. The third highest peak is the "Mother Superior" with 5,320 meters altitude, located to the East of the "Bishop"; it is a rock needle covered with a hard crust of ash and ice. To the East of the caldron is the "Tabernacle" which is 5,295 meters high and joined to the high peaks by means of a series of pointed ice tufts.
Because of the location of the Altar, toward the humid jungle of the high Amazon, huge glaciers can be found that descend in all directions, especially to the Southeast, East and Northeast, creating attractive formations of rock and ice. These glaciers have formed a number of lakes as well as deep valleys, creating extraordinarily beautiful scenery.
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