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Panama Canal - Patagonia and Yosemite - part 1 of 1 2 3 4 5 6

by Mike McNamee Published 01/02/2016


Two Continents
Two Photographers
Two Approaches
7,001 Miles Apart!

Timely visits by two of Professional Imagemaker's contributors to either end of the Americas seemed too good an opportunity for a dual article so we debriefed both Paul Gallagher and John Rowell on their return.

Yosemite and Patagonia are two places which appear on the bucket lists of many photographers but only a few actually make it to either. They are not even in the same hemisphere and so do not share seasons in any way. They share similar rock geology consisting of granite topped with sedimentary rock that has been ground away by glaciation. The weather in Patagonia is more extreme, indeed the area hosts the secondlargest ice field on Earth and many permanent glaciers. The smoothness of the Yosemite rock walls is contrasted with the towering, frostshattered peaks of Patagonia. For the curious, the scale in landscape images is always a puzzle demanding an answer. The mountain complex of the Torres del Paine from Punta Bariloche round to the Torres Norte is about 8 miles which makes it comparable in span to the Coullin of Skye. The famous W-walk around and about the Torres del Paine spans Punta Bariloche to the Torres but the route winds in and out of the valleys for a three-day tour.

Patagonia was first introduced to a wider English audience with the publication of Across Patagonia in 1880 by British aristocrat, Lady Florence Dixie. She was the first tourist to come to Torres del Paine and arrived with her group in 1879; her vivid description of her first sight of Torres del Paine: ", as if by magic, from the bowels of the earth, a grand and glorious landscape had sprung up around us ...jagged peaks were cleft in the most fantastic fashion...". She was led by Avelino Arias and other Baqueanos (Chilean cowboys).


FitzRoy at Dawn

More recently the area has been described with the words: "climbing in Patagonia will leave you with bragging rights that will last a lifetime." The first ascent of the Central Torres del Paine was in 1962 by Chris Bonington and Don Whillans. Whillans had a near miss when a fixed rope on the Central Torres del Paine snapped and he managed to put his weight on the holds with split-second timing before retying the rope. It was only as recently as 2013 that someone traversed all three Paine Towers solo.

Yosemite is probably better known to UK readers but shares the same predominantly granite rocks as Torres del Paine but is characterised by towering, vertical walls rather than jagged towers. Both have long been the playground of serious mountaineers; both are providers of spectacular landscape scenery. In many ways the scenery of Yosemite has been defined via the photography of Ansel Adams.

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1st Published 01/02/2016
last update 18/07/2022 16:31:47

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Updated 18/07/2022 16:31:47 Last Modified: Monday, 18 July 2022