nieve penitente[nē′ā·vā ‚pen·ə′ten‚tā]
a snowy surface in the form of numerous consecutive needles and pyramids that resemble human figures bent in prayer. Nieves penitentes are several meters high and form as a result of rapid thawing and evaporation. They are encountered most commonly in barren mountainous subtropical and tropical regions. The classical site for the formation of nieves penitentes is the névé region of Ecuador.