Tungurahua, (Quichua tunguri (throat), rahua (fire): "Throat of Fire) is an active stratovolcano located in the Cordillera Central of Ecuador. The volcano gives its name to the province of Tungurahua. Volcanic activity restarted in 1999 and is ongoing as of 2008 with major eruptions on August 16 2006 and on February 6, 2008.
Geography and geology
Tungurahua (5,023 m) is located in the Cordillera Central of the Andes
of central Ecuador, 140 km (87 miles) south of the capital Quito
. Nearby notable mountains are the Chimborazo
(6,267 m) and El Altar
(5,319 m). It rises above the small thermal springs town Baños
(1,800 m) which is located at its foot 5 km to the north. Other nearby towns are Ambato
(30 km to the northwest) and Riobamba
(30 km to the southwest). Tungurahua is part of the Sangay National Park
With its elevation of 5,023 m Tungurahua just over tops the snow line
(about 4,900 m). Tungurahua's top is snow covered and did feature a small summit glacier which melted away after the increase of volcanic activity in 1999.
Today's volcanic edifice (Tungurahua III) is constructed inside its predecessor's (Tungurahua II) caldera which collapsed about 3000 (±90) years ago. The original edifice (Tungurahua I) collapsed at the end of the late Pleistocene
. (IG-EPN n.d.,
Historical volcanic activity
Tungurahua's eruptions are strombolian
. They produce andesite
. All historical eruptions originated from the summit crater and have been accompanied by strong explosions, pyroclastic flows and sometimes lava flows. In the last 1300 years Tungurahua entered every 80 to 100 years into an activity phase of which the major have been the ones of 1773, 1886 and 1916-1918. (IG-EPN 1999,
Recent volcanic activity
In 1999, after a long period of rest, the volcano started an eruptive process that continues to this day (as of January 2008). After the first eruptions in October 1999 which produced a major ash out-fall and led to the temporary evacuation of more than 25,000 inhabitants of Baños and its surroundings (El Comercio
1999), the activity continued on a medium level until May 2006, when the activity increased dramatically culminating in violent eruptions on July 14
and August 16
. The August 16
eruption has been the most violent since the beginning of activity in 1999, accompanied by a 10km high ash cloud which later spread over an area of 740 by 180 km (IG-EPN 2006,
) and pyroclastic flows
resulting in seven deaths and destroying several hamlets and roads on the western and northwestern slopes of Tungurahua (El Comercio
2006). The seven people who died were a family of five and two scientists.
After one theory the name Tungurahua
is a combination of the Quichua tunguri
(throat) and rahua
(fire) meaning "Throat of Fire"
After another theory it is based on the Quichua uraua
for crater (Schmudlach 2001). Tungurahua is also known as "The Black Giant" and, in local indigenous mythology it is referred to as Mama Tungurahua
During their 7 year long South America
expedition (1868 to 1876) the two German volcanologists Alphons Stübel
and Wilhelm Reiss
(Reiss with Angel Escobar, 28. Nov. 1872) and Tungurahua (Stübel with Eusebio Rodruguez, 9. Feb. 1873) (Schmudlach 2001).
Climbing Tungurahua is a grade PD scrambling ascent with some snow and a small glacier towards the summit.
Please note: As of August 2007, climbing Tungurahua is not advised due to the high level of activity of the volcano. In addition, both refuges listed below are either severely damaged or no longer in operation. It is not recommended to attempt this climb without first consulting with locals that have familiarity with the volcano's recent activity.
- Tungurahua can be climbed year round with best seasons being December-January and July-August.
- A good height acclimatization is highly recommended for this climb.
- The mountain is contained on the IGM (Instituto Geografico Militar) 1:50000 Map Baños(CT-ÑIV-D1) (IGM 1989, ).
The normal route starts from the Refugio at 3,800 m, scrambling towards the crater ridge, continues then inside of the eastern crater ridge via a short glacier walk to the summit ridge and the summit (4 to 6 hours). On an alternative route the summit can also be reached from the south via a camping spot at Laguna Patococha
(3,730 m) via Cima Minza
(4,800 m) to the top.
There are two huts serving the main route, the Nicolás Martínez
hut (3,800 m) and a newer hut just below. The huts can be reached in 3 hours from the entrance to the Sangay National Park (2,800 m) just above Pondoa.