Snæfellsnes peninsula pokes out into the northern reaches of the North Atlantic Ocean. A glacier-capped 700,000 year old stratovolcano dominates the landscape in this national park, where craters rise up out of the cooled lava flows extending out to the ocean. I drove out to the western cliffs of Snæfellsnes peninsula to photograph the waves crashing against the basalt.
Ocean Waves on Basalt Flows, Snæfellsnes, Iceland
Near Snæfellsjökull National Park in northwest Iceland, highway 54 turns north and climbs over a pass. I stopped to photograph a lone hut near the top of the pass.
Red Hut on the Pass (near Búðir), northwestern Iceland (16″x49″)
I spent much of my time in southern Arizona searching for desert falls to photograph during the summer monsoon or winter rain storms. In Iceland, sustained precipitation and snow melt generate constantly flowing rivers and streams. Giant waterfalls cascade over cliffs every few hundred meters along the side of the ring road; it was difficult for me not to stop every five minutes, pull out my camera, set up my tripod, and shoot another panorama. Here is one of the many gorgeous locations along the Ring Road where dramatic clouds billow over cliffs disappearing into the distance.
Cliffs and Falls (near Budhir), northwestern Iceland (16″x41″)
I went for a January pre winter storm (in Tucson read: rainstorm) hike in the Tucson Mountains. Cactus spines and arms stood out in front of the approaching clouds.
Cactus Top and Clouds, Tucson Mountains, AZ (12″x18″)
Saguaro Cacti in the Clouds, Tucson Mountains, AZ (12″x18″)
After the fog halted our coring efforts for the day, we took a few minutes to walk around in the clouds before heading back to camp (first panorama). The next day, we got up early and headed back over a nearby pass to start our long descent out of the mountains back to the Karnali River valley (second panorama).
Window through the Clouds back to Camp, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x50″)
Path over the Pass, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x52″)
As I mentioned in a previous week’s post, lake levels were down in 2016 in the mountains of far western Nepal after an especially hot year. I am accustomed to ‘bathtub ring’ images of Lake Powell in the American Southwest, but we could see our own ‘bathtub ring’ effect around our study lakes in the Himalaya.
Bathtub Rings around Retreating Lake, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x42″)
Cloud Reflections in Shrinking Lake, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x41″)
As I mentioned in last week’s post, rising air on the flanks of the Himalaya brings moisture to ~14,000 feet by around 11:00AM. We could see clouds gathering by 9:00 AM as we hiked across an open, rolling landscape to reach one of the slightly higher lakes (first panorama). By the time we cored the lake twice, visibility was down to a few feet- getting wet out on the water with no sunshine made the work miserably cold (second panorama).
Hike to the Upper Lake and Distant Clouds, near Jumla, Nepal (14″x82″)
Fogged in Upper Lake, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x74″)
The final push up the river valley and a steep ravine to our lake basecamp would have been easy at 5,000 feet, but near 14,000 feet, carrying a heavy pack up a hill can be exhausting. However, the relatively short hike to our campsite was worth the view- a lake basin surrounded by constantly shifting clouds draped over craggy peaks near 16,000 feet. Although these ‘hills’ are insignificant by Nepali standards, for North Americans doing field work in the area it was a beautiful sight. The lake levels were noticeably lower this year- a few warmer and drier seasons had left lake levels well below where they had been on our previous trip two years ago (see exposed shoreline in second panorama).
First Look at the Lake, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x93″)
Exposed Shoreline Rocks and Camp, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x58″)
We crossed into the Karnali River drainage in the fog at ~3,500m elevation. After descending just a few hundred meters, the mists cleared, and we were able to see down valley. The descent was slippery, but as the rain stopped, the land leeches retreated and the hiking was relatively easy.
Fog and Trees on the Pass (2), far western Nepal (16″x47″)
Descending out of the Clouds, far western Nepal (16″x47″)
The pre-monsoon rains filled the rivers with water in the valleys; worried about the rising water, the truck drivers left us before the rivers became impassable and drove around the mountain range to meet us in the Karnali River valley near Manma. After coring the mid-elevation lakes, we packed our field equipment and started our multi-day journey through the mountains to meet the rest of the trucks. A slippery stone path led us over a pass through the dripping branches, wet leaves, and land leeches. Occasional dog barks and other sounds echoed through the fog as we walked, but the fog obscured any views of the surrounding countryside.
Stone Path and Trees in the Fog, far western Nepal (16″x48″)
Fog and Trees on the Pass, far western Nepal (16″x48″)