Patagonia… Is this the end for workshop groups in Los Glaciers N.P?

Patagonia 2016

2016 came around all too quickly and before I knew it I was on the plane returning to Patagonia. Thanks to a rather uneventful flight I arrived with minimum fuss and all my baggage intact, including the 20kg box of food (mostly coffee) that I brought with me.

As I’ve only just received a new computer I’ve had to wait over a month to be able to write this blog entry. When I arrived in early March the trekking season was beginning to wind down; as I write this now in mid-April the photographers are out in force. The hotels and restaurants will certainly welcome the new influx of photographers, however, the park rangers are far from pleased. I’ll return to this subject later, but first I want to mention one of the trips I did when I first arrived.

For my first day in Chalten I let myself get talked into hiking Cerro Madsen, this is the peak, which looks down on Laguna de los Tres from the north. I went up with an Austrian photographer named Joerg Bonner who’s been shooting in Chalten since Christmas. We’ve got a lot in common, Joerg is a nature photographer, by that I mean he’s got the desire to capture great images naturally. He’s not here in Chalten on a two week trip with a bucket list of comp stomps, he’s here shooting the mountains when they’re at their best and if the light isn’t good or the clouds don’t look good he’s not the kind of guy to delve into Photoshop to create something that wasn’t naturally there. I’ve got a lot of respect for people like Joerg and while I do respect other photographers and their choices, I have absolutely no desire to follow the computerized efforts of other less patient photographers. I appreciate some people enjoy creating images on a computer, but it does nothing whatsoever for me.

Within a day of the Cerro Madsen trip, I head off with my local climbing friends to attempt to summit Domo Blanco. Anyone who followed this blog in 2015 will remember me writing about the view from the summit. Domo Blanco rises to 2300m and whilst obviously dwarfed by Fitz Roy it does have arguably the best view of Fitz Roy from the west. As an added bonus you can gaze south towards the line of Torres peaks and to the north the great wall of Piergiorgio. We set off as a group of four, unfortunately, one member of our group took a fall on the approach and hurt his back. We were able to continue but this cost us over an hour delay, that hour and an unfavorable change in the weather cost us the summit. I will definitely return, reaching the summit of this peak and seeing the view from the top has become my last real challenge in Patagonia.

Early fall

Early fall

Los Glaciers National Park rules and regulations for commercial photography

I now want to write a little about the issues the park rangers are having with the influx of photographers in Los Glaciers National Park.

In the last few couple of years, the park rangers have started to notice large groups of photographers wandering around off trail. While hiking off trail is not against park rules it’s certainly not encouraged. In the past, nobody worried about the odd photographer, but now we’re seeing groups as large as 20.

The head park rangers are clamping down on this and I expect massive changes in 2017. Currently, the rules are that if you take pictures solely for yourself and have no plans to sell them then that’s ok. But if you’re on a commercial workshop you need a local guide then the guide must have a permit. I would hazard a guess and say that almost no workshop guide currently has the correct paperwork. In the last day or two, I’ve heard stories of rangers evicting photographers from the park, those returning are being told their cameras will be confiscated.

For this reason, I would strongly urge anyone on a workshop or anyone thinking of taking a 2017 workshop to insist you see a copy of the guides permit.

I should mention that in Torres del Paine rules seem to be far less strict.

Personally, I agree with the rules, there’s little more annoying than getting out into the park at 6.00am only to find dozens of photographers all clamoring for a shot. I don’t blame the photographers but I do blame the greedy workshop guides who in my opinion care nothing about pushing big groups into small areas that cannot sustain large numbers.

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