Viva Peru!

cordillera, peru

I’ve been on quite a nomadic streak lately. With only a few work projects in the queue, and with the dirty Colorado snowpack rendering spring snowboarding and mountain photography fairly useless, I was feeling antsy and decided that my month of June would best be spent elsewhere. So several days ago I spontaneously booked tickets to Lima, Peru!

A delayed flight from Montrose, followed by a mad dash through the entire Houston airport, got me to the Lima flight just in time for the final boarding call. After spending a night at a hostel near the Lima airport, I enjoyed a wild ride in a taxi to attempt a 45 minute ride to the bus station in 30 minutes through traffic. My first lesson in Peru: the driving is absolutely nuts. Traffic lanes and stop signs are mere suggestions. My cab driver was an undiscovered NASCAR champion (who knows how many of them there are in Peru). He probably cut off 30 different cars during the race, including several large buses. We got to the station 10 minutes late, but I was still able to jump on board just before the bus pulled away! Not only that, but I scored a front seat on the top deck, enjoying a panoramic vista for the entire scenic 8 hour drive to Huaraz! (The picture above was taken from my seat on the bus).

Huaraz, Peru

Now I am finally relaxing in Huaraz, at the foot of the mighty Cordillera Blanca, which is plump full of 20,000+ foot glaciated peaks (though they may not be glaciated much longer, unfortunately). The picture above is of some kind of big ceremony in the Plaza de Armas. Notice the huge Himalaya-esque snowcapped peaks looming in the background.

Though fairly exhausted from the two days of traveling to get here, I didn’t get much sleep last night, since my hotel room happened to be on the other side of the wall of some kind of nightclub where an energetic and likely coca-leaf-chomping Peruvian band played for a full 10 HOURS STRAIGHT, from 8pm to 6am. They started out great, but by about 3am the music had devolved into a mind-numbing mishmash of lumbering two-note bass, frantic off-key organ keyboard, ceaseless vocals, and excessive cowbell. Though thoroughly annoyed and desperate for sleep, I couldn’t be too mad since the whole situation was such a classic gringo cliche. Needless to say I’m staying at a different place tonight.

Tomorrow I’m going on a day trip to a lake in a high glaciated cirque, then on Monday I am headed out on a 10-day trek around the Cordillera Huayhuash, another high rugged range south of here. I will join a group of 4 or 5 other people, and we’ll have the full deluxe support of burros to carry our gear and a cook to prepare meals! After that, 5 or so more days to do another shorter trek in the Cordillera Blanca, probably based from the smaller, more mellow town of Caraz.

Cerro Torre Reflection #2

Cerro Torre Reflection, Patagonia

Here’s one more Patagonia photo from the vault. I’ve been on a roll lately digging these ones up. These last three photos I’ve posted are digital shots from the Ricoh GX100 camera. When I returned home from my month in Patagonia in 2007, I mostly forgot about all these since I was concentrated on editing and scanning my 4×5 film collection from the trip. So it has been fun to browse through these and find some forgotten gems.

This photo here is the famous Cerro Torre reflected in the glacier-fed Lago Torre. I took this shortly after an earlier, wideangle shot of the same scene with the 4×5 camera. That morning was one of the luckiest photo shoots I’ve ever had – to have this lake so calm in this notoriously windy place is extremely rare!

To add to my stoke after the shoot, this was only the second morning of a week-long outing. I was prepared to wait numerous days camping near this lake to hopefully score some good light conditions, so having it happen so soon freed me to continue on my trek to other valleys and adventures.

Enormous Objects

Monte Fitz Roy panorama, Patagonia

This photo shows one of the best summit views I’ve ever experienced, from atop Cerro Madsen, with a front-and-center view of Monte Fitz Roy, near El Chaltén, Argentina. This photo requires a bit of contemplation to begin to comprehend the enormous scale here. Consider that I took this photo standing on a 1800m (~6,000ft.) summit, with glaciers flowing around and below me. Monte Fitz Roy is 3400m (~11,200ft.) tall. This means that I’m looking directly up at a rock monolith towering a vertical mile above me, when I’m already standing on a lofty summit!

I feel like whenever I talk about Patagonian mountains I always end up babbling numbers of vertical feet. I think that’s because these kinds of mountains do not fit inside our minds; our brains simply cannot grasp the enormity, even when we’re standing there seeing it with our own eyes. The only way to make sense of it is to assign numbers and compare with mountains we’re used to. For instance, for those of you familiar with Colorado, consider that if you were standing at Maroon Lake near Aspen, looking up at the famous Maroon Bells, it would be roughly equivalent of just the rock face here on Fitz Roy. That begins to explain the enormity of the Patagonian landscape.

Fitz Roy Sunrise

Monte Fitz Roy sunrise, Patagonia

Here’s another Patagonia photo that I just dug up from the vault. I don’t think alpenglow gets much better than on Monte Fitz Roy in Argentine Patagonia! The peak towers ~8,000 vertical feet from where I was standing at the time. I took this with my trusty old Ricoh GX100, which was my digital supplement to my 4×5 camera on this trip, in November 2007. I still use the camera for snowboarding shots.

I noticed that I have quite a few sleeper Patagonia photos in my archives, so I’ll probably post a few more in the upcoming days.

Laguna de los Tres

Laguna de los Tres, and Monte Fitz Roy

Every so often, when searching for stock imagery requests or just passing time, I go through my old photo archives and find a photo that I passed over before. Instead of just leaving those old photos to “collect dust” on the hard drive, I’ll post some of them here on my blog, in a new category called “From the Vault“. The photos I’ll post will be ones taken in the same month as I post them (but different years).

This shot here is from Laguna de los Tres, one of the beautiful high lakes in Parque Nacional los Glaciares in Argentina. Above the lake towers El Chaltén (aka Monte Fitz Roy) and its lower neighbor Cerro Poincenot. I took this photo with my 4×5 camera in November 2008 during a one month photo trip in Patagonia. I used a polarizer to bring out the turquoise color of the lake under the midday sunlight.

This was my last shot from a very productive morning. I had woken up early and hiked up to this lake in the darkness and dawn light, arriving just in time to capture my favorite photo of the trip, of the sunrise alpenglow on Fitz Roy. From the lake I then climbed up the knife ridge of Cerro Madsen, to its summit which provided an in-your-face view of the peaks and glaciers of the Fitz Roy massif. This was one of the most fun and awe-inspiring summit scrambles I’ve done to date, all the more so since I was only going on my own surveillance of the route and was unsure if it would even be doable in the first place. Anyhow, by the time I returned back down to the lake in the late morning, the first groups of hikers were just starting to arrive.