The Mountains

Cayambe (18,982 ft, 5790m)
Cayambe, a massive extinct volcano, is located about 65 km northeast of Quito
and is Ecuador's third highest peak. It is also the highest point on the equator. It was first climbed in 1880 by Edward Whymper. Cayambe is a rather dangerous mountain due to crevasses and avalanches.

Cayambe is covered by a layer of ash as a result of the eruption of neighboring volcano Reventador in November 2002. One Feb 1, 2003, the day after this photo, Cayambe was covered with a new layer of snow.

Cotopaxi (19, 342 ft , 5897m)
"Cotapaxi's shape is the most beautiful and regular of all the colossal peaks in the Andes. It is a perfect
cone covered by a thick blanket of snow which shines so brilliantly at sunset it seems detached from the azure of the sky." Alexander von Humboldt, 1802.

Cotopaxi was first climbed in 1872 from the southwest by German geologist Wilhelm Reiss accompanied by Angel M. Escobar, a Columbian. Edward Whymper spent a night on the summit in 1880.

At 19,342 ft, Cotopaxi is one of the world's highest active volcanoes. Although other volcanoes may be more active geologically, Cotopaxi has caused the most death and destruction. Records of its date back to 1534 though it was undoubtedly active long before then. After a long period of dormancy Cotopaxi erupted three times in 1742 destroying the town of Lataunga and killing hundreds of people. More eruptions followed in 1743, 1744,1766 and 1768. Almost a century of inactivity followed, but in 1853 Cotopaxi again began to display its awesome power and erupted frequently for several years. Four separate eruptions occurred in 1877 and one on 26 June produced catastrophic avalanches of ice, snow, water, mud and rocks. One flow reached the Pacific coast. Frequent but minor eruptions occurred for 8 years. Since 1885 eruptions have been limited to two minor ones in 1903 and 1904 and a disputed one in 1942. Fumarolic activity continues on Cotopaxi's crater.

Chimborazo (20, 702 ft , 6310m),
Chimborazo is located 150 km south southwest of Quito. For a while during the nineteenth century, Chimborazo,
the highest mountain in the country , was thought to b the tallest mountain on earth. In a sense it still is. Because of the earth's equatorial bulge, the peak of this extinct volcano is the farthest point from the planet's center. It is higher than any mountain in the Americas north of it: McKInley is about 75m lower.

Chimborazos reputation as such a high mountain led to many attempts on the summit during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries before it was climbed by Edward Whymper in 1880.

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