carhuacocha-cordillera-huayhuash-peru

Behind the scenes of this photo

Taken at Laguna Carhuacocha in the Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru, on September 3rd, 2014

As far as days go, I’d be hard pressed to remember a finer one than the 3rd day of my 10-day Cordillera Huayhuash circuit. It was a day ripe with juicy scenery, from wide open grassy fields, to high valleys full of horses, to rocky passes devoid of any life except lichens. And of course, mountains. Throughout the 10-mile walk that day the spectacular high peaks of the Huayhuash range dominated the view. In the morning it was Jirishanca that commanded all attention, but as we moved slowly to the south, the other great peaks of the range came into view: Yerupaja, Yerupaja Chico, Siula Grande.

My small group (myself, my friend Brett, and our guide Wilder) ate lunch on a rocky promontory overlooking the icy peaks, as well as lagunas Carhuacocha, Siula, and Quesillacocha. We saw a massive avalanche thunder down the flanks of Siula, and heard the rumble miles away. We punished our legs with a steady ascent to a 4,800 meter pass, and set them quivering with a blistering descent to our camp at 4,000 meters. We pulled the cool, clean, thin mountain air into our lungs and felt our blood pump hard in our veins.

And at the end of it all we came into camp on the shores of Carhuacocha, surely one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Even though it was almost completely overcast when we arrived in camp, the clouds couldn’t disguise the grandeur of the place, with five massive, glaciated peaks reflecting in the lake’s surface. Despite my tired legs and aching feet I stood on the shore of the lake for hours, drinking in the scenery as if I was a bottomless well.

At sunset the greatest moment of all occurred: for a 30 minute window the clouds parted and let in the end-of-day light. The clouds and moisture in the air caught the light, reflected and refracted it, and transformed it into this amazing display of color and atmosphere. But as quickly as the clouds had broken up they reformed again, and darkness descended, swallowing both the light and the land.

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