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Cordillera Blanca Peru // 6/16/2014

Cordillera Blanca, Peru

I was fortunate to have spent 3 weeks this spring shooting in Peru with my friend Forrest Coots while on assignment for Dynastar skis. Peru has been a location that I have wanted to visit for a very long time now. Part of the skiing experience, for me, is experiencing the culture that I am visiting. Of course, I only see and experience a very small fraction of these places and get to know the locals for a very short period of time. Typically. But it does offer me an opportunity to get a small glimpse into the lives of others. Forcing me to look from a different angle than the ones which are embedded within me. Experiencing the culture is just as much a part of my travels, if not more, than the skiing or climbing. Obviously, I love the climbing and skiing aspect of what I do but if that were the only reason I traveled to these locations what is that worth? Wouldn’t it be better for me to simply stay home and ski in my backyard? Certainly this would help minimize my carbon footprint which is important to me. Traveling in order to immerse myself in other cultures is one of my life goals. I learn from doing, from experiencing. People and adventuring are two very big components in my life. What I attempt to do with my photography is to share my experiences through visuals with those that might not have the opportunity to immerse themselves. To bring back the lessons and knowledge that I acquire from my travels to my community.

I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a picture taker. A historian, a recorder of time through the images I shoot. I’ve spent time working on my skill set in order to pursue my passion. Adventures inspire me, I want to shoot images that inspire others. I look at skiing and climbing as a vehicle in which to tell the stories that are important to me, my camera as a tool for the process. This is a process, a life long journey. The more experiences I have I am able to sift through them and the issues that are important to me begin to reveal themselves. Mountains make my sensors aware and force me to be humble.

We spent 7 days in the Ishinca valley outside of Huaraz. Our main objective was to ski Artesonraju (6020M) in the Paron valley which was the second half of our trip. Our main goal while in the Ishinca valley was to acclimatize. The wet season in Peru, according to the locals, seemed to have lasted several weeks longer than normal. Causing some fairly unstable weather while in the Ishinca. We were able to ski off of Ishinca. Skiing the NW ridge off of Tocllaraju was our other objective. We walked up to high camp for Tocllaraju with some light rain that quickly gave way to one of the more impressive sunsets of our trip. We went to bed that evening and woke up to rain, snow and very little visibility. We had some form of precipitation every day while in the Ishinca. Two days later we began our walk in the Paron valley up to the moraine camp for Artesonraju. I didn’t realize how much I wanted to climb and ski this mountain until I witnessed it first hand. Stunning, really. A perfect mountain, a beautiful face to ski. Both Forrest and I really wanted it to happen. But after the less than ideal weather in the Ishinca and getting thwarted there, we realized that we needed to realign our expectations. Instead, focused on the fact that we were in position, well acclimatized for Artesonraju and if the conditions presented themselves we would send. We gave Artesonraju two attempts. Our first attempt we were thwarted by snow that was not very conducive to skiing. Thin coverage on the SE face of Artesonraju that consisted of sugary and unsupportable snow. Combined with the fact that I had dunked my foot into a pool of water up to my knee within the first forty five minutes out of camp while walking across the dry Paron glacier led us to abandon that days mission. We rested and further acclimatized, while some wet weather rolled through. After feeling the snow on the bottom third of the SE face we were also hoping that the snow would shape up for us and provide another chance at skiing the SE face. Rain, snow and winds halted attempts the following three days. Finally, our last available day we woke to clear skies and calm conditions. We left moraine camp at 2am quickly reaching the bergshrund, still able to use the previous track we had set. We reached the bergshrund in the early morning. As twighlight began to illuminate the upper face we could see the clouds already beginning to role in. Light snow began to fall for and the winds picked up at upper elevations. We hydrated and fueled up before starting the snow climbing on the face. Easy snow climbing led us a couple thousand feet up the face. Lenticular clouds formed on neighboring peaks and quickly the top thousand feet of Artesonraju was engulfed. We waited at the edge of the clouds wondering if we should continue or ski from where we were while we had visibility beneath us. We ended up deciding to ski what we could. The ‘business’ of the route was still above us. Skiing the technical section off of the summit in low to no visibility was not an option, at least for me.

Making turns down the face of a mountain I had dreamt about for so long was kind of surreal. Peru is known more for the climbing then for the skiing. The Peruvian Andes are a magical place. Skiing in Peru has to be looked at more from a climbing perspective. You just happen to be using skis as tools for your descent. The contrast of the landscape is incredible. A place I would certainly visit again. The people are wonderful and the mountains dreamy. In the end we didn’t get to ski off the top. For me, I am not going to push things in the mountains. Things can go sideways so quickly. Instead, listening to the mountain whispers and going when its go time otherwise being content in the mountains with friends.

Here are a few images, more to come later. As well as a short video later this fall.

While in Huaraz we stayed at Casa De Zarela and we worked with Chris Benway of La Cima for some mountains logistics.

Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Cordillera Blanca, Peru



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