Outside El Chalten, Patagonia by Chester Wallace

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Having had a voyage down to the Antarctic peninsula cancelled due an engine problem on our ship, we decided to fly up to Patagonia to salvage something from our trip to South America. We were not disappointed! We ventured up to the mountain town of El Chalten in Los Glacieros National Park, Santa Cruz province. It is famous as a mountaineering base for climbers tackling the pink granite spires of Cerro Torre and Mount Fitzroy and is visited regularly by some of the world's top climbers. We wanted to do some trekking to take us close to these two peaks and their remarkable surrounding terrain. The harsh environment and extreme weather, particularly the winds, produce some interesting landscape features.

We came upon this dead tree which had lost its bark and had been bleached by the elements. I thought this an interesting subject in itself but realised that the clouds made a dramatic backdrop - particularly the lenticular clouds formed by very strong airstreams being forced over the mountains. These clouds are a regular feature of Patagonian skies. I took the shot in colour but decided that black & white dramatically enhanced the composition. The light and weather change very quickly and, within minutes of taking the shot, the clouds closed overhead. We did glimpse both of the famous mountains between gaps in the fast forming and moving clouds. I could have spent a whole month in the area but, sadly we were limited to just a couple of days.

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