Let the adventure begin.

near whiteout conditions in Tuckerman Ravine
Sunrise came and went without a hint of the headwall before us.

For the last ten years I’ve made an early spring trek into Tuckerman Ravine to photograph the grandeur of the headwall as its bathed in first light. The hike in isn’t too difficult, about 2.5 miles to the Hermit Lake shelter, where you catch your first real glimpse of your destination, the magnificent headwall of the ravine. With another .7 miles from the shelter into the bowl of the ravine itself. Where the immensity of the place will make you feel really, really small.

While the hike itself isn’t too hard,  being only moderately steep in places, the 2:30-3 a.m. start and hike in the dark if you want to be there when the first rays of sunlight hit the headwall, just might kill you 🙂

On this years adventure I was joined by my good friend Chris Whiton, another amazing New Hampshire landscape photographer. Chris is someone who shares my passion for beautiful mountain scenery, and who’s also willing to put in the effort to capture it in the most dramatic light.

Little hope for sunrise.

the sun breaks through the clouds over Wildcat Mountain
Better late than never.

When we first arrived in the bowl, we had little hope we were going to get the sunrise we had hoped for. It was snowing, it was a tiny bit breezy (and by that I mean it was windy as hell!), and the sky was a dull grey.

We took shelter as best we could from the 30-50mph wind gusts blowing up through the ravine as we waited/hoped for some amazing first light.

Unfortunately sunrise came and went with not so much as a bright spot visible on the horizon. So after capturing a few images, like the first one at the top of this post, Chris and I decided it was time to head back down. We had gambled on the weather, as so often is the case in the pursuit of dramatic light, and we lost.

Or so we thought.

It started with a faint glimmer.

a ray of sunlight beams from the clouds over the base of Tuckerman Ravine and the Hermit Lake shelter.
If you’re going to be late to the party you might as well make one heck of an entrance!

As we were heading back to where we left our packs while we wandered around, doing our best to salvage something from what looked to be a dud of a sunrise, we noticed a slight bright spot in the sky over the mountains to the east.

Then, as if Mother Nature took pity on us and decided to reward our efforts, the sun burst through the clouds in one of the most spectacular displays of light I’ve ever witnessed. With the clouds swirling above us, a single ray of light beamed down from the sky.

It was so amazing I completely forgot how cold I was getting, and that I could barely feel my fingers anymore. All I cared about now was capturing this unbelievable light show before it was gone. The amazing thing was that no matter how the clouds were blown, how much of the sun was alternately revealed then concealed, this ray of light lingered for at least 15 minutes, possibly more.

For those of you who also chase dramatic light, you know how fleeting it can be, with 15+ minutes being a relative eternity, with killer light more often than not lasting mere minutes.

Oh yea, the headwall.

tuckerman ravine under partly cloudy skies with a fresh blanket of snow.
We came, and we finally saw.

The sun needed to be pretty low to the horizon to have given up the beautiful pink alpenglow that we were after, so by the time any sunlight entered the bowl of the ravine, all hope of a glowing pink mountain side was gone. Still, the headwall of Tuckerman Ravine is always a truly spectacular sight.

That is, once we could actually see it.




















22 thoughts on “Sunrise Adventures In Tuckerman Ravine

    1. Thanks, I think so. Definitely worth leaving my house at 12:30 a.m. in order to get the the trail on time. I sure did enjoy the nap in my car afterwards though 🙂

      1. I can imagine that nap felt good. I can’t imagine climbing up mountains in the dark of night — although I suspect the snow added a bit of light reflection — and am very grateful there are those who enjoy such activities so that us less enthusiastic ones can get a glimpse of what you enjoy.

        1. You have no idea! Especially since I was going to meet Chris again later for sunset. That adventure entailed a mile long uphill bushwhack though knee deep snow. I was was finally home and in be at 11:15 that night.

    1. Thanks, Paula. You wouldn’t believe how close we came to missing it. Both Chris and I thought we weren’t going to see anything better than what it looked like in the first photo. Good thing we took our time heading back to get our packs.

  1. Looks like magic. Cheers to you both for your perseverance in the winds and cold! Really lovely and perhaps…really lucky! Well done.

    1. Thanks Suzanne! Yes, luck plays a huge part in it. Mother Nature is nothing if not unpredictable, so I never know for sure what I’ll get. Though I do love it when she plays nice and puts on a show.

    1. That first photo is one of my favorites from that morning. Right away I saw the potential for some black & white images I would come away with, even if the sun never peeked through the clouds. Luckily for me it did, in a pretty spectacular way too!

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