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Routes in El Altar

El Obispo, Italian Route (Modern) AI4 M4 Steep Snow
Type: Mixed, Ice, Snow, Alpine, 2400 ft
FA: July 7, 1963, F. Gaspard, M. Tremonti, C. Zardini (Original Route)
Page Views: 144 total · 48/month
Shared By: Chris C. on Dec 18, 2017
Admins: Tony Yeary

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El Obispo (The Bishop), is the highest summit of El Altar. It was originally summited in 1963 by an Italian group, hence the name of the route. The original route's main couloir has melted significantly over the past decade, therefore a modern variation of the route has become the most popular route to the summit. The modern variation still goes by the original name. This route is graded D+/TD, and is one of the more technical, sustained, and committed climbs that Ecuador has to offer.

The route begins at the Italian Camp, and should be completed round trip before the sun bakes the glacier too severely. A standard round trip is approximately 15 hours, beginning at 12am. The peak is relatively low in altitude, so basically it is a race against the clock with the sun turning the glacier and steep snow downclimbs into slush. Most downclimbing is quite exposed where a fall is not optional.

The majority of the climb is on mixed alpine terrain, with mostly rock protection when it can be found. The ice is very brittle and generally not appropriate for screws. Rock tends to be quite loose, as you are climbing on an extinct volcano. The final pitch is on vertical rock and pretty run out to the first reasonable spot for protection. It is also exposed to severe weather from the rainforest. A fall would likely result in significant injury, with self rescue being the only option. (Hence the safety rating. There is talk about putting a single bolt to protect this section, but nobody has hauled up the gear to do it yet.) There is little overhead objective hazard on the route, and the mixed gulleys have good belay spots.


This route has a number of obvious rappel stations marked by old webbing wrapped around rocks. Double 60m ropes are essentially required to complete this route within a reasonable amount of time unless you plan to camp on the glacier. An alpine rack of cams and nuts to protect the majority of climbing is more effective than screws, although a few screws are probably a good idea. 2-3 pickets are good to bring along as well for rappelling.


Chris C.
Seattle, WA
Chris C.   Seattle, WA
I climbed this route on December 15-17, 2017 with my friend and guide, Ignacio Espinosa Andrade (IFMGA). You can read my personal account of the climb here:…

In my opinion, this climb is a super classic. It’s a very different sort of climb than what Ecuador is known for. Hopefully people will continue to put up challenging routes on the country’s large peaks. Dec 18, 2017

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