My epic 13 1/2-hour Baldy photography hike came to an end, and this is what the weather permitted me to capture.
Since it had been a while, part of me wanted to reach the peak (10,064 feet). But, as is often the case, I had to be realistic. For one, I was not sure how the weather would change. Again, as is often the case, we tend to think of the worst. I mean, most of us. And when it started snowing at the switchbacks, that’s what I thought to myself. It wasn’t as bad as the rain that I had faced a few weeks ago when I was hiking the same Bear Canyon Trail, but it certainly told me one thing – it would be frigid cold higher up, if I took it as a sign for what was ahead of me.
To my pleasant surprise, if not momentarily, though, such a strange weather accompanied by more than just flurries cleared before I reached the halfway point. But as soon as I saw another huge surge of clouds rolling into the canyon, which was well documented in the video, I knew that what I had had was just a beginning of something big, as much as part of me wanted it to be for the sake of photography.
I pressed on through the section of the trail between the halfway point and the cluster of rock formations that greeted me before the notch. By then it seemed like the whole mountain was shrouded in the clouds, dropping the visibility to probably around 50 feet, maybe 100 feet tops. And the temperature kept further dropping as the wind blew stronger and stronger. I wondered if I should turn around, which is what happened when I was hiking the trail three months ago.
To be honest, I don’t know what got into me this time. Maybe I just wanted to see what it looked like at the notch, with all the clouds. So, I told myself that I would turn around at the notch.
The wind kept blowing like crazy, probably about 50 MPH, or that’s what it felt like to me, recalling another worst encounter with the wind that I had in the past, which was at the top of Mt. San Gorgonio. It was my first time camping at the top of a mountain, and it got so bad that I had to come down the first thing in the morning after barely sleeping a wink.
It was quite windy, understandably, and cold at the notch, so I found somewhere opposite side of the notch so that I could stay out of the wind. I took a break there and then started taking photos of myself walking up and down the narrow pass, followed by the timelapse.
At this point I had seen no one either coming up or down, considering how slow I was going, so I knew that I was only one on this trail all day. I then pondered if I wanted to catch the sunset while in the mountain. The decision was made, and I still had a plenty of daylight left, so I packed my gear up and then walking upwards. I was heading to the peak.
Because the winds never stopped blowing, and the temperature stayed below freezing, thanks to the clouds completely blotting out the sun, I could see one side of pines clad with snow! And whenever the wind blew, the bits of snow on the pine needles got blown away and scattered and strewn everywhere, which was quite an interesting sight to witness. Thing was that they didn’t melt away. Because it was so cold.
The clouds and mist rising and falling in and out of the canyons and ravines redressed the sparsely populated pines in a mysterious and almost out of this world sight. It was just astonishing not to stop and what was happening before my eyes in awe.
At one point the harrowing screams of the gales suddenly stopped pounding at my ears. My eyes were literally transfixed at the juxtaposition of the snags on the ground that once stood tall against the snow-clad pines towering over me like giants. And at one point they endured the bitter climate together in this harsh-at-times subalpine mountainside.
These subalpine pines displayed one of the obvious characteristics of facing the reality – the harrowing winds that often alter their growth. The bent shapes of their trunks and the absence of branches on one side were not uncommon, leaving a hiker with a clear clue as to which direction the wind has been blowing. The thick clouds, reducing the visibility to less than 100 feet, billowed into the canyons and ravines and often erased the adjacent trees as if they weren’t there. Then, as soon as a whoosh of gale-force winds swept through, they reappeared in an instant and stood like an army of ghosts.
I eventually reached the peak, which was a whole other world under the thick blanket of clouds. No one was there. Completely deserted. And a question popped into my head. Why am I here?
Took a break, munched on my snacks and did timelapse, which wasn’t much, because the clouds never lifted.
On my way down though there were a lot to catch. How quickly things had changed. On my way up, it felt like I was trapped in a chamber of mist, hardly able to see anything, other than immediate objects in front of me. Now, on my way down, the winds swept through the slopes constantly and lifted the clouds in an instant, as if they were never there. And then it stopped blowing as if somebody just switched off the fan, and in a few seconds the clouds rolled back in as if they were claiming their territory. Have you seen one of the National Geographic videos where seals try to catch fish by swimming at this huge school of fish in the water? As soon as seals reached them, the fish scatters like a bomb went off and then regroups immediately. And seals keep going at them. That’s what it felt like. Th clouds kept crawled back where they belonged.
When I came down to the cluster of rock formations, the sun was setting over the a huge wall of marine layer in the far distance, and I hurried to find a spot where I could capture just that. It wasn’t easy because the wind still never stopped blowing, and by then my fingers literally froze. I couldn’t’ feel anything under the tip of my fingers, let alone not even able to lock my tripod. I never felt so helpless. I found that pressing the buttons on the backside of my camera was even difficult. I thought to myself I needed hand warmers.
It was quite dark when I returned to my car in the village. And I felt good. It was a long and hard photography hike, and I found it enjoyable most of the time. I couldn’t wait to see what I captured on the monitor. But the thing that I wanted to do was find something to eat. I was hungry. And I didn’t feel like eating another Clif Bar.
Mt. Baldy, CA
#adventure, #outdoors, #nature, #MtBaldy, #hiking, #timelapse, #clouds, #mist, #canyon, #BearCanyonTrail, #mountains, #California, #timelapsevideo, #trail, #landscape, #landscapephotography, #Canon, #snow, #frozen, #cold, #chilly
- Canon EOS 5D Mark III
- Taken 4/19/2018