El Altar is the fifth highest mountain in Ecuador and reaching the summit involves some technical climbing. It has been estimated that the historic peak of El Altar was higher than Chimborazo, but after a volcanic eruption all that remains of this ancient volcano is a 3 km long crescent ridge with nine summits surrounding an enormous crater lake.
The massive is referred to as Capac Urcu; Andean Quichua for the almighty or magnificent mountain. After the Spanish conquest, it was renamed El Altar likening it to a cathedral. There are religious names for each of the nine individual peaks. The highest peak is Obispo (5,320 m), at the Southern end of the crater.
El Altar is located in the Eastern Cordillera, 170 km south of Quito, in the Sangay National Park. To climb this beautiful mountain, it takes a degree of technical ability and it is not a recommended climb for beginners. It is some of the hardest climbing in Ecuador. And those experienced climbers will be rewarded with a stunning view of the crater below with Chimborazo and Sangay in the background.