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July-August 2015

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Chimborazo – Earth's Centrifugal Summit

Before the discovery and measurements of its southern Andean kin and the high peaks of Asia's Himalaya, for decades scientists and geographers considered Ecuador's 20,564-foot-high volcano Chimborazo to be the highest mountain in the world. The hulking volcano, which can be seen from some locations over 100 miles distant, rose into the heights due to the subduction of the oceanic Nazca plate under the continental South American plate and subsequent upwelling of volcano-forming magma streams. The highest of Ecuador's Cordillera Occidental, a chain of volcanoes in the nearly 5,000-mile-long Andes mountains, Chimborazo was built over millennia by many individual explosive eruptions. Despite its location just 100 miles south of the Equator (just over a few dozen miles from the Amazon basin), the peak, like only a few others throughout the globe at such low latitudes, rose to heights cold enough to sustain year-round ice. The massive glacier, which is fed in great part by ephemeral storms spawned in the nearby Amazon, drapes over the entire summit of the peak. Tongues of ice flowing from the main glacier, have carved valleys and ridges along the upper flanks of the peak over millions of years.  

ED DARACK is an independent author and photographer. Learn more at       

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