Setting Sun from Big Arete on Pilot Mountain
One of my favorite climbs at Pilot Mountain, Smooth Sailing (a nice 5.10a) tops out on a cliff that juts out over the valley, providing 200-degree views of the rolling hills below the mountain. I had the pleasure of removing our anchors and sitting alone with a few circling birds as the sun set behind the clouds.
Setting Sun from Big Arete, Pilot Mountain State Park, NC (21″x56″)
Evening Shadows near Sheepshead
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″)
Shadow in the Grass
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″)
Top of Sheepshead
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″)
Cochise Stronghold Top-Out
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″)
End of the Tucson Monsoon
Another angle on the monsoon storm over Tucson.
Monsoon Storm over Tucson from Windy Point, Coronado National Forest, AZ (14″x48″)
Lightning over Tucson
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″)
Boot Hill Climbing
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″)
Green Slabs Climbing
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″)
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″)
Turret Rocks Climbing
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″)
The Ruins Climbing, Mt Lemmon
The southwest-facing cliff at The Ruins crag provides a great location for a pleasant day of winter climbing in southern Arizona. I wanted to capture the full size of the rock face, a little foreground at the base, and the mountains fading into the distance off to the south (right), so I ended up stitching together a series of stacked photographs for this double-tall panorama.
The Ruins Cliff, Coronado National Forest, AZ (20″x40″)
Flowing Stream at Hairpin
Winter rain and snow on Mt Lemmon brought enough moisture to the Sonoran Desert to make this usually dry stream bed in Hairpin Canyon fill with water. On this particular day, I didn’t expect to take many photographs (I was out to climb), so I didn’t have my tripod in my backpack. I used a rock instead (bottom photograph) and managed to take a long(er) exposure set of photographs for the panorama using image stabilization (basically a gyroscope in the lens)- it’s amazing how well this relatively new technology works in a pinch (but I still wish I had my tripod!).
Falls and Cliffs at Hairpin Canyon, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x47″)
Falls, Log, and Sky at Hairpin, Coronado National Forest, AZ (12″x18″)
Winter Sky in the Catalinas
While climbing in January near the base of Mt Lemmon, I stopped at the mouth of a small canyon to take this vertical panorama of the rock, vegetation, and clouds.
Bush and Winter Clouds, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x38″)
Hairpin Cliffs and Winter Clouds
In early January, one of our only winter storms blew through southern Arizona (in what was supposed to be an unusually wet El Nino winter here in the Southwest). I was hoping to go climbing further up in the Catalina Mountains, but the Highway was closed, so we parked and walked our climbing gear up to Hairpin and spent a gorgeous day listening to a flowing creek and climbing beneath a ceiling of billowing winter clouds.
Hairpin Cliffs and Winter Clouds, Coronado National Forest, AZ (16″x50″)
Rocks and Joshua Trees
Here are a few more panoramas of the rock faces and Joshua trees in Joshua Tree National Park.
Joshua Tree Landscape, Joshua Tree National Park, CA (16″x49″)
V Shadow and Desert, Joshua Tree National Park, CA (16″x43″)
Rock Face in the Sun, Joshua Tree National Park, CA (16″x46″)
Joshua Trees in February
I took a quick climbing trip to Joshua Tree National Park in early February with a few friends. I brought my camera along to shoot a few panoramas while the others were climbing; here are a few photographs of the Joshua trees, which are a member of the Yucca/agave family.
Joshua Tree Arms, Joshua Tree National Park, CA (16″x26″)
Evening Joshua Tree in Shadow, Joshua Tree National Park, CA (18″x24″)
Monsoon Clouds from Windy Point, Part II
Here is the second part to a series of photographs from Windy Point, Mount Lemmon.
Towers and Clouds, near Summerhaven, AZ (16″x26″)
Trunk and Clouds (1), near Summerhaven, AZ (12″x18″)
Monsoon Clouds from Windy Point, Part I
Late summer rains near the top of Mt Lemmon at Raycreation forced us to descend below the clouds to climb. We decided to stop at the cliffs below the Windy Point overlook and spent the day climbing the North Fin. On our way back to the road I photographed these monsoon clouds. I will post more photographs in this series next week as well.
Twisted Stump and Monsoon Clouds, near Summerhaven, AZ (12″x18″)
Nancy’s Thumb and Monsoon Clouds (1), near Summerhaven, AZ (16″x48″)
Monsoon Storm from Windy Point, near Summerhaven, AZ (16″x52″)
Climbing at South Park, Mt Lemmon
The South Park area is another higher elevation (8,400′) bolted cliff near the top of Mt Lemmon where you can escape the summer heat to go climbing. The trail to the crag climbs over a pine-covered ridge, descends through a burn, and leads across a ridge. Wind-blown, gnarled trees pop out of the cliffs above the climbing area, and the rock faces overlook the valley off to the north.
Wind Blown on the Rocks, near Summerhaven, AZ (12″x18″)
Overhang and Burned Pines, near Summerhaven, AZ (12″x18″)
Leading in the Rocks and Shadows, near Summerhaven, AZ (12″x18″)
Climbing at Raycreation, Mt Lemmon
During the height of the summer heat in Tucson valley, a short drive up the Catalina Highway to 8,200 feet provides relief in the pines from the heat below. One of my favorite sport climbing areas, Raycreation, sits near the top of Mount Lemmon and provides some great overhung climbing routes in the relatively cool summer air. A dead tree has started to rot and lean over the namesake climb, Raycreation, at the upper cliff (first photograph).
Reaching on Raycreation, near Summerhaven, AZ (12″x18″)
Working for the Venezuelan Mafia, near Summerhaven, AZ (12″x18″)
Considering the Mafia, near Summerhaven, AZ (12″x18″)
Sun Spot Cliff and Clouds
A few weeks ago, I hiked up to the Sun Spot cliffs to do some climbing on Mount Lemmon. The steep, cacti-covered hillside dropping off to the south provided great views of the clouds and mountain side.
Milagrosa Canyon Walls
The view of the south-facing canyon walls at Milagrosa Canyon- jumbled giant boulders on the canyon floor, cirrus clouds above, giant saguaros to the sides, and interesting textures on the rock face opposite.