At 5am Sunday July 22 I could see some clouds in the lightening sky above so rose, grabbed my SX130, then headed up to the nearby pond to wake up. Clouds to the east blocked the sun, so I just sat down in the calm air and watched morning unfold for awhile while taking a few modest flat shadowed light images. As the sun rose above the clouds and lit up our landscape, I noticed a pattern of clouds moving off into otherwise blue skies to the west. Good, I jogged back to camp grabbed my tripod and camera daypack that contain all my large format gear, and returned to the pond. I attached my 90mm Caltar lens to the Wisner, adjusted the frame, metered an exposure at about EV 14.0 , then exposed my first Provia 100F 4x5 transparency. Next attached my 150mm Nikor normal lens and exposed the best of 3 slides above.
What a terrific start to my photography on this trip! We dropped back down to our camp and began breaking camp. Waters on lake 1a were wavy due to light breezes and we were on the opposite side of the lake that had better light. Before the trip I having sized up the topo and viewed Google Earth 3D, did not expect to expose any sheet film at this lower lake and would have only spent time during morning exploring its shores if conditions were glassy calm. At 8am we hoisted our packs and moved down to the lake edge where we crossed the inlet and climbed up a use route through brush and talus in order to reach lake 2a. On a boulder stop on the dome above, I captured lake 1a southward, with our camp area at mid frame right edge.
Above the south end of lake 2a I decided to stop and take a 4x5 image across the calm lake. However as soon as I set up, a constant breeze made that effort unproductive. About 45 minutes later we continued and along the pretty lupine lined lakeshore, Joe took this image of me amidst lupines. Although conditions were droughty, I pretty much nailed best wildflower conditions for areas we did visit though subpar versus wetter years.
My Osprey Aether 70 backpack with a capacity of 4200 cubic inches is about 1000 too small for what I carried and why I wasn't using a larger pack is a boring story. It does have quite an array of straps and buckles so on the outside of the pack I left side mounted a fishing rod plastic tube, my Thermarest Neoair pad, and Nalgene water bottle, on the right side mounted my Induro CT113 graphite tripod, on the back my Big Agnes UL1 tent, and atop an Ursack with all my food plus my a small fanny pack.
We were in no hurry this second day. Our night hiking strategy allowed us to have a short trail day, moving just 0.8 mile up to 10340 feet west of the largest Graveyard lake 2b at 10270 near a couple turfy timberline ponds. The reason I had no interest in moving further along my route was that the upper Graveyard Lakes contain some excellent photographic perspectives to the southeast. Unfortunately it was obvious any photography on this Sunday was in jeopardy because those same clouds that provided fine conditions at the pond were now quickly building up all across the Sierra. The NWS forecast Friday afternoon was for minor scattered afternoon thunderstorms over Sierra Crest areas through Tuesday. Instead a cutoff low pressure center that was supposed to remain off the Oregon coast had apparently moved further south into California waters setting up a southwest flow over California. Joe's AM radio reported there would be storms not only in the Sierra but also the Coast Range and most uncommonly in the Sacramento Valley. This same unusual pattern had been occurring since mid spring and was being caused by a persistent blocking high over the Plains states, that was also causing weeks of hot weather east of the Rockies.
I had a choice of either setting up camp in safe dense forest beside lake 3a or at 2b and chose the latter because we had no way during mid morning to know exactly how serious this weather change was. Although the topo map trail ends on the east side of lake 1a, a good use trail continues on to 2a, 3a, and 2b and then ends. So in little time by 9:45am we had reached the upper lake and were looking for a shaded lightning safe camp spot. Joe's image of the west side of lake 2b. Although it appears trees are dense at frame left, that is actually just a narrow row on a mostly inclined slope.
Unfortunately a storm safe spot with shade did not exist with the few trees very much prone to draw bolts as was evident by old charred remains. Can you see the two small ponds?
By 11am in the distance we could hear rumbles and I wished we had set up camp lower. By staying high we would be able to cross Silver Fox Pass on day 3 quickly and the better photography was up high. After a long hour plus looking about, we had set up our tents in back of some mountain hemlock and made plans to bivouac out in the open with rain gear at nearby safer locations in talus should any powerful thunderheads visit. Clouds were moving in from the southwest that the southeast ridge of Graveyard Peak blocked a view of. Thus we would have little time to prepare should a storm develop. We set up camp during intermittent light sprinkles, cooked lunch, took care of chores, then took a nap in the shade of a comfortable mountain hemlock at our camp. Joe's timer pic.
Later about 1:30pm sun came out so we walked out to a nearby overlook of the lower lakes. Lakes 2a and 3a.
A large black cloud was building so we scrambled back to camp and rather quickly large popcorn sized hail began. We bounded into our tents as gusty downdrafts blew about, lightning boomed, and hailstones noisily bounced around. I made a brief video.(to be added) 10 seconds of hail
Joe took this pic of our tents and hailstones.
A bit later Joe noticed his sleeping bag was wet. Water drained off his tent sides and onto his over tent footprint sized plastic ground cloth that then pooled between the tub floor and plastic. Being a heavy old tent it has a number of holes that wicked water through. He of course knows better and got spanked. His next piece of new gear will be guess what? Afterwards we came out again and by 3pm watched as a series of very dark storms with considerable lightning and thunder began to concentrate on areas to the south above the big peaks in the Bear Creek drainage.
We of coursed feared such storms might move over our zone. The worst in a train of storms arrived just before 6pm. The image above shows peak 11278 due east on the ridge above Cold Creek as sunlight pokes through. Recess Peak just coming out of heavy rain bands. We saw many large bolts strike these peaks. This was easily the best location I can ever recall camping at for watching big thunderstorms in the distance.
The wider angle view southeast.
Several times rumbles moved close to our area with brief large drops failing. By 7pm the worst was over. I managed to shoot Joe across from our pond during a brief calm lull.
Joe between 13704 foot Mount Abbot and 13,741 foot Mount Gabb in the distance with Bear Creek Spire further back.
Rain pattering down onto our pond that continued to thwart each attempt I made to set up the view camera.
Before sunset we walked out to a marmot boulder overlook where their droppings provided rich nutrients for lichen and a butterballs flower.
After returning Joe caught me wearing my balaclava and Precip rain jacket near my tent with Seven Gables in the distance.
And Joe captured an excellent image of our pond during a calm moment.
At sunset too many clouds blocked any warm light from the west so we remained tent bound and listened to showers pattering on our tents until about 10pm.
Next:Day 3 Monday July 23