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Sangay   



 

 considered one of the most active volcanoes in South America in recent times. This continous eruptive stratovolcano is located at 203S and 7834W, 40 km northeast of Riobamba, the capital of Chimborazo provinces. The steep sided composite volcanic cone, which arose from an older horseshoe shaped caldera reaches a height of 5230m. The top is sometimes covered by snow but because of its ongoing eruptions and activity no permanent ice field has itself established.



 

On top of the volcano exist three craters, with two of them not showing much activity except hot water steam and gases escaping through vents. The third one, which is the largest and from where eruptions take place, is to the east towards the Amazon. So it seems that the major chimney, from where the magma reaches the surface, wandered over time from west to east, creating new openings on its way. Photo taken by the author on January 8th of 2004.



 

 There are records of frequent eruptions over the last centuries with intervals of lesser activities. But as the volcano is located in a very remote area, which is difficult to get to and where no people live, it is not monitored by authorities and most reports are from infrequent excursions to the volcano (read some of my own below). But it is known that periods of almost continuous eruptions occurred from 1728 till 1916 and then from 1934 to our present times.



 

Report of my own first visit to Sangay (January, 1994)

Getting
to Sangay volcano is one of the more difficult but at the same time most rewarding treks in Ecuador. Our trek started in Aloa, where one has to find native guides, who know the route through this remote and uninhabited region. Long hours, bad weather, muddy trails, river crossings, heavy load as all gear and food has to be carried by oneself, etc.. are all part of the adventure. Finally on the second day, just before sundown, we got our first glimpse of the colossus and it was an eerie one with the black cone shaded by gray nightfall, which gave us already a foreboding feeling. Once we arrived at the base camp at the foot of the volcano, we put up our tents and got ourselves ready for the midnight climb to the peak. Lying in the warmth of our sleeping bags and trying to get some kind of sleep, we heard a tremendous explosive noise around 10 pm, which made us all jump out of our bags. Looking towards the volcano we saw huge fireballs running down the flanks of the cone at an incredible speed. What an exciting event to observe but somehow after that nobody felt the urge to rise up later for an scheduled intent to climb to the peak.

Note: Photos to the right by the author taken in 2002 (not 1994).



 

Updates from my latest visits to Sangay:

 

January, 7th of 2002 

Volcano displayed regular eruptions at an interval of around 20 minutes with visible fumaroles of mostly water vapor and some gases, which reach a height of about 1 km. Each third explosion was a larger one with twice as high a column and (at night) visible pyroclastic flow to the east, towards the Amazon. On top of the volcano, many small fumaroles steamed out from the first but especially the second older crater. The major and eruptive third crater was constantly shrouded in vapor.

December, 19th of 2002

Volcano was fairly quiet with no visible or audible indications, which could be observed from the base of the volcano. As foggy conditions prevailed, it was also hard to observe. Only on top one could observe small ash eruptions from the big third crater, which reached several hundred meters in height. On top of the volcano, hot air still steam out from the first and in particular the second crater through smaller vents. The major and eruptive third crater was shrouded in clouds.

January, 8th of 2004

Volcano had eruptions occassionally with ash columns up to 1 km. The intervals of those were very random. The rumbling of the volcano could be heard till Plaza Pampa, our campsite some 20 km farther away. On top of the volcano, the first and second crater showed very little activities. Only in a few spots did hot air escape but much less than in the visit a year ago. The explosions however in the third crater were considerable larger and comparable to the ones two years ago.



 

Latest Update:

Danger alert: none as it is not monitored
Continous
eruptions with ash columns and fumaroles can be observed on clear days and pyroclastic and lava flows at night.

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