Starry, Starry Night

Cirque of the Altars, Patagonia

Cirque of the Altars, Patagonia. Photo by Cullen Kirk.

Cullen Kirk shot this glorious panorama in early December 2008, from the west side of the Cirque of the Altars, on Patagonia’s Continental Ice Cap. Click or download the photo to blow it up, and look closely at Cerro Torre. Lights! The glow of climbers’ headlamps—tiny sparks of humanity amid a vast, cold wilderness of mountains and space.

Kirk captured this image while hiking from Paso Marconi to Paso Viento with four friends working with him on the American Alpine Club’s Los Glaciares Trails Project. He had traveled to Patagonia as a volunteer on the project, with no partner or serious climbing plans. But this clear night was at the beginning of a 10-day window of excellent weather. Back in town, Kirk met Norwegian Bjorn-Eivind Aartun and partnered up for Aguja Mermoz and a likely speed record on the west face of Cerro Torre—Kirk’s first Patagonian summits.

“This picture is important because it was my first good view of the Cerro Torre, and I got to see the Argentinians that we had been working with on the trails open up the route [through the rime] at the beginning of the window,” Kirk said. “Little did I know that I would get to follow in their footprints. Que suerte.”

Previous Picture This:
March 2009