Chimborazo, Highest Volcano in Ecuador
Ecuador may be a small country, but it boasts one of the world’s highest mountains: Chimborazo. Towering 20,560 ft above Pacific coastal lowlands on one side and the Amazon rainforest on the other, Chimborazo is the tallest peak in Ecuador and ranks 17th in the world. A curious fact about Chimborazo is that its summit is the farthest point on the surface of the Earth from the center of the Earth. This is due to the Earth’s so-called “equatorial bulge” that makes the planet slightly wider laterally than longitudinally. Chimborazo’s position just a single degree south of the equator allows it to benefit from the added girth of the equatorial bulge.
Chimborazo has always been important to the people of Ecuador, as shown by its being featured on the country’s Coat of Arms. The mountain has been the subject of paintings and poems (one notably written by Simon Bolivar) inspired by its ethereal beauty and spectacular presence. As an inactive volcano whose last major eruption occurred over 1,000 years ago, Chimborazo has become covered by many large and thick glaciers. Water melting from these glaciers is the main source of fresh water for two of Ecuador’s provinces, and ice mining from the mountain’s slopes has been conducted for many centuries, long before the coming of the Spanish conquistadors.
The people and government of Ecuador recognize the importance of Chimborazo to their nation, and have acted to protect the mountain and its surrounding ecosystem from wanton exploitation and abuse. In 1987, The Reserve of Chimborazo (in Spanish: “Reserva de Produccion Faunistica Chimborazo”) was established specifically to protect some of the last remaining wild herds of Llamas, Alpacas and Vicunas in the Andean region. These distant relatives of Camels are prized for their soft fur, and native Ecuadorians have domesticated these gentle creatures for many centuries. The rolling moors of the Reserve are a popular tourist attraction for wildlife lovers, bird-watchers and mountain bikers who enjoy the area’s temperate climate and beautiful scenery.