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 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 weather at 14,000 feet in June in the Himalaya can make coring lakes difficult. The sky tends to be clear from around sunrise to 11:00 AM, so I woke up early every morning, shook the ice off my tent, ate a quick breakfast, and got out on the lake to start work before conditions made coring nearly impossible (hail, lightning, thick fog). Here is a panorama of a picturesque cold, clear sunrise before we started our work.
Shoreline, Sunrise, and Shadows, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x62″)
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″)
After descending from the pass and high plateau, we continued up a river valley and made camp on the bank near sunset. Rhododendron bushes and small trees lined the hillsides at the edge of tree line, and landslide debris was piled on the hillsides (first panorama). Another rainstorm rolled through around sunset, and I was able to photograph a few grazing horses on a ridge top in front of the clouds (second, third panoramas).
Landslide Debris and Hillside, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x55″)
Horses and Storm Clouds on the Ridge, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x32″)
Storm Clouds over Hillside and Stream, near Jumla, Nepal (13″x53″)
We rested at a high plateau on the pass near ~14,500+ feet. Horses and sheep appear to graze at this elevation, and the soil appears to be eroding rapidly (first panorama). The landscape is mostly covered in shades of brown, but occasional patches of yellow wildflowers seem to flow through dry stream beds (second panorama). On our way down from the plateau, we passed a herd of horses grazing near 14,000 feet (third panorama).
Eroded Pass and Clouds, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x62″)
Flowers on the Pass, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x72″)
Stream Valley and Horses on the Pass, near Jumla, Nepal (16″x64″)
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″)
Here are a few more panoramas taken around sunrise at 14,000+ feet in Colorado.
Ridge Line from Mt Lincoln, near Kite Lake, CO (16″x50″)
Ridge Shadows to Mt Democrat, near Kite Lake, CO (16″x70″)
Rising Sun over Mt Lincoln, near Kite Lake, CO (16″x64″)