Baltazar Ushca Tenesaca, the last ice merchant of Chimborazo

Friday, 27 January, 2017

Glacial ice is not ordinary ice, it seems. In addition to being used to make ice cream, and keep food fresh, it is also said to be useful for soothing fevers, and combating hangovers.

And for over fifty years, Baltazar Ushca Tenesaca has scaled Chimborazo, the highest mountain in his native Ecuador, to harvest this ice. His livelihood is under threat though. On one hand, demand for glacial ice is declining. On the other, supply is being eroded, glaciers are retreating, melting, due to climate change.

Nonetheless, he continues to trek the sixteen miles, twice a week, up and down Chimborazo, to collect this dwindling bounty. A fascinating story. And you thought your job was difficult.

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The last of the ice merchants of Chimborazo

Wednesday, 25 April, 2012

Residents of Cuatro Esquinas, in Ecuador, once relied on ice merchants, people who would scale the country’s highest mountain, Chimborazo, sometimes climbing to heights of 4800 metres, to bring blocks of ice back into town for use in cooling and refrigeration systems.

He is literally, by hand and all alone up on the mountain, carving out large pieces of ice at a time. So the biggest dangers are things falling on him. The pieces of ice that he breaks off are hundreds and hundreds of pounds. But the ice isn’t the only danger, because on top of that there are just loose rocks going up the mountain. Everything on the mountain is pretty much just stuff sitting on other stuff. It’s like Jenga – if you take out one of the lower pieces, who knows if something is gonna topple down?

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