Abraspungo (or Vicuña) Trail

Duration: 3 days – 2 nights

Walking distance: 28km

Rating: Moderately Difficult

Altitude: We will be hiking from 3550 m to 4400 m. First two days we will be ascending gradually.

Best time to visit: From June through September since are the driest months. Rain and fog are common at other times of the year.

Observations: This is a challenging and physically demanding trek, since we’ll be increasing in altitude. Be prepared for snow and below-freezing temperatures overnight. If raining, mud slogging and cold may add some extra difficulties to it. Even under the more ideal conditions water streams keep parts of the route muddy all year around. Weather in the sierra can change regardless of the season; so raining boots are a must. We will walk in the company of arrieros (mule drivers) and mules, which will carry the gear, equipment and food.

TREK DESCRIPTION: Between Chimborazo and Carihuayrazo lies the broad valley of the Río Mocha. This trek follows this valley, along the north flank of Chimborazo to the Continental divide and the Negra Cocha lagoon. Chimborazo is an extinct volcano rising to 6310masl, and its sight is among the most impressive in all the Andes. Volcanic debris on tis western flanks forms the arenal, a harsh, high semidesert comparable to the altiplano of Bolivia. Eight kilometers northeast of Chimborazo is its relatively diminutive companion, Carihuayrazo, another extinct volcano that reaches 5018masl. Its several peaks have been heavily eroded by glacial activity, giving Carihuayrazo a particularly craggy appearance. The vegetation here is that of a relatively dry páramo: tussock grass on the hillsides, a variety of cushion plants in the valley floors, bushes such as the chuquiragua and very few stands of fical trees. There is plenty of water streams and rivers along most of the route, inviting birds, rabbits, deer and vicuñas to live in this place. Views along the way are magnificent in clear weather; not only the impressive Chimborazo and Carihuayrazo so close to us, but the Tungurahua, Altar and Sangay in the cordillera in front of us.

ITINERARY:

Day 1

8:00

We leave from Quito and head south for a three-hours drive to Urbina, a small town located an hour south of Ambato.

11:00

While our arrieros (mule drivers) load our baggage and gear on the mules, we start our walk climbing gradually through onion, potato, and barley fields, a very typical sight of the sierra andina. We will have impressive views of Chimborazo and Carihuayrazo here, the first of so many we’ll have along the way. After having walked for two hours, we will now be walking on tussock-covered páramo, and will see some impressive brick-red rock formations on Chimborazo, highlighted by the white snow. We will make a stop to have lunch here, and resume our walk after. We will pass a few small ponds in the next two-hours walk towards Rumipamba grande, where we will set camping to awaken next morning to a beautiful view of all the mountains. We will have dinner and call it the day.

Day 2

We will wake up early in the morning to pack the camp up. After breakfast we will continue our walk thru the trail, increasing in altitude since we will reach the highest point of the walk this day. Not long after departure we will get to Quebrada Gulag, which runs with silty melt-water from the glaciers of Chimborazo. The road deteriorates a bit here, which can be very muddy in the rainy season. In another couple of hours we will get to Quebrada Gavilán Machay, and after a hard small climb we will get to a pretty bond in a bowl surrounded by flowering vegetation. We will stop to have lunch here, with spectacular views of Carihuayrazo over the water. For the next two hours we will be descending, with a few small climbs, up to Laguna Cocha Negra, and then to the Abraspungo Pass. This is the Continental Divide, at 4400masl. Water flowing west reaches the Pacific Ocean through the Río Guayas; that flowing east is carried to the Atlantic by the Amazon River. If we are lucky, we will be able to spot the first vicuñas. From the pass we will start to head back on a different trail for another two hours, where will set out our camping next to a small river in which we can take a quick cold bath. We will have dinner and enjoy a beautiful quiet night. We will have walked for seven to eight hours this day.

Day 3

After breakfast we pack the camp up and continue our trek. We will walk for four to five hours today, descending gradually returning to Urbina. We will likely see native shepherds with flock of sheep, llamas, alpacas, and cattle. Pretty soon we will be descending through parched landscape and will be back crossing different harvested fields. We will get to Urbina and then return by car to Quito, to arrive at night.

INCLUDED:

  • Tents
  • Gas tanks and burners
  • Food and beverages during the trek (breakfast, lunch box and dinner)
  • Private Transportation
  • Bilingual mountain guide
  • Entrance to the Ingapirca archeological complex
  • Pack animals

NOT INCLUDED:

  • Personal equipment (sleeping bag, mat)
  • Tips

NOT TO FORGET

  • Swimming suit (in case you want to adventure to take a quick bath in a cold river)
  • Small towel
  • Raining boots
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof pants
  • Long sleeves and easy to dry T-Shirts

 

GENERAL LIST:

  • 30 liters backpack (to carry with you during the trek)
  • Easy-to-dry pants
  • Long sleeves and easy-to-dry T-Shirts (Cotton should be avoided)
  • Polar Tec
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof pants
  • Gloves
  • Sun cap (for sun protection) and beanie (for cold protection)
  • Buff
  • Hiking boots or hiking shoes (to be used when camping)
  • Socks for each day (for trekking)
  • Sunglasses
  • Headlamp with extra batteries
  • Knife*
  • Camera*
  • Personal hygiene kit
  • Sun block (at least 50)
  • Water bottles
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Personal medical supplies
  • Trekking Poles *

*Optional