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Rainbow Mountain

Zachary Moxley


Behind the Shot

Rainbow Mountain, aka Vinicunca, is one of the most recognizable locations in all of Peru. The mountain’s prominent colors are caused by its mineralogical composition: Pink is red clay, mud and sand; white is quartzone, sandstone and calcium carbonate; red is claystone; green is phyllites and ferro magnesium; brown is fanglomerate; and the yellow is sulfur.

These various minerals give the location its breathtaking colors, but also put it at risk for mining and prospecting. It wasn’t until 2019 that the region was established as a conservation area. Protected for now, the Rainbow Mountains are still at risk.

Zachary’s adventure to see this wonder nearly proved life-threatening. “We were trying to get a last minute sunrise trip up to see the mountain.” Racing to make sunrise, Zachary and his companion didn’t take into account the difficulty they would encounter at the 13,000-foot elevation. “We were huffing wind the whole time, fighting for our breath. We didn’t do any acclimatization. We were starting to get sick. I was pretty much running up the mountain at this point. I was too excited about the light to realize what I was doing to my body.” Luckily they made it out OK, and got an amazing photograph worthy of his efforts.