Alta Andina believes that the more we can connect people to the great outdoors, the better chance we have of preserving nature. As a company located in the Andean region, our first priority is protecting and connecting people to the natural beauty of the great Andes Mountains. That’s why we’re collaborating with the international NGO The Range of Motion Project (ROMP) and the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment to construct the world’s highest altitude, self-guided trail accessible to disabled individuals. The trail is over 14,000 feet above sea level, along the continental divide in the Cayambe Coca National Park, 50km from Quito. 

Currently, the scenic lookout point at the proposed trail’s end is a popular destination; upon completion, it will become accessible to people with all types of disabilities, from intellectual to physical. A series of multilingual trail signs will relate the achievements and unique adaptations of Ecuadorians living with disabilities to the adaptability of local flora and fauna facing the adverse conditions of the high-altitude park. The trail will also include sound amplification infrastructure and tactile experiences to fully immerse visitors in the Alta Andina or high andes experience. The trail will not only provide access and engagement, but education and inspiration.

In adherence with the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, this trail will ensure that disabled individuals enjoy equal access to public lands – and for the first time globally at such extreme heights. This project will serve as a model for accessible trail systems throughout Ecuador’s parklands. The trail will bolster the local economy through tourism development while strengthening the links between equity, human health, inclusion, education, and environmental sustainability.

The Range of Motion Project believes in empowerment through mobility. ROMP serves this mission by providing high quality prosthetic care in underserved populations, which enhances mobility and unlocks human potential. Through the organization’s annual Climbing For ROMP events, communities come together on every continent around the world to get out and hike together, empowering local communities of amputees.

Alta Andina knows that all kinds of sport brings us together in an innately human way. Sunday hikes with the family, backyard baseball and walks around the neighborhood are important for our physical and mental health, and for our sense of connection to nature and community. When we exercise and engage together, humans have the capacity for greater awareness, empathy and connection. We champion all the quirky and funky ways you get outside, from hiking, to birdwatching to painting and drawing in the great outdoors.

For some, the ability to participate in the most basic athletic activities is difficult if not impossible.

Fortunately, we can change that by opening access to walking trails for all, no matter their condition. Walking is the most common sport in the world and is also the most commonly practiced form of exercise, although easily overlooked within the world of sport. However, the ability to walk, hike and connect with nature should not be taken for granted.

By providing equitable access to Ecuador’s Cayambe Coca National Park, everyone will share in the ability to get out of the city and experience the high andes, or the Alta Andina. The inclusive trail will grant safe access to those who were previously unable to enjoy this public land. A walk in nature, though simple in practice, is complex in its benefits. Walks through natural spaces reduce stress, heighten our sense of duty to the natural world, and give us appreciation of our human limitations.

The project manager, Sebastian Carrasco, an outdoor aficionado and former climber, lost the use of his legs in a climbing accident and is now wheelchair bound. The current trail in the national park is inaccessible to him, there is no way he can get out to the viewpoint to enjoy the incredible vista of the surrounding Andes Mountains. The current President of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, is also wheelchair bound. Imagine Sebastian and and President Moreno enjoying the trail’s inauguration together while inspiring the larger community of people with disabilities and mobility limitations to visit the trail. We hope the experience President Moreno will have connecting deeply with the abundant natural beauty of his own country will help inspire him to responsibility steward the natural beauty and biodiversity of Ecuador.

An accessible trail is a new way forward and a welcomed detour to the status quo that excludes those living with disability. Although the project is ambitious, to Alta Andina its just the beginning. This trail is the beginning of a new paradigm, national parks throughout Ecuador and the Andes have an accessible trail, and we all have access to the benefits of connecting with nature.