Iceland, Summer 2018

Iceland is a small country possessing a large abundance of world class natural beauty. In recent years Iceland has, deservedly, cemented its place among the world’s most sought after photographic destinations. Iceland occupies a spot high on the bucket list of many tripod toting travelers on the world photography circuit . Having said this, however, I can admit to holding some reservations before my own trip to the island country last summer.

Deciding to go to Iceland was unexpected. For the previous three summers my wife, my son, and I explored South America, traveling first to Ecuador, then Colombia, and finally to Peru. I expected this trend to continue. So when my wife proposed spending a few days in Iceland on our way to Spain I jumped at the idea. Why not? Its beauty is legendary and, besides, when else would I be able to put a trip to Iceland together on the fly? Perhaps this would be my only opportunity. There was no way I would pass it up. Our plan for a brief stop eventually morphed into a 17 day odyssey around the island.

I have to admit something. As I prepared for the trip a nagging unease began to creep in. Before most photography trips I tend to have an array of concepts in mind to ferret out once I’m on the ground and start to work my way through the trip. With these ideas swimming around in the back of my head it then becomes an exercise in reacting to weather and light conditions to decide which concept makes the most sense at a particular location for each particular day. For Iceland, though, I was blank. And that was the source of most of the unease I felt. The remainder resulted from the fact I truly don’t enjoy photographing in around groups of other people and, from all that’s reported, Iceland is insanely crowded in the summer. Large groups throw me off, creating a mental barrier between myself and the nature I’m trying to connect with in order to produce a meaningful photograph. So, the way I decided to deal with this unease was to approach Iceland with an entirely different mindset. Instead of fixating on positioning myself to be in the right spot at the right time to get the “best”shot, I’d just allow the trip to progress at its own natural pace, only photographing what moved me as we moved throughout the country as regular travelers would. It was a throwback to a style of photography I engaged in during film days while I was traveling around the world for 16 months. If I stumbled across a subject which was interesting or beautiful, I photographed it. If I didn’t, the camera stayed in the pack. This allowed my mind to focus on traveling for the sheer joy of traveling, especially since I was with my family and some non-photography friends. I continued to keep an eye on the sky and weather, but I usually didn't go out photographing unless I was particularly moved to do so. In the end I feel this style worked out well, even if I know I passed on some potentially strong photographic moments.

Below are images from the trip accompanied by some insights into the making of each image.  

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Falling Light

Nikon D850 Nikon 70-200 f/4 @102mm, f/11, 1/125, ISO200

When I first drove past this waterfall in the south of Iceland it seemed unimaginable that I’d never seen an image of it before. It was that jaw-droppingly stunning. I was sure images existed, but it was not a frequently photographed scene. I drove past it three more times over the next two weeks and grew all the more confident there was a great image to be made under the right conditions. On the last pass  amazing afternoon light flooded across the upper half of the waterfall. I quickly made a u-turn as my pulse quickened knowing it wouldn’t last long. Two minutes later I had my long lens out and hand held a variety of compositions which aimed to balance the falls against the direction of the light. At the bottom the wide sweep of the valley helped round things out. The light soon faded and the scene lost its energy.


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Light on the Path

Nikon D850 Nikon 70-200 f/4 @200mm, f/16, 1/125, ISO400

This particular image remains special to me. Hours before creating it I had no idea it was out there, it was beyond any preconceived concept for any potential images I could create that day. In this regard it is a prime example of what I refer to as “discovered photography” -- images which are borne from staying open to the moment, allowing yourself to react to what’s given, and capturing images which, under a different mindset, could easily have been passed over.

When I originally posted this image online I went a bit deeper into my own personal philosophy when it comes to being a photographer who deeply values the vital role experience plays in our unique art form. Below is an excerpt from the original post:

“This is perhaps my favorite image from the trip -- a brief moment of light coursing through a barren landscape in the northern part of the country. By the time I pulled over there was barely a moment left to press the shutter and capture this image before the sun dipped below a saddle in a ridge, snuffing the light out in an instant. It was painful. I wanted it to continue. There were more images out there -- good ones. I’m normally more fatalistic when it comes to good light-- when it comes I’m appreciative, when it leaves I’m thankful for having had the experience knowing full well any internal desires I hold do little to combat the inexorable rotation of the earth or the ill-timed intrusion of wind driven clouds. Nature is nature, personal desires are meaningless. We as photographers are, more than anything, witnesses. We create art out of our experiences, translating them for our viewers in ways which provide a glimpse into the transcendent beauty and transformative power of the natural world. I hold little desire to wade into online battles regarding what differentiates photography from other art forms. It’s a conversation better reserved over a pint of beer or while sitting around a campfire. But for me one thing is undeniable: the power of photography resides in its relationship to experience.”


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Highland Glow

Nikon D850 Nikon 70-200 f/4 @170mm, f/11, 1/60, ISO800

Visiting the interior was a top priority for the trip. We opted against visiting Thorsmurk because of a bad weather forecast. So instead we went to Landmannalaugar, a high volcanic region with incredibly unique scenery. Luckily a break in the weather promised solid afternoon light. I hiked to the top of a nearby hill to see what I could find. As I hiked down the backside I noticed this double-horned rock outcrop with some great diagonal, forking lines of snow adjacent to it. The light was flat, but I added this scene to the growing list of compositional possibilities which could hold potential with the addition of good light. It’s something I do whenever I shoot — keep a running tab on details both large and small in case conditions/ light change enough to warrant photographing them. A couple hours later I watched as golden light swept towards the outcrop. I hiked/ ran back up to this perspective as sweet directional, yet veiled light struck the left descending diagonal in the composition. Couldn’t have asked for a more perfect moment.


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Kirkjubling

Nikon D850 14-24 f/2.8 @24mm, f/11, 1.3 seconds, ISO64

Although I really enjoyed visiting and experiencing Iceland’s iconic photography locations. I wasn’t particularly moved to photograph many of them, mainly because I had really crap luck with light, but also because I’ve trended toward photographing more anonymous subjects over the past few years. One of our favorite towns to camp in was Grundarfjörður, a short drive away from perhaps Iceland’s most iconic mountain: Kirkjufell. As awe inspiring as it was to walk near and marvel up at Kirkjufell I initially wasn’t particularly interested in creating yet another image to add to the tens of thousands which already exist. Then again, if special conditions were offered up, I would be much more willing to the explore the process of finding my own version of the place. As we played soccer at a local field I watched as a perfect weather setup (interesting clouds over head with a clear skies gap on the horizon) unfolded over the area, dramatically increasing the odds for an explosive sunset. There was no way I could pass on those conditions. Near the waterfalls (featured in a high percentage of Kirkjufell images) were several creeks cascading down from high, steep, green hills. I chose one which held the most promise and wandered up alongside it until I found this sinuous, spillover which cascaded toward Kirkjufell. Compositionally I focused on using the creek as a diagonal entry into the bottom right corner of the frame before it wound away into the distance, drawing the viewer’s eye through the frame right toward Kirkjufell itself. The other important consideration was to ensure the mountain was proportionate within the frame in relation to the creek. This is a common mistake when shooting at ultra-wide angles. I settled on a focal length of 24mm, which seemed to work best to maintain this balance. It would be tempting to go much wider to fit in even more the colorful sky or use the creek in even a more dynamic way, BUT, at such a wide focal length, Kirkjufell would appear small, greatly diminishing its impressive size, symmetry, and power within the composition. Once I settled on my composition I just stood back and watched as changing light and clouds blew across the sky, exposing an image every once in a while to capture the variation in experience. Before long the color turned on and I exposed the image you see here. I packed my bag and slowly walked back down, appreciating and savoring the experience I was given.


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Shiva’s Fury

Nikon D850, Nikon 24-120 f/4 @100mm, f/16, 1.3sec, ISO320

I was unprepared for the sheer power and fury of Dettifoss. It is a bone shaking place to experience. Located in northern Iceland, Dettifoss is Europe’s most powerful waterfall. In person it more than lived up to its billing. After taking a few standard wide angle images capturing the entire falls, my eye was drawn to the juxtaposition between the fierce crashing water and this stoic section of canyon wall. It held a story of resistance, of a battle between the destructive forces exerted by tons of raging water and the canyon walls which it cuts and creates.


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Outer Ring

Nikon D850 14-24 f/2.8 @24mm, f/11, 0.3 secs, ISO64

I stayed up all night shooting only one of the sixteen nights I spent in Iceland, and this was one of the last images I took that night (morning). I like the image enough, mainly due to the fact it was the first nice sunrise (or sunset) I experienced after nine days on the road. Weather was gloomy this past summer. Meteorologists in Iceland declared it the wettest summer in over a hundred years. A few years back this lack of “nice” skys may have been a source of frustration, but as I’ve gravitated away from chasing big colorful skies, it wasn’t such a big deal nowadays. I always try to stay open to what’s presented, allowed my mind and creativity to react through each moment of a shoot from start to finish.


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Medial Sweep

Nikon D850, Nikon 70-200 f/4 @100mm155mm, f/16, 1/250, ISO200

One of the most impressive hikes we went on in Iceland was alongside this massive glacier descending from the Vatnajökull icecap, a massive continental icecap located in the southern part of the island. Weather, an ever present partner on the trip, obscured many of the high peaks for much of the hike. Every once in a while though the clouds would break, revealing these stunning moraines sweeping down the glacier. Compositionally I wanted to take advantage of these natural lines to draw the eye down right to left then back right again. It’s tight but it works well enough. As I do for many midday mountain images, I decided to deemphasis the colors, allowing tones, lines, and atmosphere to take center stage.



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Haifoss

Nikon D850, Nikon 24-120 f/4 @28mm, ISO 80

The dramatic waterfall of Haifoss was high on my list of falls to photograph during the trip. Being located up a rather rough road on the edge of the Icelandic highlands ensured it wouldn’t be overrun with people. One fact which I truly appreciated about Iceland is, away from the ring road, the nature is raw and open. There are few railings or fences to cordon off the public from nature as nature presents itself. The shooting location for Haifoss is along the edge of a very deep canyon — and there were no ropes or barriers to prevent a visitor from hanging their toes over the precipice. I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s how experiencing nature is meant to be done. I lucked out with some nice clouds and color on my visit.


Unreleased images:




















Journey into the Huayhuash: The First Leg

Huayhuash. It's a name which has lived with me for more than thirteen years. Every time I heard or read the word "Huayhuash" my mind would flood with images of high altitude peaks dripping with glaciers and surrounded by grasslands dotted with high alpine lakes. And every time I heard the name Huayhuash an overwhelming urge to one day visit this magnificent Peruvian mountain range became even stronger.

In 2004 my wife and I spent two weeks trekking and climbing in the Cordillera Blanca, the Huayhuash's more famous northern neighbor. We were blown away by the Blanca's Himalayan-esqe mountain structure full of tumbling glaciers, deeply fluted faces, and serrated ridge lines.  While exploring the Blanca our path would occasionally cross with other trekkers who spoke of a mystical range to the south where far fewer people go -- the Cordillera Huayhuash. We were told the Huayhuash held the most stunning high-altitude mountains in all of Peru, if not the whole of South America.  As luck would have it a 68 mile trekking circuit also wound around the range. By the time we left Peru we had made a firm commitment to come back to complete the Huayhuash Circuit. We thought we'd return in a couple years. It would end up taking thirteen.  

Finally, this past July, my wife Betsy, my eight year old son Landon, and myself found ourselves once again in Peru. Along for the ride was Craig GIffen, a long time friend who could seemingly "off the couch" any endurance endeavor he put his mind to. My wife and son would volunteer in a Quechuan village above Huaraz while Craig and I headed into the mountains.

"Espiritu y Colibri"

A lone condor soars toward the summit of Jirishanca (20,098 ft/ 6126 m)

Nikon D800e, Nikon 70-200 f/4 @ 200mm, f/8, 1/400 sec 

 

Quartelhuain: Days 1 & 2

The beginning of the trek was anything but smooth. I was still battling a case of metatarsalgia so severe it literally left me hobbled and limping through Lima's airport and through the streets Huaraz. I had no idea if my foot would hold up, an extremely foreign feeling since I've rarely had an injury of any sort in my life. Hiking for six hours each day while crossing 15,000 or 16,000 ft passes seemed like it would devolve into a grueling, teeth clenched, gut fest. Having waited thirteen years to do this trek the thought of having a random injury prevent me from completing it was unbearable. I squashed this thought each time it arose.

"Omen"

A fast moving lenticular cloud builds over the Huayhuahs Range. This was captured our first afternoon of the trip and I viewed this display as an omen of dynamic weather to come.

Nikon D800e, Nikon 70-200mm @130mm, f/11, 1/80th sec 

Finally, after four days of acclimatizing between 10,000 and 12,000 feet in and around the town of Huaraz, Craig and I took the long ride to to the trek's beginning at Quartelhuain (4170meters/ 13,700feet). Bad luck would rear its head again. Sometime deep in our first night at Quartelhuain Craig hurriedly unzipped my tent door and asked if I had packed loperamide, an anti-diarrheal medicine. He would end up having the most serious bout of traveler's diarrhea I've ever seen. For the next 48 hours he was literally a walking shit factory, making untold trips to the toilet block. We decided to spend a layover day at the trailhead. Craig never complained.  He just slept and rested in his tent, listening to his favorite episodes of The Best Show podcast. It wouldn't be until day four that he felt even 80% of normal. 

Our trusty arriero, Marino

Our trusty arriero, Marino

The one upside of the unexpected down day was becoming better acquainted with our arriero (mule driver), Marino. My Spanish is passable enough to spend hours conversing and exchanging information. Marino had been an arriero in Huayhuash for over forty years and planned to retire at the end of this season. I listened to Marino's stories of the Huayhuash for hours -- and he had incredible stories. I slowly realized the man I listened to played a significant role in the very existence of the Huayhuash Circuit. In 1974 Marino and seven friends spent 25 days exploring the valleys, passes, and high altitude lakes of the Huayhaush, hoping to link together a trekking route which would circle the range. They had no stove, or tent, or anything made of plastic for that matter (plastic things didn't exist in his village in 1974). They caught fish, used dry grass and dung for fuel, and found shelter from the rain and snow under boulders or caves. The journey was cold, wet, and miserable but in the end they discovered a passable route. In 1977 they took the first trekkers into the area. The intervening years saw highs and lows, but the route Marino helped forge, the Huayhaush Circuit, is now regarded as one of the world's classic treks. 

The Huayhuash has a "colorful" history. The area was a stronghold for El Sendero Luminoso (The Shining Path), a militant communist group which waged guerrilla war against the Peruvian government in the late 80's and 90's. After El Sendero was put down the area around the Huayhuash remained dangerous for trekkers as armed robbery was commonplace. Two trekkers were murdered as recently as 2002.  Fortunately the trek's increasing popularity has led to subsequent increase in tourism revenue for local communities which has rendered the area currently safe. 

The layover day also happened to be my birthday. Before turning in I cracked open a beer, sat under the stars, and for the first time was able to feel the incredible vastness of the the range.

 

 

Mitucocha: Day 3

The next morning Craig was still sick but we decided to give the first day of the trek a go anyway. Once again Craig never complained. Instead just put his head down, put his earbuds in, and gutted his way over the first 15,250 ft pass. When arrived at our second camp at Mitucocha (13,980 feet/ 4260 meters) we immediately met Andrew and Jesper, two awesome guys, one American the other Danish, who we would end up hiking with for much of the remainder of the trek. The new company also seemed to revive some of Craig's energy. 

The camp at Mitucocha holds a slow current stream which meanders directly toward the mountains. It's one of those places where you can feel a photograph lurking. So after setting up camp I grabbed my F-stop ICU and tripod then began scouting the stream for compositions. Clouds lowered and sat on the tops of the highest peaks, squashing any hopes of using the core of the Huayhuash as a compositional element. As I walked around I learned the first truth of attempting to photograph in the Huayhaush -- dung.  Yep, livestock dung covers literally every square foot of ground in the valley bottoms and lakesides. Donkeys, horses, and cows graze the grass so heavily it's like walking on a golf course at times. If you look closely you notice dry, old dung everywhere, including all around camp. Any interesting vegetation which could have possibly used for photographic interest long ago passed through the intestinal tracks of long dead animals.

After a while I realized it was unlikely any interesting light would materialize so I packed up and began walking back toward camp. While scouting earlier my eye had been attracted by a solitary, craggy peak and thought it had enough interest to shoot.  As luck would have it the sky caught fire just as I passed under this beautiful peak.  Felt good to have at least one image with potential under my belt.

Craig's sickness had us weighing options. A few kilometers from the camp a dirt road eventually led to a village. From the village a combination of colectivos (small buses serving local communities) would be able to bring Craig back to Huaraz where he could recuperate. I didn't want to abort the trek but there was no way I would send a very sick friend who spoke zero Spanish to a little visited village to navigate his way through an unknown country.  

The next morning Craig felt a bit better so we decided to forge on. We also woke to super dense ground level fog. By the time we finished packing the fog began to break and the core of the Huayhuash finally revealed themselves above. Photographing fog and breaking fog is very high on my list of favorite weather phenomena to shoot.  Moods change quickly and scenes constantly evolve while the fog rises and drifts. A particular comp which was just okay moments before may suddenly become exciting as a hole in the fog opens or mountains reveal themselves. We had no way of knowing the fog we witnessed that morning would be the last clouds we'd see for the next nine days...

A burst of late sunset color rises over a craggy mountain near Laguna Mituchocha  Nikon D800e, Nikon 70-200mm f/4 @ 70mm, 1/13th second, ISO 100

A burst of late sunset color rises over a craggy mountain near Laguna Mituchocha

Nikon D800e, Nikon 70-200mm f/4 @ 70mm, 1/13th second, ISO 100

Carhuacocha: day 4

The next day's route was by far the easiest of the trek. A gentle grade rose gradually to a pass (15,200 feet/ 4620 meters) before descending just as gradually. We walked and talked with Andrew and Jesper. Two condors circled over head, the first I'd ever seen in the wild.

Marino loads the mules at our camp at Laguna Carhuacocha

Wind and sun are constant companions in the Huayhuash. However, there was little wind to speak of that day so the intense heat of the low latitude, high altitude sun became apparent. Hats on, sunscreen applied, water rationed. Somewhere during the descent Craig realized he had dropped his hat a while back along the trail. Since he still felt like crap I walked back for fifteen minutes or so in hopes of relocating it.  Just before giving up I spotted it and headed back down. About a hundred yards from where Craig sat bulls blocked the trail. They were pissed and unmistakably grunting directly at me. I realized I was wearing a red shirt so, being a bit freaked out and superstitious, immediately took it off. The only good option was to climb a steep grassy hillside and give the bulls a wide birth before reconnecting with the trail -- not a pleasant experience at high altitudes. This wouldn't be the last time Craig and I had a run in with bulls.  

After a few hours we rounded over a gentle ridge and found ourselves standing over Laguna Carhuacocha (13,615 feet/ 4150 meters). The heart of the Huayhuash range stared back at us.  At last, here were the very peaks I had dreamed of seeing all those years. Siula Grande, Yerupajá, Jirishanca all rose up, creating a mind-blowing backdrop to the lake. Without doubt this was one of the classic views of the Huayhuash. Our campsite near the shore of the lake held the best views of any camp on the trek. 

Even with clear skies I woke before dawn the next morning to photograph along the shores of the lake. A lone trout fisherman caused a few ripples in the water, but for the most part the place was dead quiet. A periodic breeze, no people, and a few barking dogs. The morning revealed one of those crystal clear skies which only can be experienced at high-altitude skies. A perfect crescent moon and a nearby planet rounded out the scene. Just as the first pre-dawn color reached the high peaks a massive ice avalanche unloaded below Yerupajá. The deep power of its sound was phenomenal, especially considering its distance. As luck would have I was in the middle of a long exposure when it occurred.

When I got back to the camp Craig told me he was feeling a lot better. The cipro was finally kicking in. Good thing, because this would be the last place for many days where he could, with only a small amount of effort, reach a road if he needed further medical attention.

Laguna Carhuacocha at Dawn.  The immense ice-avalanche can clearly be seen in the center of the frame.  From left to right: Siula Grande (6,344 meters / 20,814 ft), Yerupajå (6,617 meters/ 21,709 ft ), Yerupajå Chico (6,089 meters / 19,977 ft), and Jirishanca (6,094 meters 19,993 ft)

Nikon D800e, Nikon 14-24mm @ 19mm, f/4.5, 20 seconds, ISO 400

Huayhuash Camp: Day 5

View from the Mirador of the Three Lakes

This day was one of the most spectacular on the Huayhuash Circuit, and one of the two trekkers seemed to talk the most about.  The route hugs the banks of Laguna Carhuacocha, passing herders huts and corrals before heading up past several glacial lakes and steep grassy hillsides. Finally we found ourselves at the famed mirador of the Three Lakes (at least in the world of Instagram).  Looking down are a line of three impossibly emerald green lakes with massive mountain walls rising to their left. It's hard to put into words just how impressive the scene is. I personally don't think it works well as a landscape photograph, but then again there is often a sharp distinction between what is beautiful, impressive, and spectacular and what may constitute a well composed and thought out image. A blog post for another time maybe... After soaking the view in for awhile we managed to tear ourselves away before making the final push to Siula Punta (15,850 feet /4830meters), our high point for the day. Descent down to camp was interminable in the hot sun so it felt ridiculously good to take the socks off and soak my feet in a cold mountain river once we arrived. 

Heading out of Huayhuash Camp (14,271 ft./ 4350meters) there are two route choices. The first continues heading down a broad valley toward a hot spring (so damn tempting), or a lesser traveled route crosses a high pass before wandering through an alpine basin filled with emerald green lakes. As a mountain lover the choice was a no-brainier. Andrew and Jesper had the same idea.

 

 

 

 

 

Cerro Trapecio as seen on our way to Punta Trapecio  Nikon D800e, Nikon 14-24mm @ 14mm, f/11, 1/200 second

Cerro Trapecio as seen on our way to Punta Trapecio

Nikon D800e, Nikon 14-24mm @ 14mm, f/11, 1/200 second

Day 6: Cuyoc

The next morning Craig, Jesper, Andrew, and I  strapped our packs on and headed toward the pass.  The route was too difficult for mules so Marino went the long way around and would meet us at camp. 

This day turned out to be my favorite part of the trek so far.  Heading toward the pass the views of Cerro Trapecio (18,550 ft./ 5653 meters) just kept getting better.  We reached a boggy area from which Trapecio appeared to erupt out of the relatively level area surrounding the peak. As a photographer this is one of the spots on the route that, if I had known about it, I would have planned to hike to for sunset or sunrise. Even in mid-day light the scene was photogenic. A few high clouds passed over, providing a false sense of hope for a change in the weather.  They dissipated well before sunset.   

Andrew (left) and Jesper descend into a high alpine valley just beyond Trapecia Punta (16,500 ft)

Andrew (left) and Jesper descend into a high alpine valley just beyond Trapecia Punta (16,500 ft)

At this point in the trek we were all pretty acclimatized and we able to talk the entire way to the pass. Before long we reached Trapecio Punta, the highest point of the trek so far lying at 16,502 feet 5030 meters. I personally love hiking at high altitude and have found a few tricks over the years which help out. One thing I always try to do is accept that my lungs will work hard. Even when acclimatized you're going to breath hard. It's normal -- you'll be more out of breath than if you were hiking similar terrain at lower altitude. Just accept this, establish a rhythm, find a pace which is 80% of the maximum you can do, and own the feeling and mild discomfort of hiking at altitude. Understanding how your body feels and reacts to altitude is a major part of the experience of trekking the Huayhuash Circuit, or any other high altitude trek on the planet. Second, learn how to rest step. A consistent rest step allows your leg muscles a brief moment of rest between each and every step you take. Over the course of a six hour day using the rest step adds up and pays major dividends. Last, and maybe the most important piece of advice, don't want  to be there already. Keep moving. You'll reach the pass soon enough, camp will eventually come into view, but the last thing you should do is wish you were there already. Stay present in the moment and find a way to enjoy the experience of hiking at high altitude. Stop and appreciate where you are, take in the views and little details you pass by. Remind yourself that this may very well be only shot at experiencing this place in your lifetime. If you do these things I guarantee you'll reach your destination faster than you imagined, you will have saved yourself a lot of mental energy, and you'll have milked the experience for everything it offers.

From the pass we wound our way down through a mountain hikers paradise. The altitude prevented any vegetation from taking hold.  All around us rose craggy mountains, towering over the most mind-blowingly green alpine lakes. What's more, it seemed the mountains in this entire section of the Huayhuash were composed mostly of columnar jointing, a process related to volcanism. We wandered down the twisted path, navigating past the lakes, taking in the raw scenery surrounding us. At camp that afternoon (Cuyoc - 14,800 feet/ 4510 meters) we all agreed this was the best day of the trek so far. The lack of people, astounding scenery, and camaraderie made it a great day from start to finish.

Half way through the trek a daily routine had taken hold. Wake in the cold with the rising sun. Fetch water from a nearby creek. Filter first then treat with Aquamira drops (no way we were taking a chance with all the animal crap everywhere). Boil water for coffee and breakfast. Pack gear and help Marino load the mules. Then for the rest of the day walk through some of the world's most beautiful mountain scenery. Marino would have our tents set up by the time we reached camp.  The rest of the afternoon was spent cooking, talking to other trekkers, exploring a bit, and watching the light fade away and sky fill with stars from horizon to horizon. After a handful of days on a trek the mind had also settled down. Worries and stresses carried from home become trivial. Thoughts all centered around the issues at hand, not theoretical situations and what-if's I find eat up far too much mental energy while back at home. In short, life became simplified and the subsequent mental benefits of existing in a reality centered more on each passing moment took hold. As much as I go into nature to be surrounded by beauty, I also go into nature to return to this more basic, more pure manner of living.

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The second part of the trip report is coming as soon as I can coherently tap out it out! 


More images from the first leg: