Photo of the Month: January 2014

I’m starting a new monthly series this year!  On the first of each month I’m going to post my favourite photo from the month previous.  It’s EXTREMELY hard for me to narrow it down to just one image, but I guess that’s what the life of a photographer really is, taking tonnes of pictures only to let most of them end up by the wayside.

January’s winner comes from the first 15 hours of my adventure to Lopez Island at the beginning of the month.  I really wanted to pick a photo from one of the many hikes I did in snowy areas (as that seemed to be the theme from the month), but the uniqueness of this shot just won me over.  Plus I figured with the new snow we finally got over the past few days February could very well have even better snow related pictures.  Only time will tell.

Enjoy,
Ian

Photo taken 4 January 2014 on Lopez Island, Washington with Nikon D7100

Snowshoeing Snoqualmie

Ever since I posted about my midnight snowshoe I’ve been looking forward to my next outing.  That next outing finally occurred January 19 on a section of the Pacific Crest Trail north of Snoqualmie Pass.  Our original plan was to go up Commonwealth Basin or another hike in the area if we found a better one.  We made it partially into the basin but lost the trail in the snow shortly after the junction with the PCT.  We decided our best option was to turn around and just follow the more worn PCT until we ran out of time, as we always seem to do.  Because most of the hike was the valley we were treated to some good views looking up at the surrounding peaks.

Surrounding_Peaks

Chair Peak above it all.

The swooping of look of the snow on Chair Peak was particularly interesting, especially with the shadows playing across the surface.

LunchBuddy

A friend for lunch.

Our lunch (more of a snack) break was in a bit of a clearing, with views like that of Chair Peak all around.  But instead of showing more pictures of snowy mountains I figured the highlight was a friendly little bird that kept begging for gorp.  We opted to keep it wild though, refusing to provide any food so it wouldn’t become any more dependent on people than it already was.  After this stop the snow started to get less icy and we felt like we were actually using our snowshoes instead of just the spikes on the bottom.

Looking_Up

Looking up at the trees.

We almost turned around under these trees (which now that I look at the picture seem to form a star) due to time constraints, but I’m so glad we didn’t.  The best part of the hike was just around the bend.

Ridgeward

Our first look up the meadow.

This was the view that awaited us!  So much pristine snow with neat little ridges and valleys carved in it.  It was so peaceful now that we didn’t have to hear the drone of the highway in the distance.

Pristine

Miniature snow dunes.

Because the sun was on its way down we also had some nice shadows in the little valleys, with larger ones from trees being cast across the whole scene.

Small_Shadow

A small tree and its shadow.

This young tree was barely above the snow, with light sparking in the crystals all around it.  I couldn’t help but spend longer than I should have up here.

Hillside

In the distance were large boulders with trickles of water running down them.  I’m sure every night they freeze and then melt again in the morning.  I’d love to be up here to see that happen as I’m sure there would be tonnes of icicles everywhere with how warm it has been.

Bright_Tree

How little snow we really have.

This tree is bent from the weight of the snow in past years, but this year it doesn’t even make it close.  I mentioned in a previous post from Lake Tahoe how bad this winter has been in California and Nevada, but it has only been marginally better in the Cascades.  Everywhere in western North America is hurting which the east is getting hammered with blizzards week after week.  Hopefully the next few months are better so I can get more snowshoeing adventures in before spring.

Ominous_Forest

Ominous trees keep their distance from the light.

Now that it was past our departure time we hurried off back down the hill.  It always is easier (and faster) going down, so we made it back home just as the light was leaving us.

Taken on 19 January, 2014 with Nikon D7100

30 Hours of Adventure: The Last 15

After less than 5 hours of sleep we woke up bright and early to make it to the 7:30 ferry on time, which also meant it wouldn’t start getting light out until we were on the boat.  The adventures, bonfire, and stories from the day before were still fresh in our minds and we would have loved to stay longer, but some of us had a flight to catch.  Unfortunately we would not get to see the island in the light at all during this trip, but I’ll venture out that way again soon.

Lopez_and_friends

All we got to see of Lopez Island (the low island between the hills and Olympics)

As sad as we were though, heading back to the mainland with the sun rising in front of us was a real treat.  Directly to the east of us Mount Baker was easy to spot, but far to the south Mount Rainier was now visible as well.

Baker_to_Rainier

Mount Baker (left) and Mount Rainier (right) clearly visible.

To the north the Coastal Range of British Columbia poked out from behind other islands, and to the southwest the Olympic Range was also jutting out from behind a veil of clouds (seen in the first picture).

Westward_Ferry

Our sister ferry with the Coastal Range in the distance.

The San Juan Islands in a truly amazing location, nestled in the midst of multiple large mountain ranges.  Which brings me to the next segment of this weekends plans… another mountain hike!

Sun_Rising_on_Baker

First light of the day caught on Baker’s flanks.

My car was parked at my friend’s house on Mercer Island, so as soon as we got there I turned around and started to drive back north.  This time my destination of to the east though, out along highway to in the town of Baring.  There I was meeting other friends to hike the 4.4 mile Barclay Lake trail.

Baring_Peak

Baring Mountain towering above us.

The entire trail was in the shadow of Baring Mountain, a huge monolith of a rock face that dominated our view to the south.

Pinnacle

Twisting upward…

As I mentioned, our destination was another lake, once again frozen solid.  It was clear people had walked out on it, but none of us wanted to risk falling in and to then having walk the 2.2 miles out freezing.  Moreover, none of us wanted to deal taking care of another person who fell in, so we limited our direct lake contact to a few logs that were very thoroughly stuck and most definitely NOT going anywhere.

Surface

The texture of the solid ice.

Almost the whole length of the trail was above snow level, if only due to the constant shade the valley experienced.  This made for some slippery sections and a partially frozen river crossing.

Snowy_bridge

A snow-covered river crossing.

A few snowballs were exchanged in the abundant clearings, but I always lingered behind the group to enjoy the peacefulness that inevitably comes hand in hand with winter landscapes.

Framed_by_trees

Footsteps in a solitary land.

Slopes on the northern side of the valley received sunlight for the entire day and were therefore devoid of snow.  Green hues of those trees contrasted with the black and white shades of the trees in the valley.  Most of the clearings opened to the south, so this view was only seen at the very beginning and end.

Lit_Peaks

Alpine glow.

In fact, the only section of the trail that didn’t have any snow was right near the trailhead.  What it lacked in snow it made up for in another beautiful phenomenon…

ForestPath

Spindly tendrils of ice make up the white patches on the ground.

We saw some great examples of frost heaving on this hike.  This happens when moisture in the soil freezes and forms tiny, delicate columns of ice that shoot skyward. The examples we saw on this hike were much longer and thinner than the one I photographed earlier this winter on another hike just outside Bellingham, seen below.

Frost_heaving

Frost heaving sample seen on 7 December.

With all said and done I left for the San Juans at 11am Saturday and got back home from my hike around 5pm Sunday.  Thirty hours of nonstop excitement from sea level to 2400ft including everything from island fires to frozen lakes, and old and new friends.  I’d say it was a pretty memorable weekend.

All this trekking in snow got me thinking I should get my snowshoes out again, which just occurred 4 days ago!  Look forward to those pictures soon, until then.

Photos taken 5 January 2014 with my Nikon D7100.

30 Hours of Adventure: The First 15

My first weekend back in the Pacific Northwest turned out to be a doozy, including exploring a state park, an island, and hike in the Cascades… all in the span of a little over a day.
One of my friends from WWU now lives on Lopez Island, out in the San Juans.  She had been wanting a bunch of us to visit (they don’t get many visitors out there) for a while, and it finally fit in our schedules.  Plus she offered us lots of food and a bonfire, which are always great incentives.

Grasses

Grass and dock at Deception Pass State Park

Getting to Lopez Island requires, as you might expect, taking a ferry.  These ferries leave from Anacortes, WA, about an hour and a half north of Seattle.  We planned on taking the 12:35 sailing but missed it by about 15 minutes.  Being the smart (and always slightly behind schedule) individuals we are, we had a backup plan in place already, to kill time at Deception Pass State Park until the 4:20 ferry.

DeceptionPassBridge

This stop consisted of a short hike to an overlook on the beach, where we could look up at the Deception Pass Bridges and watch the tides rush past us.

Bridging_the_Gap

Canoe Pass Bridge between trees.

According to NOAA the pass has some of the fastest tidal currents in North America, you can see the ripples and eddies below as the tide was coming in.

Currents

Watching the tides roll away.

We also found a few other pretty spots, including this smooth pond with no ripples whatsoever.  The reflections were amazing and the photo really doesn’t do it justice.

PondTree

A pond like glass.

After our long wait we finally boarded the ferry for Lopez Island at the Anacortes ferry terminal, which happens to have an excellent view of the North Cascades.

Dusk_Baker

Mount Baker from the ferry terminal.

By this point the sun was setting, so the mountains to the east were catching the last rays of light while the sky to the west was brilliantly lit up with yellow and orange hues.  The Olympic Range was also silhouetted, with its black peaks rising above the clouds (and in some cases being confused with them).

Out_the_Window

Westward view though the ferry.

As the finals rays of light hit the top of Mount Baker we began to realise that we wouldn’t actually get to see the island in the light.  We were planning on taking a 7:30am ferry off the island in order to get one of my friends to the Seattle airport.

Sun_Setting_on_Baker

The last light on Mount Baker.

Even though it was dark when we landed we knew a good time would ensue anyway, and the bonfire was a huge success.  We grilled oysters caught fresh that day in two homemade sauces; red wine and butter/garlic.  It was a blast.

Embers&Stars

Embers eager to join the stars.

Plus I got to work on some really long exposures of stars…

Warp_Speed

Stars spinning above the house.

I really like the beam of light from the house being reflected in the lens.  I think it adds a surreal feeling to the shot.  The temperature dropped pretty quickly and my lens started to fog up and ice over, creating a haze (like looking through low clouds) in the next shot.

Fogging_Over

Ever moving through space.

I really look forward to taking more star trail photos, and getting better at long exposure shots.  At around 1am we grudgingly called it a night as four of us had to wake up by 6:30 to catch another ferry.  Head on over to part two for all of Sunday’s adventures…

Photos taken 4 January, 2014 with my Nikon D7100.

A New Year

This post is about a week late in arriving, but it’s finally here now.  2013 was a great year with a number of major life events unfolding for me.
Some are as follows…

This year also included some travels, but for the first time in a number of years I didn’t leave the country (other than Canada).  I did get to two states I have no memory of being to before, Wisconsin and Minnesota, got to visit family in Michigan, spend holidays with family and friends in Nevada, California, and Oregon, and explore new areas of British Columbia.  Not to bad for feeling like I didn’t travel much eh?

Last year I also realised how much I really love photography, and that I want it to be a larger part of my life in the coming years.  Getting a new camera, framing some of my pictures for christmas presents, and learning about cool new software and lenses played a big roll.

Prepared

Photographers getting set up at Kerry Park for New Years fireworks over Seattle

I’m not a huge fan of New Years Resolutions (why treat this day as anything more special than another, every date is one year away from itself), but this year I did make one.  To sell one of my photos to someone, or at least get them displayed somewhere public.  I think of it more as a goal than a resolution.  If it falls through then that’s ok, as long as I still enjoy the process the money isn’t important, besides, that’s what my google job it for.

Seattle_Bars

Breaking into Seattle

Anyway, so lots of stuff happened last year and all around it was one of my favorite years yet (each year since 2011 has truly been amazing for a variety of reasons).  On to the point of this post.  Friends.

Friends

Friends/neighbours from freshmen year (and a newer face or two)

New Years Eve Eve we had a reunion of sorts in Kirkland.  Almost all of my dorm neighbours and roommates from freshmen year at WWU were in town, so we all went out for dinner to catch up.  It was great to get everyone together as we are now spread all across the country, it will probably be years until it happens again.

TheGroup

Standing still in long exposures is hard.

The next night some of us went to Kerry Park for the sunset (or dusk do to traffic) before going to my friend’s apartment near the Space Needle to ring in the new year.  The view, as always, was beautiful.

NewYearsSeattle-1

Over the hill, to Seattle Center we go.

Despite the slight drizzle and breeze (nothing Seattleites aren’t used to) there was already a tonne of people at the park, claiming spots, setting up cameras, and throwing down blankets hours before the fireworks show.

NewYearsSeattle-2

Imagine watching fireworks from this location…

As we returned to the warmth of the apartment I couldn’t help but think, “I want to come back to watch fireworks from this location sometime”.  Good thing we didn’t do so that night!
Remember that post about my July 3rd firework experience in Milwaukee?  The one where fog moved in at the start of the show and by the end we could barely see anything… well this was worse.

I didn’t even bother with pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above is similar to how they would have turned out.

My friend’s balcony has a good view of the upper third of the Space Needle and is almost exactly one mile away (a twenty min walk).  We couldn’t see anything.  No glow from the explosions.  No apartments a block or two away.  Nothing.  Barely the muffled reverberations of the fireworks.  We turned the TV on to try to get fireworks on the news but by that point the short show was almost over and with the smoke adding to the fog we were out of luck.  So here is a picture of the only actual firework show I got to see in 2013, that of Bellingham, WA on July 4th.

Bellingham_Fireworks

Actually seeing fireworks was a nice change.

So for those of you counting, that means I went 1 for 3 in fireworks shows I attended this year.  I’d never had this problem before, but seeing one nice show and getting two fogged out ones made for an interesting deviation from the norm.  So here’s to the rest of 2014: fewer foggy firework displays, new friends, old friends, travels, and a lot more pictures!

Cheers,
Ian Faulds

Photos taken 31 December, 2013 with my Nikon D7100.
Fireworks seen on 4 July, 2013 with the same camera.

Hiking Nevada: Day Two

My dad’s birthday is two days after Christmas, which means every year on this date my sister and I are subject to his whim.  Usually it entails taking us on a family hike, so it’s a good thing we both love hiking as much as we do (otherwise things could get awkward).  Seeing as my dad is a geologist and has mapped a significant amount of the area around Reno he knows all sorts of cool places, like the hike we did the day previous (see Hiking Nevada: Day One).

Road_not_travelled

Following old roads over the mountainside.

This hike took us north of town, closer to Pyramid Lake.  We turned off the Pyramid Lake Highway up the Winnemucca Valley and then took dirt roads to into the Virginia Mountains, just southeast of Tule Peak.  Instead of bushwhacking our way through the desert we followed the dirt roads up to the summit, resulting in about a round trip distance of 4 or 5 miles with an elevation gain of about 1200 ft.

Longview

Basins and ranges of Nevada.

NV_Beauty

The rugged beauty of the high desert.

Even though the sky was rather drab compared to the day before it provided a nice backdrop to the bright lichens, pale sagebrush, and reddish hues of the rocks.

Sedimentary

Nevada is brimming with amazing geology.

Nearing the top (or what we thought was the top) we left the road to get a better view of Pyramid Lake.  Our view was still blocked, but an area known as “Painted Hills” held our gaze.  The stratigraphy visible in the photo above shows millions of years of rock layers, and a number of faults capable of setting off a moderately large earthquake.

Made_it

There is always another peak.  This was the real top were my sister could finally rejoice.

Greeting us at the actual top was a large spine of bright red rock with a number of surrounding rock outcroppings. Only a small amount of snow remained from a storm in early December.  Normally in the dead of winter there would be more covering the landscape (especially at 6000 ft), but not this year.

Red_Rocks

Red rocks with pogonip over Pyramid Lake in the background.

We finally found our nice view of Pyramid Lake, or at least we would have if it weren’t for the layer of pogonip (freezing fog) caused by an inversion in the lake’s valley.  Bus it was really neat seeing the fog flowing over some of the lower hills, plus fog is just plain cool.

Weathered_Tree

Standing the test of time.

Through_the_Rock

Peering though weathered rocks.

Lots of neat geology, biology, and landscape views to be found out on the desert peaks of Nevada.  It really helps to not have a view blocked by miles upon miles of evergreen trees.  To tell the truth I actually miss the barren landscape of Nevada (I’ve only been back to Reno for a total of three weeks over the course of the last two years).  It’s just a different kind of pretty that might take some getting used to for others, but growing up in it really gives you an appreciation for its raw beauty.  And the best was yet to come!

The_Start

The start of something beautiful.

As we were starting our way down (once again trying to beat the sun back to the car) we saw what looked like a semi nice sunset off to the north.  I’d stop to take a few pictures periodically, running to catch up with the others after a few minutes.  As the sky to the north was starting to peak some clouds over Dogskin Mountain, across the valley from us, started to turn dull shades of pink and orange, which was a nice ending to the hike and day.  But it didn’t stop there…

Sunset_over_Dogskin

Becoming brilliant.

For the next fifteen minutes the sky shone with radiant reds, oranges, pinks, purples, and yellows so vivid we couldn’t help but sit down on the mountainside and enjoy.

Desert_Sunset

The land glows with the fires of the setting sun.

So once again, the sun had set and we were still about a mile from our car down in the ravine.  Luckily we were on (only slightly icy) dirt tracks and it was all downhill, so we made good time and it only took another fifteen min to get down.  As per usual I lagged behind, taking pictures with the new Tokina 11-16mm lens I got for christmas.  It was almost completely dark but I managed to pick up the last remaining shreds of the sunset in a few photos.  You can actually see the car parked next to a tree in the valley in the shot below.

Desert_Night

Night falls on the desert.

While both of my back-to-back Nevada hikes were great, the first hike was almost too bright and uniform in my opinion (at least until we neared the craters and the sun started to set). I though this one offered a better snapshot of the hidden beauty that is my (original) home state.  And to think, at the beginning of the day we thought we wouldn’t get to see anything stunning due to the inversion and bleak grey clouds covering the sky.  You just never know how each day will turn out.

Photos taken on 27 December 2013 with my Nikon D7100.

Hiking Nevada: Day One

When people ask me where I’m from I say “Reno” before I say “Nevada”.  If I say Nevada first they automatically assume Las Vegas, and I don’t blame them, after all Las Vegas does encompass about 70% of Nevada’s population.  However, Reno and Las Vegas are nothing alike.  I like to joke that it takes longer to drive to Vegas than it does to Portland, OR, even though this isn’t true it does put the distances into perspective.  Reno is a LOT farther from Vegas and Nevada is a lot larger more expansive than most people think.

Welcome_to_NV

All that space has to be filled with something right?

Northern Nevada has a high desert climate, with Reno at about 4500ft above sea level while Southern Nevada is much more similar to Arizona’s climate.  This means winters can get very cold around Reno and there is regularly snow.  In fact most of the precipitation Reno gets comes in the form of snow.  You can tell it was cold out while we were driving past a geothermal power plant by the large amount of steam.

Geothermal_Plant

Brady’s Hot Springs geothermal plant outside Reno

No trip back to Reno is complete without a few hikes out in the high desert, and the first was about an hour and a half to the northeast, taking the highway exit for the power plant seen above.

Frozen Playa

Any moisture that was out here is now frozen.

Because it had been close to or below freezing for more than a few weeks with inversions keeping the coldest air closest to the ground, ice crystals had formed in the shade where snow used to be.  Basically it was so cold the moisture in the snow froze, resulting in large ice crystals.

Pogonip

The result of pogonip, or freezing fog.

My dad has mapped a large portion of this area (he is now the State Geologist of Nevada and the director of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology at UNR) so he knows this area rather well.  The one hard part out here is deciding where to hike.  There are no trails, you just walk.

Wide_Open

My sister overlooking the wide open spaces all around us.

Upon reaching the ridge-line we had a great view in all directions, including a large diatomite mine to the east.

Mining

Mining plays a large part in Nevada’s history.

Not to long ago he led a field trip to out to some craters and thought he’d show us while we were in the area.  When he first mentioned them I initially thought impact craters, but I should have known better.  The craters were about 3 miles into our hike, and are seen here on Google Maps.

Craters

Two craters caused by geothermal activity in the distance.  My dad and sister provide some scale near the bottom left.

Much of Nevada was once volcanically active (some still is), and it is one of the most seismically active regions in North America.

Volcanic_Evidence

Looking down into the younger, more intact crater.

I don’t recall there being a single cloud in the sky all day, but at this point we were focused on the fact that the sun was dropping fast (very fast) and we needed to move on from the craters quickly if we were to get back to the car before dark.  We still had another mile and a half to go, and a lot more pictures to take as the sun set.

Last_Light

The golden hour of sunlight…

Desert_Glow

More like golden fifteen minutes as this was taken five minutes later…

The sun sets very quickly out in the desert, which can sometimes be dangerous as the temperature drops quickly along with it.  Needless to say did not win our race against the sun that day.

Last_Rays

Right before the sun disappeared behind a distant ridge.

Once we did make it back to the car we still had the hour and a half drive back into town, where we had a reservation at a delicious local Italian restaurant waiting for us as a reward.

Playa_Dusk

The last glow of the desert skies.

Then the next day we woke up and did it all over again!

Photos taken 26 December, 2013 with my Nikon D7100.

Ski Tahoe: Diamond Peak

By / December 29, 2013

Every year since I stated college I have returned to Reno, Nevada to visit my family for Christmas. One of the highlights of being back in Northern Nevada is that Lake Tahoe and its plethora of ski resorts are right on our doorstep.  However, this year the region has been struggling for precipitation, resulting in an extremely sad snowpack.

Bare_Mountains

This is what it usually looks like in May, not late December.

The only significant winter storm occurred on December 7 and 8, dumping about 25 inches on the slopes around the lake.  Since then only a trace has fallen, and much of what was here melted in a week or two of above freezing temperatures.

No_Snow

Bad signs.

While this is affecting the ski industry and the surrounding economy the more concerning fact is that all of the Reno/Tahoe area depends on Lake Tahoe and the Truckee River for their water supply, which in turn comes from the melting snowpack.  If there is no snow by the time summer comes around there will be a significant water shortages and a huge increase in the risk of wildfires in the area.

Ski_Tahoe

The runs looked like small glaciers winding down the barren mountains.

On the brighter side I was able to get up to the mountains twice in my week back home.  The first time my family went to Kirkwood Mountain Resort, about an hour and a half south of Reno, which is usually less crowded and has more snow than the resorts closer to Reno.  This year the much of the mountain was closed due to lack of snow, so we were really stuck doing one run over and over again.  Still fun, but not ideal.  I did go off my first jump though!

Admiring_the_view

Admiring the stunning lake views.

Christmas Eve my mum’s boyfriend’s niece and I decided to head up again, trying a different (and closer) mountain this time.  We headed to Diamond Peak, about a half hour away in Incline Village, and were pleasantly surprised.  There was slightly more snow here than at Kirkwood, great views of the lake, and the freedom to do as we wished as we were about the same skill level.

Happyness

My snowboarding buddy!

Additionally we both love photography so I brought my camera along for the ride to take pictures of the scenery and us jumping.  This was the first time I felt confident enough in my abilities that I wouldn’t fall and break my camera, and it paid off with some great shots.  I also learned that I actually do really enjoy taking pictures of people as well as scenery, so we might get to see more portraits popping up on here in the future.

Jumping

She was MUCH better than I was. (Sorry for the slight blurriness.)

After the resort closed I decided to take us down to the shoreline as it had been a year since I’d been back and more like three for her.  We stayed on the beach for much of the sunset, happily snapping away for longer than we should have.

Mountain_Silhouettes

Mountain Silhouettes

Tahoe_Sunset

Peaceful Pier

Ripples

Sunlight in the Ripples

At this point we were going to be pretty late for dinner, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to stop along the highway at an overlook to see the entire lake.  Lake Tahoe is one of my favourite places, combining high elevation, a huge body of water, large mountains, and close proximity to forests, deserts, and the ocean for all sorts of outdoor activity opportunities in the summer and winter.  I really wish I had taken more advantage of it when I was actually living in Reno.

Jewel_of_the_Sierra_Nevada

The Jewel of the Sierra Nevada

Thanks to Diane Anderson of DianeMarie-Photograhy for being such a great snowboarding companion and helping me learn more about the photography field.
Photos taken on 24 December 2013 with my Nikon D7100.

Cloudy Mount Si

By / December 17, 2013

This weekend’s hike was to Mount Si, above the town of North Bend, Washington.  The trail is 8 miles round trip and gains over 3000 ft of elevation (the Washington Trails Association has all the trail info you’d ever need).  According to Wikipedia between 80,000 and 100,000 people climb the peak every year, but we only saw a handful due to what most people would call “less than ideal”.

Peak-of-fog

All fog in these misty mountains.

Deciding to do hikes regardless of weather can be difficult, but very rewarding, showing you scenery you otherwise wouldn’t get the change to see and explore.  This weekend it was about 10°C (50°F), which was a lot warmer than the last few (when I hiked Lake 22 and Lost Lake), which meant that I could comfortably wear my shorts again!  However, it was a soggy day with a light rain/mist falling on us the entire hike, with a few spurts of heavy rain thrown in for good measure.

Something_Out_There

Rock spires materialising out of nowhere.

Driving to the trailhead we couldn’t see the top of the mountain, but went for it anyway.  Committing to a hike a week in rain or shine is so much easier with like-minded, motivated friends.  We knew it wold be wet and cloudy but thought it would make for a great adventure, and the exercise never hurts.

Greyscale

It was like walking into a greyscale.

When we made it to the top the cloud was so dense we would scarcely see fifteen feet in front of us.  In fact, we made it to the top of a rock pile and declared ourselves as having made it to the peak.  Neither of us dared venture very close to the edge as we couldn’t tell how far down we would fall if we happened to slip on the wet rocks.  As we were huddled under a tree eating what little snack we brought a huge rock face appeared out of the fog above us (first picture).

Clouds_and_Rocks

The true peak emerges.

As it cleared more and more we realised we were a good distance below the peak, but that a scramble up the rock face in this weather would probably not end well.  Plus we had limited daylight and were starting to feel the effects of the cold wind driving its freezing moisture into our exposed hands and faces.

North_Bend_Below

Over the ledge and down the cliff to North Bend if we’d slip.

We also learned that it was indeed a LONG way down, and a slip would almost certainly be deadly, so it was probably time to head back down the slope before anything regrettable happened.

Only_shelter

A very pretty, if not bleak landscape.

The summit of Mount Si is just above the tree line, and I’m sure on a clear day it has one of the most spectacular 360° views around.  That being said, I’m extremely happy my first experience at (or near) the top was in this weather.  It leaves so much more up to the imagination.  You really have no idea what is out there, right in front of you.   The fleeting glimpses you do get of it through breaks in the fog only adds to the wonder and beauty of the landscape, and makes the surrounding landforms seem all the more impressive.

Ridges

Rocky ridge after ridge out of nowhere.

I have mixed feelings on doing this hike again, I’d love to see the views in clear weather (perhaps in Spring), but at the same time would the landscape seem less dramatic… less desolate?  Would some of the magic the fog added to this hike be lost, or would the two trips be completely separate entities?  What are your thoughts on the matter?

Photos taken on 15 December, 2013 with my Nikon D7100.

The tallest peak: Scotland (and the UK)

This weekend did included a hike, but it was through a forest with mostly poor lighting, so instead I’ll show some pictures from a hike I took last September (adding to my “tallest peak” series).

Locks-galore

I give you the Scottish Highlands.

When my family travelled to Scotland in April 2008 we drove past the tallest mountain in the British Isles, Ben Nevis.  You can’t actually see much of the mountain from the town of Fort William or the visitor centre due to the smaller mountains surrounding it, but I knew the general direction to point my camera as we drove past in the car.  We had to make it to the Isle of Skye that evening and could only stay briefly in this area, but we vowed to return some day and conquer the peak.

First-Glimpse

I didn’t realise this was Ben Nevis until looking it up back home in France.

That day finally came in September 2012 when my dad, sister, and I were back in Scotland sending my sister away to college.  We built in a few days to do the hike and visit the highlands before she had to be at orientation.  The main route is 10.5 miles long and pretty steep, it does go up the tallest mountain in the UK after all.

Stairs

A good portion of the trail includes rock stairs.

The weather was fairly cooperative, with light rains and mist in the morning giving way to lovely party skies later in the day.  According to Wikipedia over 100,000 people visit the summit every year, and I believe it.  The trail was packed.

The-Trail

Made it to the saddle.

Alpine-zone

But 4,409ft is still a long way up.

My family is pretty active but we still expected the trek to be a moderately difficult day hike.  When we saw signs at the visitor centre (and online) suggesting it would take between seven and nine hours to complete we were a little surprised.  We timed ourselves just to see if it was accurate and it turns out from start to finish, with lunch and a nice rest at the top it only took us five and a half, much more in line with what we were thinking it would be.

Long-way-down

Getting closer to the top.

Looking-down

Which also means it was getting colder and cloudier.

Last time we were in the region all the high peaks were shrouded in clouds, and that day was exactly the same.  This resulted in some great views from the summit…

Only-Clouds

Overlooking Scotland… out there somewhere.

The_Top

The highest place in the UK, 100 ft lower in elevation than Reno, NV.

Of clouds that is.  We didn’t stay at the summit all that long, and the time we did was spent huddled out of the wind behind some piled rocks that used to be a weather observatory.

Steep-slopes

Realising just how for up you made it.

We stopped for lunch/snacks back at the saddle (by the lake seen in a few pictures) and then continued down the rest of the way.  Because we finished much earlier than anticipated we suddenly had the rest of the day to explore nearby Glen Coe, a place we originally had to exclude from this trip due to time constraints, but that’s another story.

Glen_Coe-Eastern_View

A sneak peek looking into Glen Coe.

First photo taken 10 April, 2008 with my Canon PowerShot A560. All others taken on 5 September, 2012 with my Nikon D50.

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