Rising to 5,300m, Volcan Sangay looks like a volcano out of a storybook – an almost perfect glacier-capped cone that rises majestically above the Amazon rainforest on its eastern side and a flat plain of volcanic ash, scored deeply with ravines by historically heavy rainfall, to its west. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sangay is host to a pristine ecosystem relatively untouched by human interaction, the habitat of rare and endangered species such as the mountain tapir and the cougar.
Despite erupting only three times in recorded history, Sangay is one of the world’s most active volcanoes because, incredibly, the eruption that started in 1934 is still ongoing. In 2012, an explosion from Sangay generated an ash and steam column 2km above the summit crater. Remote and hard to access (not least due to its ongoing activity), it is hard to know whether Sangay’s glacier actually still exists or if the whiteness of its peak is now merely seasonal snow and névé (young snow which has partially melted, refrozen and compacted). One thing is certain: as Sangay only protrudes a little above the snow line, any ice that still exists upon its peak cannot last as temperatures rise – if it is still there at all.