Thursday, September 18, 2008

Photographs of fall

I set out to traverse the Juneau Ridge today but got shut down, again, by cold and clouds. I can't believe that summer is over and I haven't even hiked the full Juneau Ridge yet, let alone Observation Peak or a Blackerby-Juneau and/or Juneau-Roberts epic. It's definitely been a dud of a season as far as my mountain ambitions go. At least there were good colors today, despite the flat lighting. Autumn is actually past its peak at higher elevations. It won't be long now until snow settles in to stay.

Ebner falls, with autumn just starting to emerge at lower elevations. I mostly took this picture as an excuse to take a break during the lung-busting climb.

Ah, the city of Juneau. Next week will be the last for cruise ship visits. The first day the cruise ships stop coming is always a strange one, because the population suddenly drops sharply, the downtown shops close up all at once, and I no longer ride by tour buses full of people all staring out the window (the people on city buses never look out the window). It's a nice, quiet time of year, but there's a sadness to it, too.

The always photogenic first pitch after Mount Juneau.

As I crested the peak and started to descend the ridge, I had to fight this wild, frigid crosswind. It pushed with enough force that I felt like I was about to blow off the mountain. Based on past experiences with strong winds, I'm guessing the wind was gusting 50 to 60 mph. The temperature at 3,500 feet was maybe 40, likely high 30s, which would put the windchill at about 20-25 degrees. It felt like it! I wore only a fleece pullover, a rain jacket and no gloves, so every gust blasted me with wintry cold. I knew there was no way I was going to spend two hours traversing the ridge in that kind of wind, but I had hiked all the way up there and thought I should at least enjoy as much of the scenery as I could bear. That turned out to be 45 minutes out, and a fairly uncomfortable 45 minutes back.

I was really, really cold in this picture ...

But that was mostly because I stopped long enough to set up my camera's self timer twice. I just wanted a portrait picture with the crimson-colored tundra. This is the failed shot, because I didn't turn around in time. But now that I look at it, it turned out to be the better picture.

As expected, the clouds finally sunk below the ridge line, so it was a good thing I aborted my mission. After my Blackerby Ridge experience last month, I'm terrified of getting lost on ridges in the fog. It would be even worse to be lost when I'm already uncomfortably cold and wearing every piece of clothing I have with me. Fall is here and winter is coming, so I have to remember to prepare better every time I go outside. It's a harsh, hard time of year, but it never fails to be interesting.