Pico Humboldt

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Pico Humboldt
Pico Humboldt with Humboldt Glacier, from the Coromoto-La Verde Trail, 2001

Pico Humboldt with Humboldt Glacier, from the Coromoto-La Verde Trail, 2001

height 4942  m
location Mérida , Venezuela
Mountains Cordillera of Mérida , Andes
Coordinates 8 ° 32 '59 "  N , 70 ° 59' 46"  W Coordinates: 8 ° 32 '59 "  N , 70 ° 59' 46"  W.
Pico Humboldt (Mérida)
Pico Humboldt
First ascent 1911 by Alfredo Jahn
particularities second highest mountain in Venezuela

The Pico Humboldt is a mountain in the Sierra Nevada de Mérida mountain range , which forms the central part of the Cordillera de Mérida , a northern branch of the Andes . At 4942 m, Pico Humboldt is the second highest mountain in Venezuela, only higher is Pico Bolivar , which is also located in the Sierra Nevada de Mérida, almost 40 m higher . The summit was named in 1911 by its first climber, the Venezuelan geographer, botanist and engineer Alfredo Jahn , after the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt . Humboldt mentioned the Sierra de Mérida several times and stated its height at 4592 m, but was never in the mountains on his travels through Venezuela.

The Pico Humboldt, together with the neighboring Pico Bonpland , named after Humboldt's travel companion Aimé Bonpland , forms the Pico Humboldt / Pico Bonpland massif , also known as the La Corona or Corona Group . The Pico Bonpland is the third highest mountain in Venezuela at 4890 m. It was first climbed in 1940 by the Austrian oil geologist and alpinist A. E. Gunther.

The northwest flank of Pico Humboldt is home to the last glacier in Venezuela, the Humboldt Glacier with an area of ​​0.1 km². Its disappearance is expected in the next few years, and there would then be no more glaciers in what is now Venezuela - possibly for the first time since the late Pleistocene .

The surroundings of Pico Humboldt are characterized by the alpine tundra vegetation of the Páramo with strong temperature fluctuations. In the rainy season from April to November, around 85% of the total annual precipitation of around 1000 mm falls, which is transported by air currents mainly from the Amazon basin and the Atlantic Ocean .

According to a legend of the indigenous Timoto – Cuica, the Pico Humboldt was created when the archer Caribay killed five dazzling white condors on five hills. When she wanted to pluck white feathers from the birds, they and the hills had become five ice-covered peaks of the Sierra Nevada de Mérida, the "snow-covered mountains".


Humboldt Glacier
location Mérida , Venezuela
Mountains Cordillera of Mérida , Andes
Type Kar glacier
surface 0.1 km²
Exposure northwest
Altitude range 4850  m  -  4685  m
Ice thickness ⌀ 10 m; Max. 20 m
Coordinates 8 ° 32 '59 "  N , 70 ° 59' 46"  W.
Map of the Humboldt Glacier
particularities Venezuela's last glacier


The Humboldt Glacier is a small Kar glacier on a north-west facing flank on Pico Humboldt. It is the last glacier in Venezuela . It represents a remnant of the former extensive Laguna Verde glacier, which reached as far as Lake Laguna Verde , located northwest below the Pico Humboldt . Other glaciated areas on the Corona , such as the Eastern Coromoto Glacier or the Sievers Glacier , no longer exist.

Since the Mérida glaciation - a series of glacier advances in the late Pleistocene - there may have been continuous glaciers in the Cordillera Mérida. In its second phase, after the maximum of the last glacial , an area of ​​approximately 600 km² was covered by glaciers in the Cordillera Mérida. The snow line was 3000 m to 3500 m. After a glacier retreat, the snow line sank again to approx. 4000 m in the cold relapse of the younger Dryas period . A glacier retreat occurred about 8000 years ago. Under drier and warmer conditions, glaciers probably only survived on the highest peaks. During the Little Ice Age , the equilibrium line of the glaciers of the Sierra Nevada de Mérida sank again by a few hundred meters. The first written mention of perennial ice in Venezuela comes from the Franciscan monk Pedro Aguado in 1560. The Italian geographer Agostino Codazzi confirmed the occurrence of glaciers in 1841.

In the 17th century, around 200 km² were still glaciated in what is now Venezuela. Along with the rise in air temperature , in Venezuela, as in other regions of the tropical Andes, there has been a significant glacier retreat since at least the 19th century . At the beginning of the last century, the glaciated area in Venezuela was about 10 km². In 1991 there were still five glaciers in Venezuela , all of them in the Sierra Nevada de Mérida. Since 2008 only the Humboldt Glacier has remained. The more frequent cloud cover on the north flank, lower solar radiation and the accumulation of snow blown over the saddle between Pico Humboldt and Pico Bonpland have probably delayed its melting. The glacier no longer has a nutrient zone (→ accumulation ). In 2017 it had a size of less than 0.1 km², about 10 soccer fields. It is expected to disappear in the next few years. Venezuela will then be the first Andean country without a glacier.

An expedition to the Humboldt Glacier and the then still existing glacier remnants on Pico Bolívar in 2012 delivered samples in which a total of 600 mostly unknown bacterial strains were found. Among them were some with the ability to dissolve phosphorus. It is hoped that they could be used to develop organic fertilizers for cool mountain regions.


  • Alejandra Melfo et al. a .: Se Van Los Glaciares . 2018, ISBN 978-980-379-374-6 (Spanish, on the history of the Venezuelan glaciers and their retreat).
  • Mark Garrett: The South American Alps . In: Pan American Magazine . tape 16 , 1913 ( handle.net - report on the first ascent of Pico Humboldt von Jahn in December 1910 over the Sievers glacier from the north-west).
  • AE Gunther: The Ascent of Pico Bonpland in the Andes of Venezuela . In: The Alpine Journal . November 1941 ( org.uk [PDF; 3.0 MB ] Report on the first ascent of Pico Bonpland, which is described as "glacier climbing").

Web links

Commons : Glacier des Pico Humboldt  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

References and comments

  1. ^ A b c d e Carsten Braun and Maximiliano Bezada: The History and Disappearance of Glaciers in Venezuela . In: Journal of Latin American Geography . January 2013, doi : 10.1353 / lag.2013.0 .
  2. Ortiz leads the name back to Sievers. Oscar Rodríguez Ortiz (Ed.): Imágenes de Humboldt (=  Colección Simón Bolívar ). Monte Avila, 1983 (in Siever's work “Die Cordillere von Mérida” (1988) there is no use of the term “Humboldt” for the mountain): “ Spanish En 1888 Wilhelm Sievers ya empleó el nombre“ Pico Humboldt ” , In 1888 Wilhelm Sievers used the name "Pico Humboldt" ' "
  3. ^ Wilhelm Sievers : The Cordillere of Mérida, together with remarks on the Caribbean mountains . Results of a trip made with the support of the Geographical Society of Hamburg 1884–1885. 1888, p. 77 ( slub-dresden.de ).
  4. ^ AE Gunther: A Visit to the Andes of Venezuela . In: Alpine Journal . May 1940 ( org.uk [PDF; 10.0 MB ]).
  5. Silva León and Gustavo Adolfo: Los picos más altos del estado Mérida-Venezuela . In: Revista geográfica venezolana . January 2001, p. 80 ( ula.ve ).
  6. Evelio Echevarrfa: Legends of the High Andes . In: The Alpine Journal . 1983 ( org.uk [PDF]).
  7. Lari Don: Winter's Tales . A&C Black, 2013, ISBN 978-1-4081-9691-5 , Five White Eagles - Venezuelan Legend.
  8. ^ Kathryn Hansen: Last glacier standing in Venezuela. NASA's Earth Observatory, August 27, 2018, accessed November 15, 2018 .
  9. ^ Carsten Braun: The Disappearance of Glaciers in Venezuela - Glacier Names of the Sierra Nevada de Mérida (Venezuela) . ( ma.edu [PDF; 173 kB ]).
  10. ^ Carsten Braun: The Disappearance of Glaciers in Venezuela - Glacier Maps of the Sierra Nevada de Mérida, Venezuela . ( ma.edu [PDF; 3.7 MB ]).
  11. Nathan D. Stansell et al. a .: Proglacial lake sediment records reveal Holocene climate changes in the Venezuelan Andes . In: Quaternary Science Reviews . January 2014, doi : 10.1016 / j.quascirev.2014.01.021 ( columbia.edu [PDF]).
  12. a b The death of Venezuela's Humboldt glacier. In: The Economist. October 5, 2017, accessed November 20, 2018 .
  13. PJ Polissar et al. a .: Solar modulation of Little Ice Age climate in the tropical Andes . In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . June 2006, doi : 10.1073 / pnas.0603118103 . }
  14. a b José L. Lozán and Dieter Kasang: 4. Mountain Glacier - 4.10 Glaciers of South America . In: José L. Lozán, Hartmut Graßl, Dieter Kasang, Dirk Notz and Heidi Escher-Vetter (eds.): Warning signal climate: The ice of the earth (=  warning signals . Volume 16 ). 2015 ( uni-hamburg.de [PDF]).
  15. Wilvis Balcazar: Bioprospecting glacial ice for plant growth promoting bacteria . In: Microbiological Research . August 2015, doi : 10.1016 / j.micres.2015.05.001 .
  16. Jean Freddy Gutiérrez, María Fernanda Rodríguez: Watching Venezuela's Last Glacier Disappear. In: The Atlantic. January 19, 2019, accessed April 4, 2019 .