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Living Cemeteries in Ecuador: Chimborazo and Cayambe Volcanoes

Ecuador is really diverse and unique as it is located in the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ring of Fire, which as a result of the movement of tectonic plates gave rise to almost a hundred volcanoes. Ecuador has a total of 98 volcanoes, many of which are active and many of which are extinct, You have probably heard about the Chimborazo Volcano, the highest volcano in the world and the closest point to the sun from the heart of the earth or the Cayambe Volcano, the largest and widest of Ecuador, but perhaps you did not know that these giants are cemeteries thousands of meters high, so in this post we will tell you more about these imposing volcanoes.

Chimborazo Volcano
One of the most important volcanoes of Ecuador and the American continent with an altitude of 6,384.4 meters above sea level is the farthest point measured from the center of the earth so it is even higher than the imposing Mount Everest, is located in the Ecuadorian highlands in the Sultana of the Andes in the city of Riobamba in the province of Chimborazo, the last record of eruption dates back approximately 1,500 years ago yet it is considered a potentially active volcano by the Geophysical Institute of Ecuador. It is located in the Cordillera Occidental 150 km south of Quito.

It is composed of three successive volcanic edifices. The Basal that would have been active between 120 and 60 thousand years ago, is the last formation of a complex of domes that possibly occurred in two stages, years later after the placement of an avalanche begins activity in the eastern area progressively giving rise to the intermediate building, later product of the migration of activity to the west side of the building is born the youngest formation and the highest summit, called Whymper, in honor of the man who conquered it for the first time.

The king of the Ecuadorian Andes is the main tourist attraction of the Chimborazo Fauna Production Reserve and the favorite destination for mountaineering enthusiasts, being one of the objectives of climbers of national and international stature definitely a difficult but not impossible dream to achieve, receives thousands of visitors every year, however not everyone who climbs it manages to reach its magnificent summit or descend from it.

The last ice-axe of Chimborazo
Maybe you have heard of Baltazar Ushca, better known as the last ice maker of Chimborazo, a humble man with 78 years of age performs an almost extinct profession we talk about extracting ice from the glacier of the mythical Chimborazo volcano or as he is affectionately called by the indigenous communities the “Taita Chimborazo”, internationally recognized by the documentary: The Last Iceman of Chimborazo in Ecuador released in 2012 and directed by Sandy Patch, tape where his moving story is told, Baltazar carries on his shoulders the legacy of thousands of years that thanks to his son-in-law Juan Ushca will continue, because he is the new ice maker of Chimborazo that in his hands will keep the history of years and the heritage of the man whose hands have extracted ice for years from the most imposing volcano in the world.

The children of Chimborazo
The “Taita Chimborazo” keeps an incredible mysticism that is reflected in the stories, myths and legends told by the indigenous community of the area that really look at it as something beyond a simple volcano, since for them it is sacred so the respect they have for it is very great, one of the most interesting beliefs that is held about the monumental Chimborazo, are precisely those who according to the belief would be their descendants, It is said that Taita Chimborazo appears in front of the girls personified as a tall man with long white hair riding a white horse holding a cane with which when they touch their belly with it, they become pregnant and a “guagua” will be born with hair and skin as white as the snow, children that we know them as albinos, for them are the children of the majestic volcano Chimborazo.

Taita Chimborazo and Mama Tungurahua
For Ecuadorians love has no borders and this can be given in everything that we can feel, one of the most beautiful legends that the country has are the love affairs between mountains, one of them is the romance between Taita Chimborazo and Mama Tungurahua, it is said that both volcanoes had a nice relationship were spouses, however for a slip Mama Tungurahua betrayed her beloved with the imposing volcano El Altar at that time because it was the most formidable of the Andes, This forbidden romance was in complicity with the Carihuairazo volcano that acted as a “pimp”, one day the Chimborazo realized that betrayal with a broken heart, jealous and full of fury erupted starting a war between the two opponents, resulting victorious the brand new Chimborazo that destroyed the imposing El Altar, since then occupies the place of the largest and most imposing volcano in Ecuador. Like this legend there are many more versions where other characters appear as the Guagua Pichincha, the majestic Cotopaxi, the Ilinizas and others.

Cayambe Volcano
The imposing Cayambe, one of the most beautiful volcanoes in the country, is the third highest and most important mountain in Ecuador, with a height of 5,790 meters above sea level, is located in the city of Cayambe, in the province of Pichincha. This glorious volcano whose recent recorded activity includes between 18 to 20 eruptions in the last 4,000 years distributed in three periods, the last eruption being in the years 1785-1786.

The snow-capped Cayambe is completely covered by glaciers from 4,600 to 5,000 meters altitude on the western side and from 4,400 to 4,700 meters altitude on the eastern side. 700 on the eastern side, the volcano is composed of the Northeastern Summit; and two ante summits from north to south with the names of “Santa Barbara” and “South Summit”, in the middle of which rises the Maximum Summit of Cayambe, currently is one of the most popular mountains, visitors come to the shelter and the “Glaciar Hermoso” and its maximum summit being the previous less crowded by the high degree of difficulty it presents.

It is located in the Cordillera Real del Ecuador, 60 km northeast of Quito is part of the main tourist attractions of the Cayambe Coca National Park, crowded by thousands of tourists and several climbers seeking to conquer the summit of the glorious volcano, however, being the highest peak of the northern Andes is one of the most complicated mountains to conquer in the country.

The eternal bride
The fantasy and imagination of Ecuadorians has no limits because their stories seem taken from a true fairy tale, the legend tells that the volcanoes Imbabura and Cotacachi had a beautiful romantic relationship, but the gallant Imbabura set his eyes on the Cayambe volcano infidelity from which the Reventador volcano was born, Cotacachi to learn of the affair hurt by such betrayal and heartbroken sent a curse to Cayambe to remain always dressed in white but never marry, revenge against the Imbabura was even worse because it is said that ripped his heart so you can see the space of the heart that is missing and the Reventador son of the two lovers sent him to the Amazon where you can still hear his roars of anger at being away from his mother.

Living cementeries
Due to their imposing magnitude and complexity, the Chimborazo and Cayambe volcanoes are considered the most difficult volcanic buildings to conquer, because their beauty hides danger, since they silently guard countless bodies who also ventured to feel the glory of crowning such imposing peaks but unfortunately failed in the attempt.

The mythical Chimborazo kept in its entrails the remains of 59 passengers crew members of a flag plane that perished crashing on one of its flanks in 1976 and whose bodies were discovered only in 2003 because of the thaw, their relatives decided to declare, this and many similar cases are hidden in the majesty of the Chimborazo and Cayambe volcanoes, thousands of climbers and mountaineering enthusiasts who for years have spent in the cold glacier of the mountain.

It is for this reason that they are considered the living cemeteries of Ecuador, because it is truly complicated and expensive to rescue the bodies of those who bravely lost their lives in search of conquering the summit of such sublime volcanoes, which is why in their skirts lie the tombstones of those whose families need a place to mourn their departure.

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