Last updated

Highest point
Elevation 6,288 m (20,630 ft)
Prominence 1,997 m (6,552 ft)
Listing Ultra
Coordinates 15°49′S71°53′W / 15.817°S 71.883°W / -15.817; -71.883 Coordinates: 15°49′S71°53′W / 15.817°S 71.883°W / -15.817; -71.883
Peru physical map.svg
Red triangle with thick white border.svg
Location Arequipa, Peru
Parent range Andes
Mountain type Stratovolcano
Volcanic belt Central Volcanic Zone
Last eruption Unknown
First ascent Inca, pre-Columbian
Easiest route snow / glacier climb

Ampato (possibly from Quechua hamp'atu [1] or from Aymara jamp'atu [2] , both meaning "frog") is a dormant 6,288-metre (20,630 ft) stratovolcano in the Andes of southern Peru. It lies about 70–75 kilometres (43–47 mi) northwest of Arequipa and is part of a north-south chain that includes the volcanoes Hualca Hualca and Sabancaya, the last of which has been active in historical time.

Aymara language native language in South America

Aymara is an Aymaran language spoken by the Aymara people of the Andes. It is one of only a handful of Native American languages with over one million speakers. Aymara, along with Spanish, is one of the official languages of Bolivia and parts of Peru. It is also spoken, to a much lesser extent, by some communities in northern Chile, where it is a recognized minority language.

Stratovolcano Tall, conical volcano built up by many layers of hardened lava and other ejecta

A stratovolcano, also known as a composite volcano, is a conical volcano built up by many layers (strata) of hardened lava, tephra, pumice and ash. Unlike shield volcanoes, stratovolcanoes are characterized by a steep profile with a summit crater and periodic intervals of explosive eruptions and effusive eruptions, although some have collapsed summit craters called calderas. The lava flowing from stratovolcanoes typically cools and hardens before spreading far, due to high viscosity. The magma forming this lava is often felsic, having high-to-intermediate levels of silica, with lesser amounts of less-viscous mafic magma. Extensive felsic lava flows are uncommon, but have travelled as far as 15 km (9.3 mi).

Andes mountain range running along the tu mamide of South America

The Andes or Andean Mountains are the longest continental mountain range in the world, forming a continuous highland along the western edge of South America. This range is about 7,000 km (4,300 mi) long, about 200 to 700 km wide, and of an average height of about 4,000 m (13,000 ft). The Andes extend from north to south through seven South American countries: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.


Ampato consists of three volcanic cones, which lie on top of an older eroded volcanic edifice. They were formed sequentially by extrusion of lava flows, but Ampato has also had explosive eruptions which have deposited ash, lapilli and pumice in the surrounding landscape. One young lava flow has been dated to 17,000 ± 6,000 years before present, but a summit lava dome is even younger, and Holocene ash layers in surrounding peat bogs may testify to the occurrence of recent eruptions.

Explosive eruption type of volcanic eruption

In volcanology, an explosive eruption is a volcanic eruption of the most violent type. A notable example is the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. Such eruptions result when sufficient gas has dissolved under pressure within a viscous magma such that expelled lava violently froths into volcanic ash when pressure is suddenly lowered at the vent. Sometimes a lava plug will block the conduit to the summit, and when this occurs, eruptions are more violent. Explosive eruptions can send rocks, dust, gas and pyroclastic material up to 20 km into the atmosphere at a rate of up to 100,000 tonnes per second, traveling at several hundred meters per second. This cloud may then collapse, creating a pyroclastic flow of hot volcanic matter.


Lapilli is a size classification term for tephra, which is material that falls out of the air during a volcanic eruption or during some meteorite impacts. Lapilli means "little stones" in Latin.

Pumice Light coloured highly vesicular volcanic glass

Pumice, called pumicite in its powdered or dust form, is a volcanic rock that consists of highly vesicular rough textured volcanic glass, which may or may not contain crystals. It is typically light colored. Scoria is another vesicular volcanic rock that differs from pumice in having larger vesicles, thicker vesicle walls and being dark colored and denser.

The present-day volcano is covered by an ice cap, and during the last glacial maximum glaciers advanced to low altitudes. In 1995, an Inca mummy known as Mummy Juanita was discovered on Ampato by Johan Reinhard; it had been offered as a human sacrifice more than six hundred years earlier on the mountain.

Ice cap ice mass that covers less than 50,000 km² of land area

An ice cap is a mass of ice that covers less than 50,000 km2 of land area. Larger ice masses covering more than 50,000 km2 are termed ice sheets.

A mummy is a deceased human or an animal whose skin and organs have been preserved by either intentional or accidental exposure to chemicals, extreme cold, very low humidity, or lack of air, so that the recovered body does not decay further if kept in cool and dry conditions. Some authorities restrict the use of the term to bodies deliberately embalmed with chemicals, but the use of the word to cover accidentally desiccated bodies goes back to at least 1615 AD.

Mummy Juanita well-preserved frozen body of an Inca girl, d. c. 1450

Momia Juanita, also known as the Lady of Ampato, is the well-preserved frozen body of an Inca girl who was killed as an offering to the Inca gods sometime between 1450 and 1480 when she was approximately 12–15 years old. She was discovered on Mount Ampato in southern Peru in 1995 by anthropologist Johan Reinhard and his Peruvian climbing partner, Miguel Zárate. "Juanita" has been on display in the Catholic University of Santa María's Museum of Andean Sanctuaries in Arequipa, Peru, almost continuously since 1996, and was displayed on a tour of Japan in 1999.

Geography and geomorphology

Ampato lies south of the Colca Canyon and at the southern end of a chain of volcanoes formed by Hualca Hualca and Sabancaya, [3] the last of which has been historically active. [4] Clockwise from northeast the towns of Colihuiri, Cajamarcana, Sallalli, Japo, Baylillas, Corinta and Collpa surround the volcano; [3] the city of Arequipa lies 70–75 kilometres (43–47 mi) to the southeast. [4]

Colca Canyon valley

Colca Canyon is a canyon of the Colca River in southern Peru, located about 160 kilometres (99 mi) northwest of Arequipa. It is Peru's third most-visited tourist destination with about 120,000 visitors annually. With a depth of 3,270 metres (10,730 ft), it is one of the deepest in the world. The Colca Valley is a colorful Andean valley with pre-Inca roots, and towns founded in Spanish colonial times, still inhabited by people of the Collagua and the Cabana cultures. The local people maintain their ancestral traditions and continue to cultivate the pre-Inca stepped terraces, called andenes.

Hualca Hualca volcano in Peru

Hualca Hualca is an extinct volcano in Arequipa Region in the Andes of Peru. It has a height of 6,025 metres.

Sabancaya Peruvian stratovolcano

Sabancaya is an active 5,976-metre-high (19,606 ft) stratovolcano in the Andes of southern Peru, about 70 kilometres (43 mi) northwest of Arequipa. It is considered part of the Central Volcanic Zone of the Andes, one of the three distinct volcanic belts of the Andes. The Central Volcanic Zone includes a number of volcanoes, some of which like Huaynaputina have had large eruptions and others such as Sabancaya and Ubinas have been active in historical time. Sabancaya forms a volcanic complex together with Hualca Hualca to the north and Ampato to the south and has erupted andesite and dacite. It is covered by a small ice cap which leads to a risk of lahars during eruptions.

Ampato is part of the Central Volcanic Zone of the Andes, [5] which in Peru manifests itself as several dozen Pleistocene volcanoes, some of which erupted in historical time including El Misti, Huaynaputina, Sabancaya and Ubinas. The largest historical eruption of the Andes took place at Huaynaputina. [6] Other volcanoes in the Peruvian Central Volcanic Zone are Sara Sara, Solimana, Coropuna, Chachani, Ticsani, Tutupaca, Yucamane and Casiri. [3]

Peru republic in South America

Peru, officially the Republic of Peru, is a country in western South America. It is bordered in the north by Ecuador and Colombia, in the east by Brazil, in the southeast by Bolivia, in the south by Chile, and in the west by the Pacific Ocean. Peru is a megadiverse country with habitats ranging from the arid plains of the Pacific coastal region in the west to the peaks of the Andes mountains vertically extending from the north to the southeast of the country to the tropical Amazon Basin rainforest in the east with the Amazon river.

The Pleistocene is the geological epoch which lasted from about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the world's most recent period of repeated glaciations. The end of the Pleistocene corresponds with the end of the last glacial period and also with the end of the Paleolithic age used in archaeology.

Huaynaputina Volcano in Peru

Huaynaputina is a stratovolcano in a volcanic upland in southern Peru. The volcano does not have an identifiable mountain profile but instead is a large volcanic crater. It has produced high-potassium andesite and dacite. On 19 February 1600, it exploded catastrophically, in the largest volcanic explosion in South America in historical times. The eruption continued with a series of events into March. An account of the event was included in Fray Antonio Vázquez de Espinosa's Compendio y Descripción de las Indias, which was translated into English as Compendium and description of the West Indies in 1942.

Ampato seen from west Ampato.JPG
Ampato seen from west

The volcano Ampato consists of three individual steep-sided cones which rise from a gentle glacially eroded foot. These three cones are lined up in southwest-northeast direction and the highest one reaches an elevation of 6,280 metres (20,600 ft) [4] or 6,288 metres (20,630 ft). [7] Ampato is one of the highest volcanoes in the Central Volcanic Zone [8] and the 35th highest summit in the Andes. [9]

The summit of the volcano is covered with an ice cap [10] , and the edifice is incised by glacial valleys. The volcano is surrounded by three sets of moraines, the lowermost one at 4,250–4,450 metres (13,940–14,600 ft) elevation has been attributed to the last glacial maximum between 25,000-17,000 years ago, the middle one between 4,400–4,650 metres (14,440–15,260 ft) to a late readvance at the Pleistocene-Holocene epoch boundary and the higher ones above 4,800 metres (15,700 ft) to Holocene advances. [11]


Off the western coast of South America, the Nazca Plate subducts beneath the South America Plate [6] at a rate of 5–6 centimetres per year (2.0–2.4 in/year). [3] This subduction process is responsible for volcanism in the Central Volcanic Zone [6] [8] and started during the Jurassic period after the opening of the southern Atlantic Ocean, which triggered the onset of subduction of the Nazca Plate. [8]

Volcanic arc-associated volcanism originally occurred within the Cordillera de la Costa in the Jurassic, but later it migrated resulting in the emplacement of the Tacaza and Toquepala groups and finally the Neogene Barroso group. The present-day volcanic arc is situated in the area of the Barroso group but has a narrower extent. [12]

The basement beneath Ampato is formed by sedimentary and volcanic rocks of the Western Cordillera of Peru, and the rocks are of Mesozoic to Cenozoic age. A high plateau formed by ignimbrites and lavas of Pliocene to Miocene age rises above this basement. The terrain is cut by several different fault systems; one of these, the northeastward striking Sepina fault has been seismically active in the 20nd and 21st centuries and seems to have controlled the development of the Ampato and Sabancaya volcanoes. [4]


Ampato has erupted different volcanic rocks at different stages, with the earliest ones generating andesite and dacite [13] and which define a potassium-rich suite. [14] The rocks contain amphibole, biotite, iron oxide, olivine, plagioclase, pyroxene and titanium oxide. [13]

Processes such as fractional crystallization, magma mixing and the absorption of crustal material by developing magmas have been invoked to explain the formation of the magmas of both Ampato and Sabancaya. [15] Estimating the rate of magma production at Ampato is difficult owing to the uncertainties in determining the volume of the edifice and the duration of repose times between eruptions; on average it appears to be 0.08–0.09 cubic kilometres per millennium (0.019–0.022 cu mi/ka). This rate does not consider "spurt"-like behaviour; volcano growth in fits and spurts has been observed at many other volcanic arc volcanoes. [16]


The Western Cordillera features various climate zones, such as the quechua and suni zones. The vegetation that occurs at high altitudes is dominated by pioneer plants, with wetlands constituting additional centres of biodiversity. [17]

Eruptive history

A 200–600-metre (660–1,970 ft) thick pile of andesitic lava flows with additional scoria and which crops out on the southern, southeastern and southwestern side of the Ampato volcano is the oldest volcanic stage of this volcano, with argon-argon dating yielding ages between 400,000 - 450,000 years before present. [18] Above this formation, another pile of dacitic lava flows constructed the first Ampato edifice, which was about the same size as the present-day volcano. This pile ("Moldepampa stage") is about 200–300 metres (660–980 ft) thick in outcrops and was emplaced between 230,000 - 200,000 years before present. [13]

After a pause in volcanic activity [19] and an intermediary stage ("Yanajaja stage"; one date obtained on this stage is 77,000 ± 4,000 years before present) that produced andesitic-dacitic lava flows which form a 200–300-metre (660–980 ft) thick unit on top of eroded remnants of the older Ampato volcanics, [13] the andesitic northern cone formed as the first of the three present-day cones. The southern cone developed in several different stages; a first stage generated lava flows emanating from the summit; [20] dating of two such flows has produced ages of 34,000 ± 8,000 and 40,000 ± 3,000 years before present. More than 20 metres (66 ft) of block-and-ash flows was erupted onto the eastern and western flanks of Ampato, [21] and these flows consist of one andesitic and one dacitic formation; both appear to relate to a lava dome forming stage of volcanic activity. These block-and-ash flows are themselves covered on both the eastern and the western flanks by more thick lava flows, which make up a 150–200 metres (490–660 ft) thick unit and again consist of one andesitic and one dacitic unit; both units appear to have been erupted during the last glacial maximum. [22]

Either during or before the last glacial maximum, Ampato erupted tephra during multiple explosive eruptions which today is preserved in two units, the Baylillas and the Corinta deposits. The first consists of lapilli, pumice and scoria and individual layers form thick sequences at large distances from the volcano, but are heavily eroded and thus difficult to measure in extent. Scoria flows identified on the southwestern-southern flanks of Ampato correspond to this unit. The dacitic Corinta deposits conversely were created during one large eruption [22] which also left a crater on Ampato; [23] it generated stratified 3–4-metre (9.8–13.1 ft) thick tephra deposits which contain pumice embedded within ash-rich layers, [22] and it is probably also the source of the pumice flow deposits on the south-southwestern flank. These contain dacitic pumice fragments in a matrix rich in ash and have thicknesses of more than 10 metres (33 ft) in the few outcrops; much of this unit was likely eroded away by glacial activity. [24]

Aerial view of Ampato (back) from the northeast, with the active volcano Sabancaya in front. AmpatoSabancaya.jpg
Aerial view of Ampato (back) from the northeast, with the active volcano Sabancaya in front.

The central cone grew in the gap between the northern and southern edifice and consists of lava flows again of andesitic to dacitic composition. These flows are together maximally 400–600 metres (1,300–2,000 ft) thick and one flow has been dated to 17,000 ± 6,000 years before present. A dacitic summit lava dome is not affected by glacial erosion and appears to be the youngest eruption product of Ampato. [23]

Early Holocene (11,000 - 8,000 years before present) ash layers in peat bogs around the volcano may have originated either on Ampato or on Sabancaya. [16] Late Holocene tephra layers dated to 1,790 ± 110, 2,050 ± 70 and 4,500 ± 125 likewise may have been erupted from Ampato, but Sabancaya is a more likely source for these ash layers. [25]


Presently, Ampato is considered to be a dormant volcano. [26] Potential hazards from future eruptions at Ampato are lahars induced by melting of the icecap and sub-Plinian eruptions, considering the history of explosive eruptions at this volcano. [16]

The Peruvian geological service has published a hazard map that describes danger areas of both Ampato and Sabancaya. Hazards mapped include both the fall of ash and the formation of lahars which can advance to distances of 20 kilometres (12 mi) in the southerly valleys of Ampato. Pyroclastic fallout primarily threatens the direct neighbourhood of the volcano but large eruptions can result in fallout over large areas around the volcanic complex. [27]

Human history

Ampato was the site of human sacrifice during Inca times, when about 1466 the Mummy Juanita was offered for sacrifice on the mountain, along with two other girls and a boy. The sacrifice took place on a platform on the summit of the volcano and was presumably intended to calm the mountain spirits during an eruption of the neighbouring volcano Sabancaya. [28] The mummies were discovered in 1995 by Johan Reinhard and colleagues on the summit of the mountain. [29]

Such sacrifices with children being the usual subjects are known as capacocha and the discoveries of their mummies on mountains in the Andes has gained them a lot of attention. The process served to tie the Inka empire more closely together, since children to be sacrificed were selected from the entire realm and the children adorned and their names remembered after the sacrifice. [30]

See also

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  1. Yachakuqkunapa Simi Qullqa - Qusqu Qullaw. Qhichwa Simipi (monolingual Quechua and bilingual Quechua-Spanish dictionary)
  2. Radio San Gabriel, "Instituto Radiofonico de Promoción Aymara" (IRPA) 1993, Republicado por Instituto de las Lenguas y Literaturas Andinas-Amazónicas (ILLLA-A) 2011, Transcripción del Vocabulario de la Lengua Aymara, P. Ludovico Bertonio 1612 (Spanish-Aymara-Aymara-Spanish dictionary)
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  28. Chávez, Chávez; Antonio, José (2001). "Investigaciones arqueológicas de alta montaña en el sur del Perú". Chungará (Arica) (in Spanish). 33 (2): 283–288. doi:10.4067/S0717-73562001000200014. ISSN   0717-7356.
  29. Andrushko et al. 2011, p. 324.
  30. Andrushko et al. 2011, p. 323.


Further reading