Let the adventure begin.
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.
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.
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.
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.