IPCC Lead Authors Hike Up to Antisana Glacier in Ecuador

Bolívar Cáceres, a glaciologist at Ecuador’s National Meteorology and Hydrology Institute, organized an excursion to a glacier-covered volcano, Antisana, north of Quito, last month. About a dozen researchers took part. They had come to Quito for a lead authors’ meeting of IPCC’s Special Report on Oceans and the Cryosphere. Bert De Bièvre, the technical secretary of FONAG, the Quito Water Conservation Fund, joined the group as well.

The skies were cloudy for much of the day, as is common in Ecuador at that time of the year. But the group felt fortunate to have no rain. After driving from Quito through some agricultural areas, small towns, and forests, they came to the páramos, the high elevation wetlands that are critical for the city’s water supply. After entering a large protected area, De Bièvre explained the dynamics of the páramos, their connection to the glaciers of Antisana, and the mechanisms for diverting water to Quito.

Páramo grasslands on the lower slopes of Antisana (source: Ben Orlove).


Entering the Antisana Water Conservation Area (source: Ben Orlove).


Bert De Bièvre explaining the importance of glaciers and native vegetation to the urban water supply for Quito (source: Ben Orlove).


The group then drove to a trailhead. They hiked up to the glacier. Cáceres discussed the importance of an automated weather station  they had passed.

IPCC lead authors approaching Antisana Glacier. Bolívar Cáceres is second from left (source: Ben Orlove).


Automated weather station just below Antisana Glacier (source: Ben Orlove).


IPCC author Miriam Jackson explained the pattern of crevasses on Antisana Glacier (source: Ben Orlove).


The group spent some time up on the glacier, glad to have been able to reach this ice, at an elevation close to 5000 meters.

IPCC lead authors walking on Antisana Glacier (source: Ben Orlove).


Fresh snow on old ice, at a lower section of Antisana Glacier (source: Ben Orlove).


Frozen meltwater on Antisana Glacier (source: Ben Orlove).


On the way back down to the trailhead, the hikers looked back at the mountain, first seeing it partially obscured by clouds, and then finally getting a clearer view.


Mist on Antisana Glacier (source: Ben Orlove).


Clouds lifting from Antisana at the end of the hike (source: Ben Orlove).