November 8-21, 2008
After investing into two pair of snow shoes, we were ready to move up to our “basecamp” again. The snow had settled during the last two days and the climb upwards went well with our new footwear.
On the way up, it was clearly evident that most of the chamoix had descended to lower elevations due to the unusual amount of snowfall for this time of the year. A few individuals were still patrolling their territories high up in the mountains, over 2500m; however, these were behaving more timid than their fellow chamoix down in the valley, so I left them alone. Instead of staying up with them, I walked down every day to the treeline to work with their more friendly brothers. Following different individuals, I climbed approx. 800-1000m up and down every day and my condition has improved considerably after the first three weeks of chamois-photography.
The Ibex males have also moved down to the forest and one cannot avoid meeting them on the path where they often lie down for a little rest. The big males graze peacefully side by side without a single sign of aggression. They are not bothered by the tourists either but they may give way if one is approaching them with a proximity of 5 – 6 m. The females, on the other hand, can be sighted higher up on the steep cliffs and rockslides. This is the place where neck breaking stunts of the males will take place when they start to fight for the attraction of the females within the next few weeks.
Thanks to the sunny weather over the last few days, the steep south-facing hillsides have become more or less free of snow. Most of the chamoix here can be seen grazing and the males doing vocal display or chasing each other. Although it is the rutting season, I have not seen a single mating yet. It is hard work for a photographer trying to keep up with these fast animals. In many cases the situation is hopeless and I end up just watching them running on the cliffs from a distance.
The sun rises quite late over the high mountains, making the light conditions far from perfect for photography. Meravigliosa giornata – this is how the Italians call these sunny days without a single cloud which we experienced for a period. I must say that I would prefer thick pillows of snow clouds passing over us and releasing their large flakes now and then to make the weather a little more variable and exciting (again…).
Gran Paradiso National Park is no doubt an exciting place, where a good physical condition is required. If you are unfit at the start, you will be in good shape after some weeks of climbing. With much walking and 12 to 13 hours sleep a day, time passes creating a new challenge each day. A few days ago, for example, Orsi’s sunglasses had fallen in the deep outside toilet. To cut a long story short, it was a dirty job to get them out again, but as you are only half a man/woman without sunglasses in the bright white mountains, the problem had to be solved ……. I am looking forward to see what challenges the next weeks bring us in this “great outdoor paradise”!
Please note that blogs reflect our photographers' opinions and not necessarily those of the directors of Wild Wonders of Europe.