The Story Behind the Shot:
Vicuña and Volcanoes at 16000ft

Posted on February 18, 2015


Maybe its because I am in Chile right now, but I seem to be gravitating towards pictures I’ve taken here. Seven years ago I spent about three and a half months wandering around Argentina and Chile. Towards the end of the trip I visited a park that not even many Chileans seemed to know about, Parque Lauca. This park sits on the border of Chile and Bolivia at an altitude of between 14,000ft (4300m) and 20, 000ft (6300m). The lake in this image sits at about 16,000ft (4900m).

I was staying on the Northern coast of Chile near Peru in a city called Arica. There are many tours that take you to this park and back in a day and most of them carry oxygen in the vans because of the rapid ascent from sea level to this very high altitude over a span of 4 hours. They stop in a town about half way up for you to acclimate but there is no way you can do so during the period of a lunch, it would actually take days. When you arrive at the park, there are three perfectly conical snow capped dormant volcanoes in a row. Unfortunately unless you arrive in the morning it’s almost always cloudy. The animals you see in front of the volcano are called Vicuñas and are in the camalid family making them a relative of Llamas. They only live in very high altitudes and are prized for their incredibly soft wool. The wool is very expensive mainly because they can only been sheered once every three years and have to be caught wild.

I lucked out getting a shot of these little guys feeding right in front of one of the volcanoes. After being at that high altitude for only 20 minutes everyone was getting light headed and weak in the knees-a clear sign that it is time to start back down to sea level. Before we started our descent I figured I would try an experiment. I sealed an empty 1.5L soda bottle to see how much it would compress from the difference in atmospheric pressure. By the time we got back to sea level it had compressed so much that the sides of the bottle were touching.


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