We scrambled and boulder-hopped onto a small ridge above camp to watch the sun set over the Rincon Mountains. Rock Prow at Sunset, east of Rincon Peak, AZ (12″x18″)
A texture-focused photograph of the exfoliating bedrock and clouds east of Rincon Peak in southeastern Arizona.
Exfoliations and Clouds, east of Rincon Peak, AZ (12″x18″)
Just east of the Rincon Mountains and Mescal Road (Forest Road 35), a second, shorter series of hills pokes up from the desert floor. From a satellite view, I could see waves of rock with nearly parallel fissures running NW-SE through the hills. Sediment is draped over parts of the exposed bedrock like a blanket. This spring, we camped near a stream bed and spent the day exploring the landscape of shattered rock and high desert grass and cacti. I took a series of photographs of the exfoliating bedrock that appears as if it is shedding its old skin.
Exfoliating Rock Slab, east of Rincon Peak, AZ (16″x50″)
Exfoliating Rock and Clouds, east of Rincon Peak, AZ (16″x37″)
After visiting the Upper Tanque Verde Falls in February (see previous week’s post), I hiked up to the Lower Falls in March. The hike to the Lower Falls allowed for a bit of exploration and boulder hopping, but I preferred to photograph the clearly delineated cliff striations at the Upper Falls. After using an ND filter to make the water flatten out, I was able to walk away with at least one good panorama of the Lower Falls.
Glassy Water and Lower Tanque Verde Falls, near Tucson, AZ (16″x54″)
While photographing Tanque Verde Falls, the striations in the rock kept drawing my attention. I tried to get in close to the cliff face to use the striped rock to both frame the falls and lead the viewer’s eye towards the cascading water.
Striations and Tanque Verde Falls, near Tucson, AZ (16″x36″)
After taking a few photographs of Tanque Verde Falls from above, I tried to get below the falls to photograph the water from below. I made the main focus of the three-frame vertical panorama the small cascade at my feet, but I tried to capture the larger falls in the upper right corner of the composition.
Looking Up at Upper Tanque Verde Falls, near Tucson, AZ (16″x15″)
Last February, I took a late winter walk out to the upper portion of Tanque Verde Falls. After scrambling around on the rock shelves for a few minutes, I found a spot that allowed me to photograph both the cascading water and the striations in the cliff face.
Looking Down on Upper Tanque Verde Falls (color), near Tucson, AZ (16″x32″)
Looking Down on Upper Tanque Verde Falls (B&W), near Tucson, AZ (16″x32″)
As we were hiking back to the car from Sheepshead, I stopped to take a few panoramas of the setting sun casting shadows across the grass and cliffs. Early morning and late afternoon are my favorite times of day in Cochise Stronghold because the grass turns a golden brown.
Last Look back at the Cliffs, Cochise Stronghold, AZ (16″x70″)
Setting Sun and Cliffs, Cochise Stronghold, AZ (13″x60″)
After climbing a multi-pitch route in Cochise Stronghold, we hiked back to the truck at sunset. I stopped to photograph the scrub oak trees cast long shadows across the high desert grasses.
Oak Tree Shadow in Grass, Cochise Stronghold, AZ (13″x44″)
After topping out on Sheepshead, we took a few minutes to eat a snack and snap a few photographs before walking off the back of the cliff and climbing more on the northwest face. Afternoon light contrasted with shadows and outlines of scraggly trees eking out an existence on the harsh clifftop. The air was surprisingly clear. Rows of mountains disappeared over the southern Arizona horizon.
Pothole, Tree, Shadow on Sheepshead, Cochise Stronghold, southern AZ (12″x18″)
Boulder, Tree, Shadow on Sheepshead, Cochise Stronghold, southern AZ (12″x18″)
Clear skies and cool temperatures in January provided ideal conditions to climb a few multi-pitch routes at Cochise Stronghold in southern Arizona. We started the first route on the northwest-facing edge of Sheep’s Head. Rivulets of ice filled the cracks, and gusts of wind left me shivering at the belay stations. By the time we ascended a few hundred feet, the sun had risen enough that I could take off my down jacket and climb more comfortably. When we reached the top of the rock dome, we found floating sheets of ice in small pools of water.
Euphoria Top-Out, Cochise Stronghold, AZ (16″x66″)
Another angle on the monsoon storm over Tucson.
Monsoon Storm over Tucson from Windy Point, Coronado National Forest, AZ (14″x48″)
While climbing on one of the fins at Windy Point (along the Catalina Highway outside Tucson, AZ) in August, I watched a monsoon storm rumble across the valley below. I took a few minutes to photograph the storm clouds as they approached us. After I drove home I realized that I had also captured a lightning bolt in the panorama.
Lightning and Monsoon Clouds fromWindy Point, Coronado National Forest, AZ (26″x64″)
When I stepped off the plane from Nepal in late June, it was about 110F (~40C) here in southern Arizona. Fortunately, the monsoon started soon after I arrived. After work one evening I drove up to the top of Sentinel Peak (near downtown Tucson) and shot a few panoramas of the lumbering monsoon storms as they approached from the south.
Monsoon Storm from Sentinel Peak #2, Tucson Mountains, AZ (16″x74″)
Routes on the north and west faces of the rock promontory above the Prison Camp area make for great spring climbing along the Catalina Highway on Mt Lemmon. I especially liked the shadows of the passing clouds on the hills in the background.
Boot Hill Cliffs and Clouds, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x39″)
Just past Milepost 9.9 and the Seven Cataracts Overlook, the road cut along the Catalina Highway (General Hitchcock Highway) forms two vertical cliffs on either side of the road. The climbing cliffs just uphill from this pullout are called The Green Slabs. There are a variety of traditional (‘trad’) routes on the south face and sport climbing on the north face. Here are a few photographs from the area.
Focus on the Rock, Coronado National Forest, AZ (12″x18″)
Green Slabs Cliffs and Highway, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x49″)
Here is a second series of photographs from my Milagrosa to Agua Caliente Canyon loop hike. I was amazed to see water flowing near the top of Agua Caliente (second photograph) even though we had received so little moisture for most of the winter.
Looking down Milagrosa Canyon, Milagrosa Canyon, AZ (16″x33″)
Falls in Agua Caliente, Agua Caliente Canyon, AZ (12″x18″)
In March, I hiked up Milagrosa Canyon (I have posted climbing photographs from this canyon in the past). I exited the top of Milagrosa by scrambling up a series of stepped dry waterfalls. I then picked my way across a hill through the Sonoran Desert until I hit a trail that dropped back down into the head of Agua Caliente Canyon. After a brief swim at a lunch time pool, I boulder-hopped down Agua Caliente to where the two canyons join near the road. As I was sliding from boulder to boulder, countless thumb-sized, camouflaged desert toads hopped out of the way of my feet. Overall, the day was at least an 8/10 stars for fun- it felt rugged without ever being more than three hours from a trailhead.
Saguaro Cacti Marching into Milagrosa, Milagrosa Canyon, AZ (14″x16″)
Agua Caliente Pools, Agua Caliente Canyon, AZ (16″x42″)
Two hours north of Tucson along Arizona State Route 77, a small turnoff dumps you out onto a dirt road that winds up into the hilly desert. The southern Arizona climbing community has created a series of trails and low-impact camping sites so climbers can unobtrusively set up a tent and climb in the limestone canyon known as ‘The Homestead’. The limestone cracks and overhangs in this area are a fun alternative to climbing the granite and schist of Mt Lemmon.
Homestead Canyon Cliffs, Gila County, AZ (16″x54″)
Far off the Ground at Homestead Canyon, Gila County, AZ (16″x44″)
After hiking to Ventana Arch, we scrambled up the rock towers of Window Peak. The approach to the summit took a few hours; we had to ascend at least 4,500 feet from the trailhead to the peak, but the views were worth the walk. The hike down to Sabino Canyon was also gorgeous- a few rainclouds blew over and spat a few drops of water on us as we passed the last ridge near sunset.
Looking Down from Window Peak, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x57″)
Saguaro and Evening Clouds, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x36″)
Early in March, I hiked up the Ventana Canyon trail to Ventana Arch and back down through Sabino Canyon. Here are a few panoramas I took on the way up to the Arch.
Ventana Arch, Cliff, Hills, and Sky, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x53″)
Maiden Pools Rocks and Cacti, Ventana Canyon, AZ (16″x50″)
The vertical panorama can help give a sense of scale from the base of a cliff, but the perspective inherent in this type of panorama can also distort the image. As I’ve been working on my climbing photography, I have tried a few techniques that I would normally never employ in my landscape work; here I wanted to emphasize the artificial, human aspect that we bring to a traditional (‘trad’) climbing route even if we remove all the gear when we’re finished.
On Lead up Turret Rock, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x42″)
Some 2,000 climbing routes line the Catalina Highway (the 2-lane road leading to the top of Mt Lemmon outside Tucson, AZ). This year, my goal has been to try a new climbing area every weekend; back in February, I hiked up the steep wash around Milepost 10 to the Chessman cliffs. Circling birds of prey, ravens, and canyon wrens surrounded us all day. I took this vertical panorama of the spectacular 5.11-, Two Kings and a Pawn, as one of my friends was leading it.
Sending Two Kings and a Pawn, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x36″)
After reaching the top of Elephant Head, I stepped over to the west face of the rock and took a panorama of the fingers of eroded ridges and washes fading into the distance. On the hike down the backbone, I stopped to take a vertical panorama of the ridge leading up to Mount Wrightson, the tallest peak in southern Arizona.
Grass, Rocks, Clouds, and Erosion, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x45″)
Ridge to Wrightson from Elephant Head, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x30″)