Northern Cairngorms – 2016 – Fuji Pro 400H

A few years back, a couple of good friends and I spent a few days hiking a circuit around the Cairngorm Mountains, and last year we made another visit; this time with Sarah. We had intended to extend the trip by a couple of days, so as to re-attempt a certain harrowing escapade on Ben Avon without the previous drama. Unfortunately and as is usually the case, when the time came, the weather was again bad, so we opted to take a low route instead.

Anyhoo. As with the last time we were out here, Loch Etchachan was the undoubted highlight. Such an amazing part of the world – a high-level loch at 927 m (the highest in the UK), reasonably remote and surrounded by the hills on all sides. We accessed the loch by a route via the Cairngorm plateau and Ben Macdui and spent two nights there, heading up Beinn Mheadhoin during the intercedent day.

It’s worth a trip up the latter, as the summit structures – built-up rocky outcrops – provide a channelling and shaping of the wind that can be a fun and enlightening experience, whilst breaking up the high level plateau also.

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A Pan American Adventure; Part 4 – Odds & Sods from Seattle and Vancouver

As promised, here are the remaining images I’ve edited from 2015’s Pan American Adventure.

There are relatively few shots from the latter stages of 2015’s Americas trip compared to the Southern American leg – predominantly because my poor Pentacon gave up the ghost in Vancouver (so, annoyingly, there are no analogue shots of the Rockies). I did however, manage to get it fixed and CLA’d by a local specialist in Vancouver (CAMTEX) you’ll be glad to know, and it has been running smoothly ever since!

Everything here was shot using Kodak Portra 400, shot @ ISO 200, using the P6 with the Zeiss 80 mm f2.8.

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A Pan American Adventure; Part 3 – Arequipa

Upon conclusion of our ‘organised’ itinerary we had reserved a week or so of spare time to head elsewhere in Peru. So in escaping the excitement of Cusco, the highs and lows of our trek and after a gruelling >12 hour bus journey, we arrived in Arequipa – a colonial city in the south of Peru.

We had intended to remain active once there and considered a trip up the local, omnipresent volcano, El Misti. Unfortunately, the relative lull in our program meant that we succumbed to an enforced laziness and a stomach bug (don’t eat pizza in an empty restaurant) which inevitably led to a few days of down-time and a leisurely pace.

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Downtime in the shadow of El Misti.

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A Pan-American Adventure; Part 2.3 – Machu Picchu

So…Machu Picchu.

The wondrous subject of histories, mythologies and fantasies. The iconic Incan jungle citadel that was e’er sought after by the Conquistadors and greatly mis-characterised by the U.S.-American contingent that re-discovered it during the early 1900’s. This place is often the main reason for many people to visit Peru and certainly, that was quite evident upon our arrival, but more about that later.

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A Pan-American Adventure; Part 2.2 – The Trek

As alluded to in the previous installments of this series, the primary objective of this trip was to embark upon a high-altitude, multi-day trek in the Peruvian Andes. We had organised this a few months in advance through KE Adventure; a Lake District-based adventure holiday company who come with a great track record of fairness towards their employees/affiliates, along with being known for providing varied and quality adventure holiday products.

From our starting point at Tinqui, our route was to circumnavigate the 6372 m Ausangate mountain of the Peruvian Cordillera Vilcanota mountain range. Along the route we would come to traverse high mountain passes, visit small, remote settlements and finally diverge from the typical Ausangate Circuit trail to take in some remote lagoons. Resulting from the latter extension, the trek was to last for nine days as opposed to the traditional five.

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Basic route map annotated with camp altitudes.

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A Pan-American Adventure; Part 2.1 – A KE Adventure

Our main reason for being in Peru was that we had booked ourselves onto a 9-day, high altitude trek around one of the highest mountains in Peru – the Ausangate mountain. We had booked with a Keswick-based  company called KE Adventure whose operation comes with a good reputation with regards to their guides, customer service, product and treatment of their local staff.

Their Ausangate itinerary lasts for 14 days and includes 4 days of acclimatisation prior to the start of the trek. During these initial days we were taken to several Incan structures both around Cusco and in the Sacred Valley. After the trek we were taken to Machu Picchu for a day-trip which was included as part of the itinerary. I will cover both the trek and Machu Picchu in separate posts.

As we were already in Cusco before the beginning of the itinerary, we met up with our guide and drove out to the airport to pick up some other members of the group. We totalled 6 members plus our guide, so half a regular group. Sarah and I were by far the youngest, with the additional members being >50 years of age. Each of the other members were relatively well experienced when it came to trekking at altitude, and all were well accustomed to KE, some having been on 12 trips with them! Like them and their obvious vote-with-your-feet mentality, I can only praise KE and their affiliate in Peru – Tambo Treks – and would certainly book with them again.

From the airport we travelled for 3-4 hours (including stops), driving to our first port of call – Ollantaytambo – a small town in the Sacred Valley home to a massive Incan citadel. But beforehand we stopped at a village around an hour outside of Cusco, Here we were shown the process and materials utilised to make many of the alpaca knit-wares that you see all over Peru.

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A Pan-American Adventure; Part 1.0 – Cusco, Peru

The past 5 years has seen me embark upon an educational journey. One for which I had previously fought and struggled, but which eventually led to me losing my convictions prior to its completion. Though complete it I did, and recently ended up with my doctorate.

During the summer just gone, I handed in my thesis and was examined successfully and as a post-hand-in/viva celebration, my other half and I took to the wind, spending the best part of 2 months visiting Peru, Seattle, Vancouver and Reykjavik. In this post I shall be referencing and depicting our first few days in Peru, where we spent time in Cusco. Though first, let’s get some technical talk out of the way.

Space and weight constraints meant that I could only take one camera and that WAS going to be a film camera! So I decided, due to it’s robustness and apparent versatility and durability, to take the Pentacon Six with my Zeiss Biometar 80 mm f2.8 attached. I also took 12 rolls of Kodak Portra 400 and all shots in these posts will have been taken using this set-up and generally exposed at ISO 200. As usual, all films were processed, printed and scanned by Ag-Photographic’s Photolab service.

So…

The journey to Peru was one of the longest and somewhat disconcerting journeys I have had the pleasure of making! Travelling from Heathrow, we changed in Bogota and Lima, before making the final leg to Cusco also by plane. Over-zealous airport security and the inevitably tight airline seating space were highlights. Plus anyone who has flown into Bogota may well know the insane level of turbulence you will experience when landing there.

Anyhow, in one piece and with all baggage intact we arrived in Cusco somewhat bedraggled. For our first few days we had booked into a room in someone’s house via AirBnB and we so relayed our directions to the driver of one of the ‘official’ cabs which can be acquired at the airport. The journey wasn’t too far thankfully, and one of our hosts was waiting to greet us.

Our room was basic but lovely, with a great mountain view. We were also furnished with coca leaves and a thermos of hot water, which was to become a staple of our Peruvian component. Come evening we were, as one might say, knackered! We thus hit the sack quite early and took up our adventure the next day.

I’m not going to take you through a day-by-day account, but suffice to say that we spent our time exploring on foot and also took advice from our hosts on certain things to see or where to buy groceries – this gave us the chance to see places that one might not ordinarily visit.

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