Independent Trekking - Podocarpus and El Altar
Replies: 5 - Last Post: Nov 29, 2012 8:07 AM Last Post By: NicoleAAS
Nov 27, 2012 8:15 PM
Independent Trekking - Podocarpus and El AltarMy boyfriend and I will be traveling to Ecuador next month for a few weeks and, aside from milling around Banos, Cuenca, and Vilcabamba, we would really like to do a couple of multiday treks in the sierra. I specifically have the lakes of El Altar and Podocarpus national park in mind. As I sit here in the US, attempting to plan out the itinerary, I am having some trouble finding logistical information (recommended routes and transportation to the parks). Has anyone done independent treks in either of these areas? Can you describe the route you took and share recommendations/information/general experience? Maybe alternate suggestions? Any information is much appreciated! Thank you!
Nov 28, 2012 4:23 AM
1Podocarpus; I visted 2 sections
- Loja; you can trek to the Compadre lake on the altiplano and camp there
- Zamora; that's tropical. You can camp in the park and do a dayhike.
Nov 28, 2012 6:49 AM
For the trek to El Altar at the very least you need some wellies (rubber boot) which you can probably pick up froma hardware store in Riobamba and the relevant maps which you will need to get from the IGM (Instituto Geografico Militar) in Quito when you arrive. There is a branch in Guayaquil but not in Riobamba. I believe the book Trekking in Ecuador has details of this trek.
If you or your boyfriend have huge feet - bring the boots with you.
Nov 28, 2012 4:42 PM
Nov 28, 2012 5:39 PM
4I doubt very much it would have been Chimborazo erupting as it has not erupted for centuries and it was probably Tungurahua erupting in the background. Bear in mind that El Altar is perhaps the most technically demanding climb in Ecuador. December through February are the best months to attempt an ascent.
Nov 29, 2012 8:07 AM
5I did a combo horse-back ride and hike to the lake at El Altar and it was spectacular...and also spectacularly miserable! Absolutely worth it in the end though.
I must say that the route we took by horse is the most popular hiking route as well and it was DIFFICULT for the horses to wade through the muck and mud. I'm sure hiking will be just as challenging if not more and we traveled during the dry season so I imagine this particular trail is muddy year-round. If you do plan to hike, absolutely bring boots. If you would consider horseback riding to the refuge and then continuing by foot another couple of hours to the lake, you can contact Hosteria Releche who will arrange horses and a guide for you...the cost as of September 2012 was $18pp + $20 for the guide split by the group. The ride took us 4 hours one way and was tedious but, again, so worth the journey even though it was a dreary, cold day and we were covered in fog.
Once we reached the refuge, we continued by foot through a gorgeous, rocky field. You will also want rubber boots for this portion as there are sneaky, watery areas that look solid until you step in the wrong area and end up submerged to your mid-calf. Scrambling up the side of the crater to reach the lake was treacherous in parts so take your time!!
In the end, we did all of this as a day trip and it was a LOOOOOONG day. I would recommend speaking to hosteria Releche about staying overnight in the refuge if it is open at the time you will be visiting (it was not when we were there but I would have happily camped on the property to allow more time for exploring the area). Bring your own food even if horseback riding and bring some for the guide too as a courtesy!
Hope this helps! This trip was by far the least organized and most primitive guided experience of my time in Ecuador but was absolutely incredible. Highly recommend especially if you are prepared with an adventurous spirit and LAYERS!
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