The Setting

Ecuador is small in size yet rich in geographic diversity. The land ranges from the towering, snow-capped Andes to the lush, coastal lowlands, the Amazon jungle and the Galapagos Islands. The mountain ranges of Ecuador’s many active and dormant volcanoes have earned the highlands the title, “Avenue of the Volcanoes.”

Chimborazo, with an elevation of 20,700 feet above sea level, is the tallest mountain in Ecuador and the closest point on Earth to the sun due to its proximity to the equator. The summit is covered with snow-capped glaciers.

The landscape is beautiful but harsh. High winds often sweep the mountain, which is prone to severe weather and avalanches. Storms and fog can descend quickly. Tough mountain grass covers much of the lower slopes. Vicuña, llama and alpaca thrive in this environment and both huge condors and tiny hummingbirds call Chimborazo home.

The indigenous communities of the Chimborazo area are incredibly beautiful and rich in cultural traditions. They are also part of the poorest population in Ecuador, with few new employment opportunities. Many of these communities continue to live off the land and raise animals. In communities closest to the mountain, there is a tradition of harvesting ice from Chimborazo’s glaciers. The ice is transported to Riobamba, the closest city, to sell at markets. Riobamba, set in a lush valley formed by surrounding mountains, was one of the first colonial cities built in Ecuador and attracts vendors from miles around to its markets.