End of September

End of September

It’s now seven weeks since I took a photograph, Ansel Adams was once quoted to say one a month was a good crop; I’m clearly somewhat short. Despite the unfavourable conditions I’m happy to be doing what I’m doing. I still head out into the park when any weather window opens and I try not to get demoralised by the featureless white, or cloudless skies. I have just returned from Torres del Paine without capturing a single image but I had the pleasure of guiding a client and staying for five nights at the Exlora Hotel. Visiting Chile gave me the opportunity to buy some much needed new hiking boots. It would make a very uninteresting story to explain the hassles required to get new boots in Patagonia, suffice to say that if anyone ever plans to visit this area for any length of time be sure to bring whatever footwear you think you’ll need.

A great sunset in Chile, ironically the day I left Torres del Paine!

A great sunset in Chile, ironically the day I left Torres del Paine!

Cerro Madsen (again)

Returning from Chile I set out into the park full of enthusiasm, El Chalten really does feel like home and I was glad to be back. I set out to climb Cerro Madsen; a peak I haven’t climbed since last April. Before I write about the climb I should mention that I’ve become somewhat superstitious lately. Little things will play on my mind, for instance, a couple of weeks ago I took my Pacraft out for some practice but I snapped the paddle in two. Rather than dwell on the problem I’ve managed to convince myself that maybe this happened for a reason, maybe if I’d used the Pacraft as intended I might have drowned.  Maybe that’s a little melodramatic but after my experiences using the raft in the UK, I’m understandably nervous.  I tell myself that perhaps this is the best way to look at something like this, especially when there’s nothing I can do about it.

Back to my climb; well before setting out on some adventure I help myself to a candy, I delve into the box without looking and if I pull out a red candy I deem it to be lucky; this was a red candy day. I set off for Cerro Madsen at about 2.00pm with the intention of sleeping a couple of nights near the summit. About 3km into the hike I suddenly remembered I was missing one very important item, I’d forgotten to pack my sleeping bag, damned I thought and this was supposed to be a lucky day!

Once I retrieved the sleeping bag and got back on the trail it was mid afternoon before I arrived at Laguna de los Tres, the sun was setting behind Fitz Roy, it was a lovely evening completely still without a cloud in the sky. The lake was frozen and from the lake onwards I had a long slog in deep snow. My crampons were essential, the slope is somewhere in the region of 30-40º, when the snow is deep you have lots of confidence but often and with no warning, you can step on hard patches where it would be easy to slip. Maybe I was out of shape, maybe I’d put on a few pounds from the luxury dining in the 5-star hotel in Torres del Paine, anyway I found it a physically exhausting. I strongly dislike using trekking poles but in those conditions, they’d have been very useful to help keep balance. When you lose your balance in the snow you waste a lot of energy trying to stay upright. I felt like I was making two steps forwards and one back.

It was a relief to reach the summit, my first priority was to compose my shot for the morning. Back in April, I’d accidentally left my QTVR pano’ head up on the summit. As luck would have it I found it right where I left it, maybe it was my lucky day after all.  I would go on to spend two nights on the mountain but the sunrises were far from inspiring. I’ve found a good composition but it requires passing a terribly exposed area. I’ll be back up there the next chance I get.

The alpine glow was very weak

The alpine glow was very weak

Sunrise and not a cloud in the sky

Sunrise and not a cloud in the sky

Sunset from last April

Sunset from last April

From the summit of Cerro Madsen, I spent some time exploring the opportunity of reaching Glacier Piedras Blancas. Anyone reading this may remember that I made a climb up to the glacier from Laguna Blanca during the winter. I have an idea to photograph Fitz Roy from the glacier but finding an access point has proved tricky. The route up from the lake is too dangerous as it passes large overhanging seracs, I heard several avalanches coming from that area whilst on the summit of Madsen so I’m not going to risk attempting that again.  I’m now almost certain I can access the glacier, I think I can pull off an exceptional photograph from there but I’ll probably wait till November to try to shoot when the sun rises in a more favorable angle.

Domo Blanco  (one for the summer)

In the past weeks, I’ve been in contact with two of the world’s most famous climbers, Rolando Garibotti and Colin Hayley are both exceptional alpine mountaineers, they’ve given me advice and sent several photographs showing the ascent of Domo Blanco.

Part of the route up Domo Blanco

Part of the route up Domo Blanco

Rolando making easy work of the clamber up Domo Blanco

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The Fitz Roy Range from the summit of Domo Blanco, image by Rolando Garibotti

I’m led to believe that I should be able to climb this peak. I think it offers incredible views of Fitz Roy from the west. The view across to the south towards Cerro Torre is also exceptional.

Just a simple shot but when the moon set behind FR you could see the shadow on the clouds, it looked pretty cool.

Just a simple shot but when the moon set behind FR you could see the shadow in the clouds, it looked pretty cool.

These lenticulars looked impressive but unfortunately they disappeared to the east by sunset.

These lenticulars looked impressive but unfortunately, they disappeared to the east by sunset.

If you have to bivvy on a glacier then you may as well have a good view. This ice cave was cold but nicely sheltered.

If you have to bivvy on a glacier then you may as well have a good view. This ice cave was cold but nicely sheltered.

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