For over 50 years, 72 year old, 1.5m tall Baltazar Ushca has harvested the glacial ice of Ecuador’s Mount Chimborazo, cutting blocks of ice by hand, wrapping them in straw to stop them melting and selling them in the town of Rio Bamba at Chimborazo’s base. He is the last in the centuries old line of ice collectors or Hieleros, his younger brothers Gregorio and Juan having retired because the work high on the slopes of the highest mountain in the world at the equator is cold, dangerous and badly paid. Tim Jarvis met Baltazar and Gregorio in October 2016 and they told me that as the climate has got warmer, the glaciers have retreated, meaning Baltazar and his donkeys now have to climb higher up the mountain (up to 4,800m) to reach the ice. His brother Gregorio now uses some of the ice Baltazar collects to make traditional fruit juices and ice cream, as some believe it has natural healing properties.
Chimborazo is the highest mountain in the world, technically higher even that Mt Everest, because of the way the planet bulges out at the Equator.