I just processed some more panoramas from an epic morning in front of the mighty Fitz Roy in Argentine Patagonia back in December 2011. This was one of the most memorable photo experiences of my life; read about it in my trip report post here. Click on each one to view larger!
I’m digging this Argentina ski/travel video by Jordan Manley; I recognize quite a few places and sights from our recent adventures in the Andes: the Santiago subway, the trucks along the highway at Penitentes, hot springs, roadside shrines, Fernet, asado, empanadas, volcanoes, and of course, wind!
The wintery snow scenes remind me of the winter I spent with mis amigos in Las Leñas, Argentina way back in 2002. Good times! See my photos from Las Leñas here.
Our seemingly endless 15 weeks of travel through Chile and Argentina have finally come to an end, and tomorrow we start our journeys back home. It’s a bittersweet departure; on one hand I’m tired of traveling and am excited to get back home to Ouray. On the other hand, Claudia has to go straight back to Germany for a few months, so we have to say goodbye for a while. It’s a bummer, but fortunately I have a ton of work to catch up on which should keep me busy and hopefully make time pass faster during her absence!
After I’m back I’ll be going through my photos from the trip and in about a week or so I’ll post a gallery of my favorites. I’ve posted many of my photos already on this blog, but there are a few goodies left that my laptop monitor couldn’t handle. I look forward to sharing those!
Happy new year!!! Here’s a couple shots from the Perito Moreno Glacier near El Calafate in Argentine Patagonia. This is one of about seven or eight glaciers on the Argentina side that flow out from the Southern Patagonian Ice Field into large turquoise lakes.
The Perito Moreno glacier is unique because as it flows out from the mountains into Lago Argentino, it smashes directly into a peninsula of land. So, from this peninsula you get this incredible front-and-center view of the snout of the glacier, and you can watch chunks and columns of the glacier crashing into the lake. It’s a huge tourist destination, for good reason!
We’re now in Ushuaia, on Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America. Tomorrow we head out on a six day trek on Isla Navarino – our final adventure of our three month trip!
We’ve just returned to civilization after 8 days camped out in the mighty Fitz Roy range near El Chaltén in Argentine Patagonia. One of my main goals of this return trip to El Chaltén was to capture a photo that I have been dreaming about since my last trip to Patagonia four years ago. I was prepared to spend a week or more waiting for the perfect opportunity to accomplish this photo, and to repeat the efforts with stubborn determination until I did it. I want to talk a bit more about my experience behind this “dream shot” since it epitomizes everything I love about mountain photography!
Back in 2007, I spent two weeks in the Fitz Roy range with my 4×5 camera, hiking around to all kinds of obscure viewpoints every morning like a madman. One morning, I hiked up to the still-partially-frozen Laguna de los Tres for sunrise, and scored one of my favorite Patagonian photos. I was stoked. After the sunrise it was still early, with very calm weather, so I decided to go for the summit of nearby Cerro Madsen. I had no info whatsoever about any route up Madsen, or if it was even possible without climbing gear, but I had scoped it out from different perspectives the previous days and thought that I had figured out a route that would go. The route turned out to be a very fun and challenging scramble, with numerous little obstacles and puzzles along the way, even including a pretty long knife-edge section with gaping abysses on both sides. I made it to the summit, took a photo, and got back down just in time before the Patagonian winds started howling again. It felt great to climb this mountain using only my own reconnaissance and instincts – for all I knew I was the first person to ever climb it… Of course that’s not true, but it felt that way to me!
I wondered about how amazing it would be to get up on that summit for a sunrise, but at the time it seemed like quite an accomplishment for me to have gotten there at all – getting up there for sunrise would be a bit much. But the seed was planted in my head. In the run up to our trip to Patagonia this year the idea starting growing again. My memories of the climb had faded a bit, and now it didn’t seem to me like it would be so impossible. It would be my holy grail grand finale photo of our three month trip down the Andes. So I decided to give it a serious effort. I had my challenge. The hike itself is not what concerned me since that was the only part squarely in my control. Given enough time, along with the long period of dawn light in the summer here, the hike would be strenuous but straightforward. What worried me was the unlikeliness of the convergence of good light, decent clouds but not so much to cover the peak of Fitz Roy (as is very often the case), and most importantly not having the usual ferocious winds that could fling me off that knife edge scramble. We were stocked up with enough food for a week at the base camp area, and as I mentioned before, I was prepared to stubbornly repeat my efforts every morning until I hopefully scored the perfect conditions.
Well, very fortunately, I scored my “dream shot” on the very first morning! I timed it just right with the 2:00am start. The scramble was just as tricky and fun and challenging as I remembered it, and I arrived at the summit just in time to take some dawn shots and then wait for the real sunrise light. I was troubled by a thick cloud on the eastern horizon that I was sure was going to block the sunrise light; I was sure I would have to repeat the hike again for better light. But the cloud dispersed right before sunrise and when the tip of Fitz Roy started glowing faintly reddish pink with the very first rays of sunlight, I knew I was in for a good show! As the sun rose fully above the horizon, the light got more and more intense, finally descending onto the glaciers below the rock faces at the peak of pinkish-orange intensity. I was shooting the photos as if in a dream and I started to wonder if maybe it was actually one of those awful photography dreams where you always lose your photos once you wake up. But no, it was real and I was photographing perhaps the most amazing sunrise scene I’ve ever witnessed in my life. If my photos from that morning convey even one quarter of the glory of that scene, I will be a happy photographer.
After spending three more days camped below Fitz Roy in poorer weather, we headed over to Lago Torre, below the jagged spire of Cerro Torre. Again, the first morning there I had good luck with gorgeous sunrise light and decently calm reflection conditions. In a stark contrast with my “dream shot” of Fitz Roy that I just described, getting to Lago Torre at sunrise involves merely a sleepy 5 or 10 minute stroll from the campsite to the lake.
The contrast between these two photo scenarios illustrates why I believe that the experiences behind the photos matter so much. With landscape photos like these, much of the creative spark lies within that experience behind the photo – the process of discovering unique locations and perspectives and photo ideas, and then the physical challenge of accomplishing the task. There are those who will look at the two photos objectively and may prefer one or the other for purely visual reasons, with no concept or care of the story behind them. But for me – and for those who can understand and appreciate the challenges behind the photos – the experience shines through bright and clear.
The last several days we’ve been in the town of Pucón, at the northern end of the Lakes District of Chile. The beautiful Mt-Fuji-esque Volcán Villarrica rises behind the town, which is situated on the shore of Lago Villarica. Although totally different geographically, Pucón reminds us of San Pedro de Atamaca, in that it’s super touristy, yet has a great relaxed vibe, lots of delicious food, and heaps of activities to do in the surrounding area.
I visited this town in the winter 10 years ago, and am shocked at how much it has changed and grown since then – I can hardly recognize anything about it. I vaguely remember back then one main strip with a few main dusty dirt roads branching off; now it’s a bustling tourist town with a complete network of paved roads, and probably ten times the size. But it still has a great atmosphere, perhaps better than ever.
Of course once I saw the snow-smothered volcano, I knew that if we were going to climb it, I’d definitely have to snowboard down! So, I rented a board again and we figured out how to get up there without having to use guide services like most people are obligated to do (just a matter of showing our crampons and ice axes, along with a printed proof of membership in a mountain club – in my case an old email from the Colorado Mountain Club).
From the bottom of the little ski area to the 2840m (9317 ft) summit was about a 1500m (5000 ft) climb, all on snow. But this was a cakewalk compared to the grueling tour of Volcán Nevado last week! Another difference was that while we were all alone on the mountain last week, this time we were accompanied by about 100 or so other people, mostly in big guided groups.
Volcán Villarica is an active volcano, and from the summit we were able to peer down into the gaping smoking crater! Pretty amazing!
There’s me dropping down from the summit.
It had snowed several days earlier, and the cold nights and sunny days since had transformed the new snow into smooth fresh spring corn snow! Perfect for the long, mellow, cruisey descent. Claudia brought a plastic trash bag and had a blast sliding down the whole way.
We were stoked to have scored such a perfect day on the volcano! Now we’re still in Pucón, trying to figure out where we’re going next tomorrow. But first, a dip in the nearby hot springs this evening!
One of the reasons for heading through Mendoza on this trip was to photograph Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the western hemisphere. Though I have little desire to actually climb the peak, I was hoping to do some hikes in the valleys around the peak. Unfortunately, however, we discovered that the park is for all intents and purposes “closed” until mid-November… something about too much snow and a general getting tired of winter rescues.
So, with that option off the table, I researched the map, did some scouting on Google Earth, and decided that a good alternative plan would be to shoot a sunrise from Cerro Banderitas Sur, a 4184m peak across the valley to the south of Aconcagua park. It was quite an adventure to get up there… read more about it and see more photos below! Continue reading “A View of Aconcagua”→
Claudia and I have been hanging out in the city of Mendoza, Argentina this week. It’s a beautiful city; every street is lined with tall trees that arch over the streets and sidewalks, providing shade in this otherwise hot and sunny region.
We haven’t been doing much so far – just walking around a lot, getting the hang of how things work around here, trying to find information about the mountains, and drinking our fair share of Malbec! We haven’t yet done any winery tours, but we’ve found a great little wine tasting bar in Mendoza where we’ll surely be spending some more time.
Mendoza has a really nice layout, with the large Plaza Independencia in the center of town, and four smaller plazas a few blocks from each corner. There seems to always be a nice plaza nearby to relax in! My only gripe about the town is the constant traffic – there’s a steady stream of cars zooming around at all hours of the day and night. There’s one pedestrian street through the center of town, with lots of cafes and shops. If I were king I would make four or five of the streets around here pedestrian streets… that would be amazing!
Anyhow, tomorrow we’re finally heading up into the mountains for four days! It looks like there’s a lot of snow up there still, but we’ve got our crampons and ice axes and we’ll see how it goes…