Picture of the week

Sept 25, 2016

Aperture Peak of the Palisades

Darkness before the Light

Map of Big Pine Lake Basin to the PalisadesAperture Peak of the High Sierra Palisades as in the shadow of a morning storm. This was photographed from the east shore of Lake Five of the North Fork Big Pines Palisade trail.  I backpacked up to this lake this previous week on a relatively short excursion, camping at the more protected Lake Four.  The hike is about 7 miles from the trailhead at Glacier Lodge with an elevation change of about 3000 feet, taking about 5 hours including stops and lunch.  The climb is steady, but never that excessively steep, resulting in a fairly pleasant ascent. A map with the route taken outlined in red is shown in the embedded image fo the right.  The trail is popular with climbers attempting to scale Temple Crag or one of the Fourteeners such as the North Palisade, usually setting up a base camp around Lake Three.  You can also reach the largest remaining glacier of the Sierra: Palisade Glacier, visible from a steep spur trail between Lake Three and Four.  Due to the glacial run-off, the color of lakes One through Three have a turquiose blue-green color, reminiscent of Lake Louise of Banff in Canada (see the first image below).   Unlike some of the High Sierra routes further south, the glaciers also insure nice flowing streams all year round including the fall season.

The weather took a turn for the worse in the afternoon with a cold winter-like storm moving in, with rain/hail, high winds, and snow on the higher elevations.  By the next morning temperatures dropped below freezing, with much of the standing water dropped from the overnight storm now frozen.  Trying to travel light, this caught me a bit off-guard, being a bit more miserable for not having packed my colder weather gear or Goretex boots and shell.  But these conditions ended up being positive for photography with more drama in the skies, trying to take advantage of the light that would occasionally break through the clouds. 

The shot above was captured in the morning after the worst of the storm had passed, getting up earlier for a quick hike up to Lake Five after some captures of the various peaks around Lake Four as well.  For this hike I packed my Canon EOS 70D with the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, polarizer, grad ND filter, cable shutter release, and a small Cullmann tabletop tripod.  This camera gear setup works pretty good with a total weight of about 4.75 pounds, with the weakest link being the small tripod that is a bit too fragile in stormy conditions (You can view a pdf file of my itemized backpack gear list by weight here).  Photography-wise, I was also hoping for some high alpine lake reflections, but the high winds made this impossible for this particular trip.  Normally you will have calm weather before sunrise, but not this time.  All the more reason to visit this location again...