One of the striking things about penguins is the steep-sided hillsides some species favor and climb to get to their rookeries. As you watch a flightless penguin waddle along, mountain-climbing isn’t the kind of skill you expect. And among the best climbers is the Rockhopper Penguin.
Rockhoppers are a sub-antarctic species. These photos are from a rookery at West Point Island in the Falkland Islands.
The rookery is located on a steep, rocky headland, shared with Black-browed Albatrosses and King Shags (Cormorants). It’s about 800 feet above the South Atlantic. The Rockhoppers climb that steep, slippery, rocky slope multiple times a day.
The Rockhoppers roll in on the 15-foot seas and start the climb up the steep, slimy rock. How they avoid injury when those big rollers hit the rocks is a mystery.
Here they are about half way up the climb. The birds hunch their heads an necks forward just before they jump.
Descent seemed to WC to be even more perilous. The rocks are slimy with algae, guano and mud. Yet the birds move down seemingly without breaking stride. It’s astonishing to watch.