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The Last Ice Merchant of Chimborazo

Learn the story of the ice that comes from the mountain closest to the sun

and the man who climbs a volcano to get it.

When Baltazar Ushca started climbing Chimborazo volcano as a child with his father and younger brothers to learn the trade, almost no one knew the summit of the mighty volcano is the closest point to the sun from the center of the earth, and almost no one cared.They would get a very early morning start for a 4-hour climb to the skirts of glacier-covered Mount Chimborazo. After a day of pickaxe hard work, the ice- harvesters would take their six to eight packs per person load down to Riobamba markets. In those days Chimborazo ice was very sought after for food preservation, and also for the famous hand-made ice creams.

 

With the advent of ice factories and a refrigerator in every kitchen, the ice business became a too dangerous, underpaid job. One by one, the ice merchants left the mountain and found other jobs, until only Baltazar was left. Nowadays, he still climbs every Thursday and Friday with his faithful mules, to carve the ice from the flanks of Taita Chimborazo.

At 71 Baltazar has found in tourism a new source of income for his ice. Each week, tourists from every corner of the world learn the secrets of his ancestral trade in the showroom in Urbina train station. With ice brought down by Baltazar from the skirts of the mountain closest to the sun (as measured from the center of the Earth) Baltazar’s younger brother, Gregorio, prepares delicious hand-made traditional ice creams with freshly squeezed juice from wild berries and other fruits. A unique experience by all standards!

 

And if you want to live the full experience, you can join Baltazar on his weekly climb, every Thursday and Friday. Spend the night at Train Lodge, in Urbina station, and get an early start in this amazing trip down memory lane, back to a time when ice was brought down from the mountains.

Come and meet Baltazar on the ice routes

Tren del Hielo I

 

The adventure begins in Riobamba, a typical Andean city located in the Ecuadorian Central Andes. A clear day view is breathtaking: Capac Urcu volcano rises above the horizon with its five-peak crowned summit; witnesses of a past eruption a thousand years ago.

 

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Tren del Hielo II

 

This train combines scenery, culture and shopping in a journey that takes us from the temperate valley of Ambato to the Paramo of Urbina, more than 4000 meters in the foothills of Chimborazo. There, Baltazar Ushca, the last Ice Merchant.

 

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