A ramshackle ski lift perches on the edge of a rock face, 5,000m above sea level. To the left, a ski run snakes into the valley. But where is the snow? “It was the world’s highest ski resort,” explains the British photographer Nick Ballon, “but because of global warming, it is now just bedrock.”
For 18,000 years, Chacaltaya mountain, near Le Paz, Bolivia, was home to a vast glacier all year round. From the 1930s, it also became home to a small, fashionable ski resort, attracting an elite crowd of European alpinists who coveted its high-altitude status and jaw-dropping scenery.
“My father, who is Bolivian, would tell me how in the 1960s he used to travel up here from Le Paz and ski with his friends,” adds Ballon. But over the past 10 years, the glacier has melted away to nothing. And with no glacier, an entire close-knit community lost their livelihoods.
“All that’s left now is a derelict old ski lift. It makes a stunning picture, but when I felt all this bare, flaky, soft rock under my feet, it felt as though a mountain had been destroyed.”
Chacaltaya mountain, near Le Paz, Bolivia. A ramshackle ski lift perches on the edge of a rock face, 5,000m above sea level – once the world’s highest sky resort but due to global warming now merely bedrock / photographed by Nick Ballon