Ecuador’s tallest mountains are mainly located within the Andean range and exhibit a wide variety of alpine flora and fauna unique to the Ecuadorian mountains. These mountains play a major role in the shaping of the surrounding landscape through eruptions and glacial activities. Some of these mountains are included within protected areas to conserve the alpine biodiversity. While these mountains offer mountaineering activities, they pose a challenge to the climbers due to the high altitudes and glacial avalanches.
Tallest Mountains In Ecuador
Chimborazo is the highest mountain in Ecuador with an elevation of 20702 feet and the highest peak close to the equator. The stratovolcano is part of the Andes’ Cordillera Occidental range. The mountain has been dormant since about 550C.E. Chimborazo is covered by glaciers on its peak that flow to lower elevation providing water for the provinces. These glaciers have been on a decline due to climate change and excavation by humans for cooling purposes. The mountain attracts tourists for mountaineering activities especially between December to January and July to August.
Cotopaxi is Ecuador’s second highest mountain with an elevation of 19347 feet located on the North Volcanic Zone and the Andean range. The active stratovolcano last erupted in 2015 lasting for about six months from August to January 2016. Cotopaxi is an almost symmetrical cone with snow at the peak. The volcano is located within the Cotopaxi Volcano National Park which supports humid mountain forests on the lower elevations and pine trees. Deforestation is a major problem affecting the forests on the volcano as it leads to loss of the natural tree species. Animals supported by the mountain environment include Andean wolves, llamas, pumas, deer and a variety of bird species.
Cayambe, the third highest mountain in Ecuador, has an elevation of 18996 feet. The compound volcano is located in Pichincha on the Cordillera Central of the Andean range. The mountain is permanently snow-capped, making the volcano the only one with snow on the equator. The volcano has been dormant since the 18th century. The mountain attracts tourists for mountain climbing as well as for its biodiversity along the slopes found within the Cyambe-Coca Ecological Reserve. The mountain supports rainforests, rivers, lakes, and hot springs and animals such as Andean condors, turkeys, monkeys. There are about 900 bird species, 200 mammal species, and about 100 amphibian species within the mountains.
Antisana is a stratovolcano located on the Cordillera Real of the Andean range and with an elevation of 18891 feet, the volcano is the fourth tallest in Ecuador. The mountain is covered with glaciers which are responsible for glacial erosion activity on the mountain slopes. The volcano has been dormant since the 19th century with the last explosion occurring in 1801-1802. The mountain is rarely climbed due to difficulties posed by glaciers as well as the restrictions made towards the protection of the wildlife supported by the mountain environment.
Significance of Ecuador’s mountains
The mountains of Ecuador offer an unmatched view of the rich Ecuadorian geography and are a cultural symbol to the residents both in the past and present. These mountains including El Altar, Illiniza Sur, Sungay, Illiniza Norte, Tungurahua, and Carihuairazo have been revered both in the past and the present by alpine communities.