First ecuadorian climb to the Obispo summit, Altar Volcano, 1963


Rómulo Pazmiño, Luis Salazar and Marco Cruz

  • Date: December 27, 1963
  • Mountain: Altar, Obispo Summit
  • Elevation: 5,315 m
  • Normal Italian Camp Route

Rómulo Pazmiño Notes

The epilogue of our story of the Altar was with an offering of blood, both from Luis and Marco, a very hard test; but with great courage they knew how to find within themselves a power that they did not know before, and that was necessary so that the audacity of wanting to reach the summit of the Obispo, becomes a wonderful reality: “BE THE FIRST ECUADORIANS IN GIVING A LAUREN TO ECUADORIAN ANDEAN CLIMBING WITH THE CONQUEST OF THE OBISPO’S SUMMIT”. Which also constitutes: “A before and after, of mountaineering in Ecuador”

After crossing several crevasses we face a great rhyme. The slope is very steep, we had to carve steps with ice axes, a very difficult task.

Impressive the beauty of the Altar caldera. Moments later the cloud caught us and it began to snow. We took refuge in the entrance of the rock chimney, we could not see anything, therefore, the only alternative was to explore the chimney to try to find a way out to the top. Inside the chimney we had to take off our crampons (10 points). Until we reach the most complicated step that we call the “Ball”. In that place I was hitting a peg to place a stirrup, but a small rock fell off and hit Luis’s eyebrow causing a short hemorrhage and we were able to continue, thanks to a dressing placed by Marco. After overcoming the stressful chimney we found ourselves with a ledge which we had to break to make a hole and get out to the summit line. Having at our feet an immense void that ends in the Laguna Amarilla, 1000 meters below. Fear and delight mixed in the same climb.

Suddenly… Unbelievers!!!… We found a hiking pole stuck in the snow! It could not be other than the one left by the Italian team… But above all it meant that the Obispo had allowed us to climb its summit!!!… Some tears spontaneously shone, like diamonds, and on our knees we thanked God, the one who has sheltered us from the bottom of our souls. And to complete the ceremony, what better way to sing proudly to our country… the National Anthem, so that the echo responds from all the ravines of our Andean mountain range. The biggest trophies that someone could have: The hiking pole and the personal card of Dr. Tremonti, on the back, and on the front, of the two Italian guides. The card was found in a jar, the same one that was used to deposit inside: a triangular “New Horizons” flag and a San Gabriel Mountain Group pennant. Dr. Tremonti’s card, where you can read the names of the members, all Italian. Marino Tremonti. and the guides: Ferdinan Gaspar and Claudio Zardini. 7 – 7 – 1963. 15 years later a group, which must be from the San Gabriel Group, recovered from the jar that we left on the summit: the triangle of “New Horizons”, left by me. and the San Gabriel Group pennant, left by Marco Cruz. Thank you and congratulations dear Marcos Serrano, for being the owner of an unforgettable memory. The truth is, I never imagined I would see it again. That makes me very happy.

After the initial excitement. We remembered that we were cold, well, we were wet. The consequent and disturbing question was: And, now, how do we get down?… If we met quite late and the night would find us in the middle of the chimney.

To save a little time, after the last runner, we tied the three ropes, they were 120 meters. Marco went down first, we made sure of it, almost upon arrival the movement of the rope released a stone that hit Marco’s head, we saw him bend over. Luis went down as fast as possible, I assured him, when I arrived I saw him improvising a bandage, I had no idea of the seriousness of the wound. I let go of the rope and quickly got to Marco and I could see that he had a cut of about four centimeters and the corresponding bleeding, he was a little dizzy but he could walk. We arrived at Carmelo camp, everything was wet. In the photograph you can see me just going down to meet Marco and Luis.

After seven days in the mountains, we finally arrived at Puelazo. The relatives of the three boys who accompanied us carrying porters, received us worried but happy to see us alive, to entertain us they prepared a chicken broth that was so tough that looked like it still wanted to get off the plate. anyway, with the great hunger that we brought, only the bones remained. We were surprised that the Erazo family, being peasants, were blond and green-eyed, and with beautiful feet that surely do not need crampons.

We went down extremely skinny…

My dear Marco, the youngest of the group, with signs of dehydration. For all three, the physical and emotional wear and tear had been put to a very severe test. Congratulations to my colleagues who always showed a total sense of body and camaraderie, no one lost control, even in the most critical moments.


* Photos courtesy of Rómulo Pazmiño

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