Pollen analysis of a 150-cm-long core from Pantano de Pecho (0°20′S, 78°37′W) at 3870 m altitude in the Ecuadorian páramo documents altitudinal migrations and the composition of the upper forest line prior to deforestation. Four successive radiocarbon dates of 293 ± 41 14C y BP, 498 ± 40 14C y BP, 626 ± 33 14C y BP, and 729 ± 44 14C y BP show that the record includes the last c. 730 radiocarbon y, corresponding to the last c. 660 calendar years (cal y BP). The natural upper forest line was at a minimum altitude of 3400-3500 m between c. AD 1290 to 1315 (zone 1), from c. AD 1315 to 1350 at 3500-3600 m (zone 2), from c. AD 1350 to 1640 at 3600-3700 m (zone 3), from c. AD 1640 to c. 1765 at 3750 m (zone 4), and from c. AD 1765 to the present at 3700-3650 m (zone 5). The most important taxa were Alnus, Hedyosmum, Miconia, other Melastomataceae, Gunnera and Solanaceae. Since c. AD 1350 Podocarpus was continuously present with low abundance, but possibly not close to the upper forest line. Rarer elements of the upper montane forest were Dodonaea, Myrsine, Weinmannia, Myrica, Myrtaceae, Sapium, Juglans, Piper, Euphorbiaceae and Rubiaceae. Human disturbance and deforestation are shown by the presence of Rumex, Spermacoce pollen and charcoal particles. We surveyed the vegetation composition from isolated forest patches located between 3650 m and 4300 m. TWINSPAN analysis indicates forest patches up to 3950 m have a similar floristic composition to closed forest below the upper forest line. We argue that this apparent similarity does not necessarily mean that the slopes between 3750 and 3950 m were covered by closed forest in the past.