On one of my final days near Bishop, CA, I was able to be in the perfect spot when the Sierra Wave set up! I’d heard of this meteorological phenomenon and seen some stunning images of it but had seen nothing in 10 days. Then BAM!! It set up fairly quickly and became more or less stationary through the night.
Its formed by air moving as a wave over the Sierra Nevada Mountains and forms under conditions that have to be perfect. It must have been because it lasted for 12 hours! Unfortunately most of that was overnight but the sunset more than made up for it.
I’m posting a few images here and I have a few on my Facebook page (LIKE Ericephoto on Facebook) for you to see. I didn’t edit these much but I’ll come back to them and remove some dust spots:) It was incredibly difficult shooting because the wind was blowing 30+mph but at least I really only had to be there and press the shutter. Mother Nature showed her superiority that evening and it was a treat for anyone within 100 miles.
The highlight to the night was seeing the wave set up over the Sierras like a rainbow, with the opening to the west. At sunset, the crescent moon descended and was framed perfectly by the wave and the mountains. I took a few shots but long exposures of the moon with very windy conditions don’t add up. I’m keeping that one in the memory bank;) Enjoy and if you interested in any of these as prints, let me know so I can prioritize getting them edited a bit more. EE
In the morning:
I said goodbye to the stunning, beautiful Eastern Sierras and crossed Sonora Pass heading west. My next destination is Yosemite since I hear there was a famous photographer from here and it looks pretty;) The current plan is to spend 2 weeks there and watch the moon as waxes and wains over the domes and valley.
The East side of the Sierras is a remarkable place for adventure and was tough to leave. Looking through the images I have, they’re as varied as the landscape. From 100 feet below sea level, to the highest point in the Lower 49 states, to pure ancient alpine to volcanic craters, this place is crazy. Add variable weather (Click to view images of the “Sierra Wave” on Facebook) and you have an amazing photography adventure. I explored my face off and found a new area I absolutely love. Us Montana kids don’t fall in love with California easily!
Anyway, enjoy the few images and I’ll finish the East Sierra chapter soon. They are all from Mono Lake. Do a quick Google search and you’ll see this place is heavily photographed. For good reason, it’s really a great place to shoot!!
I didn’t realize the road from Zion to California would take me through Death Valley so it was kind of a surprise. I wasn’t looking to spend any time there this trip as California was luring me. I stopped at the dunes and shot these two images. I was chatting with another blogger, who is passionate about Death Valley, Gravel Ghost and thought I’d look through my images. Hope you enjoy and I can’t wait to go back sometime in the winter and explore this section of raw Earth.
Last Saturday I climbed Mt. Whitney, elevation 14,500 feet, making it the highest point in the United States outside Alaska. She’s big, she dominates the view around Lone Pine and is one of those mountains that you can feel the energy of. The weather had been garbage for several days prior to climbing and I spent a lot of time trying to stay warm and dry. Photography was limited because I still hadn’t seen the Sierra’s in their fullest since arriving nearly a week prior.
The forecast was for clearing so I got a permit and bear canister, even though I think the bears are still sleeping. I sat in the rain at the trailhead the night before, imagine that, and second guessed my decision as it poured rain. As it poured rain all night, I second guessed my decision for the second time. I had faith in the overall weather pattern but prepared for the worst. Snow and stormy conditions at 12,000+ feet can be serious and going solo, I had to be prepared. Given all that, you don’t want to know what my pack weighed at the start!!
The trail heads up, and up and up at a gentle gradient on a beautiful trail. You don’t really see Whitney on the way up, just gigantic granite walls that you know are LOWER than Whitney. Keep climbing. I made it to Outpost camp and stashed shoes and shorts and changed to mountaineering boots and snow pants with gaitors. My pack was back to normal:)
I made good time to Trail Camp at 12,000 feet and quickly found a snowy bench to camp on. It was sunny and nice but the air was cooling fast as the sun set behind the mountain. Sleeping at 12,000 feet is no holiday and I don’t think you can count it as sleep. More like practicing for the times you’re on fire.
I felt great in the morning despite not sleeping and snapped a few images with the big camera and tripod. I probably should’ve left that camera behind, given the weight of my pack. Oh well, it was worth it as I got a few decent shots. I slugged some coffee and oatmeal, and started my journey up. I quickly caught a group and made Trail Crest in good time. Between Trail Crest and the John Muir Trail junction, a trail was broke in the knee to waist deep snow with drifts. From that junction on, there was only a deep, snowy, untracked trail.
Within steps, I felt the 13,500 foot elevation sucking my energy fast. At each bend I thought I should turn around, let others beat a path in and come back the next day and rally to the summit. Or I could push on and potentially have this summit to myself. Done. Push on I did and it became a mental game of one step, one step…
That feeling of approaching and reaching a summit is exhilarating and the summit of Whitney is that and then some. To push so hard, to climb so high, to be prepared and succeed are all thoughts that were swirling around. It was a feeling I’ll never forget in my life. There was a guided group that climbed the Mountaineer Route that was just leaving and it was a short time after that when a couple from London arrived. They’d been hot on my heels as I approached the summit and I tried to stop and let them share the fun of breaking trail;)
1 1/2 hours of grand views in calm winds was enough and I had to make my way back down. Down was easy with much snow having melted and a trail beat in. There was too much crust to glissade the chute but it was soft and easy to walk down. I reached my camp and made the decision to sleep at a lower altitude that night. It is only 3 miles to the lower camp where my shoes were so I packed and hit the trail. Those miles went by quickly and soon I was at Outpost Camp. The rest of the trail was uneventful with the heat finally making a push up the canyon.
I learned my appetite goes to sleep at 12,000+ feet as I packed out 1/2 my food. I also don’t sleep well and headaches easily triggered. I also maybe over prepared but hindsight would have shaved 20+ lbs:) Oh well, I’m stronger now!
Mt. Whitney was the 2nd toughest climb of my life, behind Mt. Rainier, given the conditions of my climb. To go through this, solo, and complete the round trip safely was an experience I’ll never forget, ever. It surely will enhance my life and already has given me inspiration I never had before. The mountains don’t give this to you, they make you realize you had it all along.
I’ll post some other images of the Eastern Sierras, including more of Mt. Whitney, soon. I’ll also tell you of an interesting situation/person I encountered along the trail.
Thanks and enjoy, EE.
I’m jumping ahead a little and posting some images from last night and this morning. I was in the White Mountains of California, east of the Sierras. This area is home to the oldest tree in the world at 4,700 years! There are many vast groves of bristle cone pines and they grow in fascinating environments. They are sculpted by endless wind into extreme shapes and forms and are a pure delight to photograph.
I was driving a long back road around 12,000 feet and the afternoon light made the simple, delicate alpine terrain look too appealing. I packed light since I was only hiking 1 mile and took no tent, just sleeping bag and pad. It was a cool 32 degrees with a 30 mph wind this morning but felt good after being in the 90′s in the valley.
The stormy skies cleared and the stars kept the sky bright all night. Sunrise seemed to erase the Milky Way with perfect coordination and soon it was light. And cold. I did remember to bring a thermos of hot coffee! Score! I didn’t remember to bring an extra battery. Fail. I got the shots I wanted and if anything, it forced me to be more selective of what I photograph, which is always a good thing.
Anyway, California is amazing and I’ve only been in one small part:)
For my last night in Zion, I opted for a backpack trip. I was contemplating a longer trip but 1 night on the edge of the canyon was enough for me to leave Zion content. I only have a few images from the rim since I missed sunrise and the evenings are full of deep shadows. It’s more of a place to sit and enjoy the view, occasionally getting up to peer off the edge to scare yourself.
Cable Mountain played an important role in the History of Zion Canyon’s settlement and is worth visiting for that reason alone. It’s an easy hike in an uncrowded area of the Disneyland below. Once again, I’m not sure you can capture that “lump in your throat” feeling from being on the edge of a HUGE cliff!
The last 2 images were off my P&S. It has a fun panoramic mode and I had it handy for a nice blue and orange sunset:) A side not to this mini trip was that it took me 130 shots before I got one I liked. Not an easy place to shoot!
This post is a little different because all the images were from my small P&S camera. I’ve mentioned it before but it is fun to use this from time to time as my only camera because I have a slightly different eye when using it. It’s plenty capable of making nice images for the web but nothing for print.
As for Angels Landing, you can Google your face off for information and images from this classic hike. I’m not sure you can get that lump in your throat from dizzying exposure without actually going there! For those who haven’t been, enjoy some images below.
I love how the curves and fading light made something resembling an Angel’s wing:)
Difficult to photograph but this little owl was a great find!
This image is of the Great White Throne and Cable Mountain, each with HUGE drop offs. The cliff edge looks like a good place to camp;)