Welcome To The Incredible Rainbow Mountains Of Peru

One of the most magnificent geologic features in the world is the Ausangate Mountain of the Peruvian Andes. The mountain is striped with colors ranging from turquoise to lavender to maroon and gold. However, this “painted mountain” is notoriously difficult to find and get to, requiring several days of hiking to reach its peak deep within the Andes by way of Cusco.

The mountain sits at an elevation of 6,384 meters and is located approximately 100 km southeast of the major city Cusco. The local area is rich in geology, from uplifted granitic cliffs to glaciers which have eroded large valleys and the cretaceous limestone “forest” nearby.

The reason we see the rainbow coloration in the stratigraphic layers of the Ausangate mountain is largely due to weathering and mineralogy. Red coloration of sedimentary layers often indicates iron oxide rust as a trace mineral. Similar to how a nail will rust and turn red when oxidized, sediments that are iron rich will change when exposed to oxygen and water. This, in combination with uplift and tectonically driven crustal shortening has tilted the sedimentary layers on their side exposing stripped stratigraphic intervals.

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