Carihuairazo (5020m) can be approached on a rough track 14km northeast of the crossroads known as the Cruce del Arenal on the Ambato–Guaranda road. The track passes through Mechahuasca, the area used for rearing vicuñas as part of the reintroduction programme. From here it is about four hours’ walk to good camping areas below the rocky slopes beneath the glacier; other scenic camping spots (at around 4300m) can be approached from La Urbina in the south, after a beautiful day’s walk up the Mocha valley. Climbers typically leave around 3am and take about seven hours to get up and down. There’s some ice climbing with a messy, mixed terrain scramble towards the top; crampons, ice axe and rope are essential. The true summit, a seemingly inaccessible tower of rock at the end of a precarious ridge, will be out of reach to all but the most experienced climbers. Hiring a guide is strongly recommended and most of the climbing outfits listed offer trips to Carihuairazo.

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