Tag Archives: Mountains

Hiking in the Dolomites, Part 6

The Tre Cime de Lavaredo are the three mountain peaks that are the highlight of the Tre Cime Natural Park.  (In German, they are called Drei Zinnen.)  From the end of the road at Rifugio Auronzo, we began our three mile hike around Tre Cime to Rifugio Locatelli.  The hike took us up to 8000 feet, to a saddle between Tre Cime and the nearby Monte Paterno (Paternkofel), where we had lunch.  The trail descended from the pass back down a few hundred feet, before ascending again to Locatelli, back at 8000 feet elevation.  Temperatures were in the 50’s, and it was somewhat windy.

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Shown below, the Locatelli hut, with the Torre di Toblin behind it.

(Click any image to enlarge.)

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On the side of the Monte Paterno, we saw some climbers on a Via Ferrata (Italian for “Iron Road”).  These are hiking and climbing routes that have a cable, fixed to the rock every few meters.  You wear a harness with two carabiners.  As you reach one of the iron stays in the rock, you unclip one carabiner and reattach it to the cable on the other side of the stay, then follow with the other carabiner.  Thus, you are always attached to the cable.

Many of the Via Ferrata in the Dolomites are left from World War I.  The Dolomites were a major battleground in the war between Austria-Hungary and Italy.

In the photo below, you see a couple of people on a fairly flat, easy section of Via Ferrata on Monte Paterno.

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We continued on to the Locatelli hut.  This is a much larger hut than the Resciesa hut we stayed in earlier—I’d guess they have room for over 100 people.  But note that they only have one shower, and it costs €5 to use it for six minutes.  (None of our group bothered with a shower that night.)

Many dayhikers come for lunch or dinner in the cafe.  Along with a lot of people, we saw a few dogs of all sizes on the trail.  Here’s a photo of a beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog.

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That night, the barometric pressure began to rise, and we set our alarms in hopes of clear skies for night photography.  We got started a little bit late, so this turned into a bit of night photography combined with pre-dawn photography.  Here’s a time-lapse sequence showing the transition from night to twilight.

We returned to bed for an hour of sleep before heading out for sunrise.  Here’s one of my favorite infrared images of the dawn light hitting Monte Paterno and the Tre Cime.

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We returned again to bed for another hour of sleep before breakfast, and then began our hike back to Rifugio Auronzo, where we waited for our taxi that would take us to Cortina.

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Up next, Cortina and Venice.

Hiking in the Dolomites, Part 5

(This is my 100th post on this blog.  Thank you all for reading.)

The morning of July 1, we left Selva/Wolkenstein for Lago di Dobbiaco.  I kind of think of this as a rest day between our weather-challenged hike from yesterday, and the 8000-foot-elevation hiking of tomorrow.  We also swapped out our guides–trading Hayden for Jake, who would be with us until the official end of the trip.  Both guides provided by AlpineHikers were excellent.

As we drove over to Dobbiaco, we saw many bicyclists preparing for the following day’s Maratona dles Dolomites, an 85-mile bike race with nearly 14,000 feet of elevation gain.  (The winner averaged 18.6 mph.)  Nearly 30,000 cyclists apply each year for one of the 9,000 starting positions.

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We checked into the116-year-old Hotel Baur, which sits right on the lake.

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(Click on any image to enlarge.)

We walked around the lake, then I settled on a view facing south for most of my images.  We played around with reflections, and slow shutter speeds as the water flowed over a dam at the north end of the lake.  Here’s an infrared photo from late in the day.

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Here’s a group shot of all of us on a bridge near the hotel.

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The next morning, we drove into the Tre Cime Natural Park and began our hike to Rifugio Locatelli.  Stay tuned for more.

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Hiking in the Dolomites, Part 4

The next day—June 29 if you’re keeping score—we took a taxi down to the ski village of Ortisei.  We spent a little time walking around the town and enjoying time at a cafe near the Hotel Adler before taking a funicular up into the mountains.

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From the top of the funicular, it’s about a mile traverse (light blue route below) over to Rifugio Resciesa, where we’d stay for the evening.  Unfortunately, I fell ill with intestinal pain that afternoon, so once I got to the hut, I just rested.  As I look for a silver lining to being sick, the afternoon views were hampered by a whole lot of clouds.  My body chose a good time to demand rest.

The Resciesa hut is one of many different mountain huts scattered all over the Alps.  It’s a combination bar/restaurant and guest house.  The Resciesa hut is one of the smaller huts, with room for about 40 people.  We had a room of bunk beds for all eight of us.  Some rooms are larger; some smaller.  There were two showers and two bathrooms shared for everyone at the hut.  I was pretty pleased with the experience, and people who had been at other Alpine huts agreed that this was among the nicer ones.

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The next morning, the weather and my health had both improved.  I decided to hike the approximately one-mile loop from the hut, to the peak, and then over to a small chapel.  (This is the darker blue route on the map above.)  The temperatures were in the 50’s and windy.  I’d typically wear three to five layers of clothes to maintain comfort.

On my way up, I took this infrared photo of the Resciesa hut in the lower left, with the Langkofel Group of mountains in the distance.  There are still plenty of clouds around, but at least we could see for miles around.

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Click any image to enlarge.

It’s pretty common for hikable mountains in this area to have wooden crosses at their summits.  Here’s an infrared view of the cross above the Resciesa hut.

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And a closer look from my regular camera:

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I turned around the other way, and took this panorama.  The Resciesa hut is on the far left of the photo, and the chapel is to the right of the sign near the middle.

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In the late morning, we left the hut and started a traverse eastward.  The plan was to get a better perspective on the Geislergruppe, also to our east.  We would then take a trail down to the middle station of aerial gondolas ascending up to the Seceda ski area.  We could then take the gondola down to Ortisei, where we left the day before.

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A typical lunch for us was a lunch sack prepared by our guide containing snacks and an always-excellent sandwich prepared that morning from local cheeses, meats, and vegetables.  On this day, it was more of a “build-your-own” affair.  Here’s a photo of our guide, Hayden, with the lunch preparations spread out under his tarp.

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We had lunch near one of the peaks above the funicular station.  We spent quite a bit of time there making time lapse videos.  Here’s an infrared time lapse of the Geislergruppe, to our east.

I would love to tell you that the rest of our day was uneventful.  But it was not to be.

The weather turned again.  Soon after we left our lunch spot, it looked like we might have a brief shower.  We put our rain covers over our packs, and donned our rain jackets.  Most of us had rain pants with us, but none of us felt like it was going to be necessary to put them on.  We were wrong.

The sleet started first.  Some called it hail.  The temperatures dropped to around 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  Then rain mixed in.  And then thunder.  If it weren’t for the thunder, we might have stopped to put on our rain pants.  On the map below, our travel route enters from the upper left, and we headed due east.  We were originally aiming for the intersection of trails just right of center.  With the rain, we debated going on to the Rifugio Malga Brogles a bit further on the trail to wait out the rain and sleet.  But it was the thunder that convinced us that it was time to exit the mountain as quickly as possible.

We went off trail, heading down an embankment to take us down below tree line to pick up the return trail.  It was steep and slippery, but it was the fastest way out of danger from possible lightning.  Once we got to the return trail, the hike finally met its promise of being uneventful, except for the part about being soaked.  The thunder stopped; the rain abated.  The temperatures rose as we descended.

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We made it to the cable car and descended to Ortisei to catch the bus to continue our journey.  We stayed overnight that night in Selva (known in German as Wolkenstein).

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Coming up, a visit to Lago di Dobbiaco, and on to the highlight of the trip, Tres Cime.

Hiking in the Dolomites, Part 3

The next day, we took the bus to the end of the road, and went for an approximately 7-mile hike near Santa Magdalena at around 2000 meters elevation.  Here’s the trail we took, hiking from east to west:

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As I mentioned in my last post, the weather turned overcast with a low ceiling, and a nearly constant threat of rain.  The good news is that it didn’t actually rain much—a couple of passing showers that lasted only minutes.  The bad news is that we had to imagine what the scenery looked like:

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(Click on any image to enlarge.)

Once again, I turned to my infrared Nikon D300 to find elements of drama in the larger scene.  On this trip, I used the versatile Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens for all of my infrared photos.  This shot is using a focal length of 65mm (35mm equivalent of 100mm) at f/5.

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Another approach to photographing with uncooperative weather is to focus on details, such as this flower.

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I believe this is a Phyteuma orbiculare.
Common name: Round-headed Rampion

The weather improved marginally as we neared the end of our hike, descending to Santa Magdalena to catch the bus back to the hotel.  The mountains were still in the clouds, but we could at least appreciate more of the scenery.

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The next day, we hiked again for about five miles in the same area, heading more east:

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The weather was slightly improved from the day before—the ceiling had lifted ever so slightly, and we saw some blue sky as the day progressed.

Here’s my favorite infrared photo from the day, with the brooding clouds hanging just at the top of the peaks.

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As long as the sky was cloudy, we could switch our focus to scenes that don’t include it.  I photographed these waterfalls with a 1/3 second exposure at f/22.

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The photo below is a 1/10 second exposure, also at f/22.

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If you haven’t figured it out by now, one of the themes of this week was to find different ways to photograph something interesting while having challenging weather conditions.  This led us to time-lapse photography.

Here’s a very short video of sixty time-lapse frames.  Each frame was taken 3 seconds apart, and the video below speeds it up by 36x.  I’ll have a few more examples like this in later blog posts.

Next up, an afternoon in Ortisei, on our way up to our first mountain hut, the Rifugio Resciesa.

Puffins of Tuxedni National Wildlife Refuge

About 12 miles north of Silver Salmon Creek are a pair of islands that are part of the Tuxedni National Wildlife Refuge.  In this photo, the larger island is Chisik Island, with the Aleutian Range and the Chigmit Mountains behind it in the distance.  The small island in the right foreground is Duck Island, where hundreds of Horned and Tufted Puffins nest.

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Thanks to our neighbors at Silver Salmon Creek Lodge, we were able to take the lodge’s boat to see the puffins.  As you can see, this was one of our calm, clear weather days, and the puffins were very active.  They were only a few days away from leaving the island—they winter at sea in the Gulf of Alaska.

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Here’s a photo of Duck Island as we departed, with Redoubt Volcano in the distance.  Redoubt last erupted in 2009.  (Another active volcano, Iliamna, is about 15 miles west of the lodge.)

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Alaska Homestead Lodge, Silver Salmon Creek

[Updated:  See addendum at the end of this post.]

While in Alaska, we stayed at a great lodge, The Alaska Homestead Lodge.  It’s part of a small Alaskan bush community at Silver Salmon Creek.  The owners, James and Shelia Isaak, live next to the lodge and keep it in great shape.

(Click any image to enlarge.)

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The lodge itself is on the inland side of the tidal marshes, only a few hundred yards from the coast.  It was common to be sitting in the upstairs dining room and watching bears walk in from the beach, right past the lodge on their way into the forest.

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We also had a great guide, Belle, who has been guiding three years at the lodge.  There are two lodges along the coast, and the guides from both lodges cooperate with each other to share information on the radio about what the bears are doing.  The guides drive four-wheel ATVs with small trailers.  I did this trip with four of my friends, and we all rode in the trailer together up and down the beach, through the creek, and along the trails.

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Here’s a snapshot showing a typical morning at the beach, with a group from each lodge watching the mom and three cubs dig for clams.  We all wore rubber boots (supplied by the lodge) to keep our feet dry.

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A pleasant surprise was the food at the lodge.  Not just good; it was great.  Our chef’s summer job last year was at Bouchon.  Meals were prepared in the lodge’s upstairs kitchen and served at the communal dining table.  The grilled salmon was fresh and expertly prepared—I think we had it three different nights.  We also had pork tenderloin, lasagna, chicken fajitas—and fresh desserts, such as berry crisp, and chocolate pie.

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The lodge had a garden and greenhouse from which the salads came… lettuce, kale, broccolini, cabbage, and more.  For the most part, the bears left these alone—even the berries used in the desserts.

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Like much of Alaska, the only reasonable way in and out of the lodge is by plane.  We used Natron Air Taxi as our charter to get to the lodge from Anchorage.  We had cloudless, blue sky for our flight on this GA-8 Airvan.

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And here we are coming in for a landing on the beach.

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The weather continued to be great for the first five days.  The previous three weeks were rainy, and the following two weeks were predicted to be rainy—but we had five solid sunny days.  And then it turned foggy, misty, and rainy for us, too.  The lodge recommends having a buffer travel day on each side of your stay, in case you get weathered in and can’t get into or out of the lodge.  We almost were stuck at the lodge an additional day.  Tim, our pilot, persisted and was able to land further north and taxi down the beach for a couple of miles to get us.

On a positive note, the fog and clouds added some variety to our scenery and photographs.

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[Addendum]

It occurred to me after posting this that I didn’t describe what a typical day was like.  Each day, you work out your schedule with your guide.  We’d typically get up for an early shoot around 7:00 AM, then back to the lodge at 8:00 AM for breakfast.  Then we’d head back out after breakfast for a few hours, and return for lunch around noon.  Because of the high latitude, the quality of light stayed pretty good until 10:00 or 11:00 AM—even longer if it was a little hazy.  If something especially good is happening, our guide would radio the lodge to let them know we’d be running late.  After lunch, we’d often take a break (nap time), and head out again for a few hours before or after dinner.

A lot is dependent on the tide.  At high tide, the bears are usually in the meadow eating grass and sleeping.  At lowest tide, they are clamming.  Near low tide, they could fish.  During our week, high tide was in the afternoons, so we spent most of the time photographing in the mornings.

Just talk to your guide about the photos you want to take, and they’ll do their best to make it happen.  If you want photos of bears eating grass, you’ll love going out during high tide.  If you want photos of bears fishing, you might go out a few hours after high tide.

A Few More Photos of the Alaska Range

I was going back through some of my photos, and realized that I hadn’t processed some of my infrared photos of the Alaska Range.

I use a Nikon D300 that I’ve converted to infrared through LifePixel.com.  (Please use that affiliate link if you are thinking of converting one of your cameras.)

All but the last of these images are from Talkeetna, which is about 60 miles south of Denali.  I think the view from Talkeetna gives a better overview of the Alaska Range.  The weather was also a lot better when we were in Talkeetna.  I would have loved to seen Denali from Wonder Lake on the north side, but that just didn’t work out.

Anyway, I wanted to share these, and hope you enjoy them. (Click the photos to see larger versions.)

 

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Denali

 

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Mt. Foraker (17,400 ft), Mt. Hunter (14,573 ft), and Denali (20,310 ft)

These are the three highest peaks in the Alaska Range, and the 1st, 3rd, and 10th highest in the US.

 

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Mt. Foraker, Mt. Hunter, and Denali

 

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Mt. Foraker.

The lenticular cloud above the summit indicates high winds.

 

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Denali

 

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Mt. Foraker, Mt. Hunter, and Denali

 

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Mt. Foraker

 

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Mt. Hunter

 

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Mt. Hunter, and Denali

This is taken from Denali State Park (about 35 miles from Denali), with the Chulitna River in the foreground.  In Talkeetna, stop at the Denali Brewing Company for a Chuli Stout, named after this river.

Maroon Bells Recreation Area

This past week, I had a chance to go up to Aspen, Colorado, and visit the Maroon Bells Recreation Area in the White River National Forest.  There had been rain all over Colorado—major flooding near Boulder, Lyons, and Estes Park—so, I stayed further south and west by visiting Aspen.  There was a mix of sun and clouds as I started hiking past Maroon Lake.

The Aspen trees are just beginning to turn to their bright yellow fall colors, and soon, this area will be inundated with photographers.  I was told it is the most photographed spot in Colorado.  Always wanting to do something a little bit different, I used my infrared camera (a Nikon D200, converted by LifePixel) to capture the image below.

By the end of my hike, the storm clouds had started to surround the peaks, light rain and thunder started, and I made it back to my car just in time.  It was a great hike.

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Click to enlarge.

Rainbow Lakes, Colorado

I was in Colorado last week, and got a chance to do a short hike to the Rainbow Lakes (elevation, approximately 10,000 ft.), north of Nederland and west of Boulder.  The temperature was perfect, with a gentle rain occasionally falling.

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Here’s a photo of a late-in-the-season Arapaho Glacier, from one of the upper Rainbow Lakes.

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On my drive up County Road 116 (Rainbow Lakes Road), I turned a corner to find a moose standing in the road.  We shared a mutual look of surprise before he walked off into the woods.

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The fall colors along the Peak to Peak Highway north of Nederland were gorgeous.

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I love September in Colorado.  But I love every month of the year in Colorado—being with friends and enjoying the mountains.