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Aaron Bocanegra (M, 40)
Los Angeles, US
Immortal since Jun 7, 2007
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Artist, Professor, Filmmaker, Photographer, Interaction Designer and Media Artist.
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  • Now playing SpaceCollective
    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    From bocanegra's personal cargo

    The spectacle of the Llewelyn Glacier, Atlin BC
    The sun arose today after briefly falling into a night I did not see. Night will be continuously shorter as we travel north to Inuvik until it barely sets at all. Yesterday was an amazing day that assured I was to be asleep the moment my head touched my pillow and the pain in my body was allowed to be overcome by calm. We stayed in a cabin provided for us by Gernot Dick, our guide in many ways. Our reason for coming to Atlin was to hike a remote region and explore the Llewelyn Glacier. Gernot told me that the voyage across the pristine and drinkable Atlin

    Lake would take 2 hours. We embarked at 6 am, the sun had already been up for some time. The breeze of the glacier fed lake was more intense than any cup of coffee and I was frequently making images from above the safety of the windshield with my eyes watering telling my hands to remain still. As far as footage goes, the day started off with beautiful work. Gernot could sense our enthusiasm as we could sense his. He opted to take us the long way around the island to see an avalanche site first. Gliding across this water that would make the LADWP weep, we came across several islands. Gernot took the boat close against them so as to allow for the great reveal of imposing snow covered mountains as we passed the island. His sense of the cinematic was well tuned.
    When we reached the avalanche we disembarked and Gernot quickly took the lead, as would become typical in this journey. At the foot of the massive body of snow and ice was a cave about four to five feet tall made entirely of ice with snowmelt pouring out via a stream that echoed through the chamber. I climbed in to shoot a site that cannot be photographed easily. Yet another moment that must be experienced with ones own senses. The sensation is built of a mixture of brisk cool scents, echoes, and gleaming surfaces overlooking a lake and mountain ranges.

    Gernot decided to climb the fallen body in search of even grander vistas. I am once again only partially prepared for the task ahead of me in this difficult trek with shoes that are low cut and have only reasonable traction. They do handle water rather well though. Gernot literally jogs up the ice as I slip and shuffle across it with greater concern for my cameras than my body. At the top Gernot had found a point to stand on looking into the top of the avalanche revealing just how the snowmelt has sliced through it on its way to the lake. The view was impressive, and at the time I thought that this could be the image that my mind holds for this day. I was wrong.
    Embarking once again we head to our destination past a few more islands stopping only to hear a few impressive stories that always held more meaning than the surface pretended to. Just before arriving Gernot drew our attention to the surface of the water we were riding on. It was still, reflecting every pit and ice sheet on the mountains in the distance. You can tell by his inflection that these moments are important to him. In a gesture that made me think of painting he started turning the boat in circles passing over his own ripples. The marks made did not simply disrupt the water’s surface, instead it gave it rhythm, it made it ours.
    At the start of the historic trail we are greeted with the multiplicity of mosquitoes of which we were pre-warned. Gernot doesn’t even flinch anymore, whereas we have great difficulty holding a shot for longer than 10 seconds. The historic trail is a very short section that was cut out many years back when Atlin was a mining town and much greater numbers. Climbing it was disturbing at first. Many hills, bogs and very narrow paths, coupled with an intense shortness of breath made me question my capability of making it like this throughout a 4 hour, 7 or 8 km hike. We had all decided before the beginning of this that there will be no stopping, no complaining and no turning back. Gernot in the interview the day prior had let us know that no film crew has ever made it the distance, and we are also the first people to try the trail this year. To my incredible delight we reached a lookout point that gave us our first epic view of the glacier we would be exploring, and at its foot was a considerably flatter prairie.
    From this point on we are on Gernot’s trail, he has cut it over the decades by himself. He is the only person that gives guided tours to this glacier, even to the forest rangers themselves. I carry with me my medium format camera, my 35mm, lenses and my video camera. This is about to make my Andean treks seem like a walk through a mall.
    Crossing a mosquito breeding marsh we enter immense prairie land. The earth is scattered with brilliant purple fireweed and short grass and plants with the fortitude to withstand the 16 feet of snow it got for this first time in recorded history this last winter. Distance is deceptive in this landscape. The glacier seems like it is within reach but there is nothing to give it scale, so my mind uses what it has experienced to gauge distance, knowing that any guess I were to make would be completely incorrect. On my right there is a mountain waterfall of drinkable water breaking the silence as the water crashes on the glacial rocks below. The entire plain was carved by this glacier in the last 1500 years. In a way we are chasing it as it is receding before our eyes. Gernot arrived here in 1974, and has a vivid image of where the glacier was at that time. He promised to show us, you could hear the frustration and peculiar excitement in his voice as he said it. The rocks are all perfectly smooth and rounded out, whereas the cliff faces look scarred from the glaciers work over the centuries.
    At the midpoint we encounter a solitary tree on the plain. It is protected by a man made pyramid of rocks gathered by Gernot and those that he has led. Each person he brings stacks an additional 10 rocks on the mound. At this point we had to walk a good 40 feet to find rocks of the appropriate size. As we perform this ritualistic task he tells us how he found it, struck by its attempt to grow in this desolation he decided to help. His rock monument to this tree protected it from intense winds blowing off the glacier and allowed it to receive less snow. The tree grows strong and alone next to these rocks that are approximately the same size.
    I make a photo with my medium format camera and we proceed. At this point we are slightly behind schedule so we press on as hard as we can. After a much greater distance that I had expected we come to small hill that we climb. On the top we see the glacier reflecting off the pond of its melting body. The ancient water is all that separates us from our goal. We sit and have lunch in silence.
    On the move once again Gernot is shocked at the level of growth the region has seen since he was last here due to the unprecedented rainfall. His path has been grown over in many spots and we have to hack our way through the bush and leap from stone to stone across the streams. My feet are soaked but my will has been fortified by the vision of the glacier rising out of that pond.
    We reach the point at which Gernot first encountered the glacier in 1974, it is just water now. We have another hour to hike before we reach the glacier. Over the last few years the hike has gone from being 3 hours from the lake to 4 ½ as of this trip. Continuing on we come to a spot that shocks our guide. A massive chunk of the glacier has fallen and disintegrated leaving a new valley that nobody has ever seen before. These Rocks and land have been seen in over 1500 years. Reading the scars on the stones Gernot, an art teacher in a school he built, begins discussing the performance of mark making and how it reflects our image on the world. He is torn between thoughts of the “ridiculous people that still don’t believe” and the excitement of finding a new world each time he comes out here. We press on.
    Another 15 minute trek and Gernot finds a passable patch of ice. He notices moose tracks that mean we are encroaching on their crossing which had been up river from his crossing prior to the disintegration of the Glacier. We carefully cross trying not to fall into the quicksand. My shoes are now covered in mud from a misplaced step into the substance that had an impressive suction to it. As we cross the stream I am struck by the thought that I am now walking on Ice nobody has ever walked on, I am walking on the source of the Yukon River.
    We put our cramp-on’s on our shoes, I do so incorrectly and have to do it once more as we hike the glacier.
    Gernot marks the spot we dump some of our gear by a line of greenery falling down the mountain. The ice we are on he refers to as dead ice, we are to hike into the living ice, the blue ice. It would take another half hour. Learning to walk on these metal teeth takes some getting used to and Gernot constantly reminds us to walk with our legs farther apart so as not to tear our legs up. There are moments where we can hear the roar of the under ground waterfalls and streams come up through holes in the glacier cut by wind and rock. The blue is of such a striking intensity that I do not believe it can be photographed.

    Digging in to the glacier with our spiked shoes we leap and jump across crevasses. Gernot tests the ice for us before each jump and we do our best to keep up. The glacier deceives us to an even greater degree as to its true scale, but we feel truly small. It is strange to think that this mammoth body of ice does have to fear us, that sense of insignificance is constantly perverted as we reflect on to each other.
    Stopping to replenish our water once more we dip our bottle into the melt of this glacier only revealed to light in the last year. The water we drink is ancient and truly pure. I had never imagined drinking true glacier water. After exploring for awhile we find the best spot and I set up to make a medium format shot. Gernot climbs across a sheer ice precipice to stand alone on in front of an intensely blue piece of living ice. The Polaroid is perfect and I cannot wait to send him a copy of the chrome. We take one more shot with the digital of ourselves, after he corrects our stance as not being a mountaineer stance. We are now the first film crew to make it to the glacier.

    Gernot is apparently un-phased by the trek; we however are each in our own personal pain coupled by fatigue. My right knee has given me problems for years, even in the Andes. However, this time both knees are acting unpredictable and struggling to carry my weight. Keeping our heads down and stopping only briefly to enjoy the surroundings we plow through the terrain, Gernot 50 yards ahead, me picking up the rear. At this point I stow all but my slr camera and feel much more capable having a free hand to catch my falls. My wet feet are disregarded as I jump quickly through the same bodies of water I carefully studied before planting my feet on when coming in. The sun is altering the light falling on the mountains and the glacier making for more beautiful moments, some of which I captured on my surprisingly durable camera.
    Stumbling across the landscape we get lost only once, and quickly find our way. Gernot is already at the boat playing in the lake as we push ourselves over the last bit, the historic trail. At this point my breathing is intense and my knees are finished. During this intense scramble I have managed to swallow many mosquitoes, I guess turnabout is fair play. As we make it to the shoreline Gernot is pulling in from cruising around the lake. We pull ourselves on the boat and glide out across the water once more. It is now 8pm but the sun has at least 3 hours or so before dusk comes. After disembarking, we take a shorter route and the scenery is new and exciting. The intense look of pain slowly fades to fatigue as we relax on the boat and enjoy our accomplishment.

    Sat, Jul 28, 2007  Permanent link

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