Every winter, I try to make time to travel back to New Mexico to visit family around the holidays. I enjoy hiking up into the Sandia Wilderness area east of town to photograph winter storm clouds (and possibly snow) on the mountains. Around Christmas day (2018), I took a few panoramas of the approaching winter storm clouds off to the west over the city. More panoramas of the winter storm coming in the next few weeks.
Approaching Winter Storm Clouds (Colo#1, 2018), over Albuquerque, NM (12″x23″)
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″)
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″)
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″)
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″)
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″)
As I passed through Prewitt, New Mexico (just east of Gallup) along Interstate-40, I drove through the edge of a winter storm. The clouds had lowered just enough to cover most of the mountains in the distance, but I could barely see the edge of the red sandstone cliffs over the frozen grass and railroad tracks in the foreground.
Grass, Train, and Fog, near Prewitt, NM (16″x61″)
Grass, Fog, Sandstone Bluffs, near Prewitt, NM (16″x56″)
On my way from I-25 to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, I stopped along the side of NM-16 to photograph this panorama of the open grassland, cliffs, and winter storm clouds. Just as I pulled the car over, the sun broke through the clouds to the west and lit up the steep rock faces that form the edge of the Caja del Rio Plateau.
Sunlight on Cliffs and Tetilla Peak in Clouds, Santa Fe National Forest, NM (16″x68″)
I left Tucson for Albuquerque just a few hours ahead of the gathering December snow storm. A wall of white clouds over the salt flats just south of Wilcox kept catching my eye, and I finally had to pull over to photograph the low fog hugging Dos Cabezas peaks at Exit 352.
Gathering Storm over Dos Cabezas, near Wilcox, AZ (12″x18″)
Jagged, lichen-covered rocks and gnarled junipers line the backbone of Frary Peak on Antelope Island. As the sun sets over the Great Salt Lake, pink light reflects off the mountains and clouds in the distance.