Click on images for larger photos.
I suspected that Sunday would be one of those days, and it turned out that it was. There was no way that anyone could get the images and experience the day like I did without being immersed in it. True to form it was fleeting, and at times dangerous, but for the prepared, it was one of the best hikes I have ever been on. There were forecasts of tremendous amounts of snow in the east mountains, forecasts that ended up being just that, forecasts. The reality was that somewhere between 6 – 8 inches accumulated on the upper reaches of the Sandias.
I had thought about trying to beat the storm on Saturday but a sore ankle sealed the deal and I got to spend my afternoon wrestling with a microwave instead. Some days the body says not today and so I figured I’d watch the weather for Sunday.Throughout most of the day the mountain was obscured in dark cloud. It rained off and on at the lower elevations there was no snow to be seen at all until quite a bit past noon.
I checked the radar and then the summit cam and saw nothing but really dense fog. Then I checked the ski cams at Santa Fe and saw how the clearing there would be advancing toward Albuquerque. I started to gather my gear.
Once the first significant breaks began to appear I loaded up the car and stopped just as I was pulling past my house because the sunlight was rolling across the mountain. I knew that if the light cooperated, there was opportunity for high drama on the summit. Since I have a tram pass, I decided to ride to the top and walk the crest trail in anticipation of some good images.
I was not disappointed. On the way to the summit the sun broke out and I grabbed the easiest camera to fire off some shots, that of my cell phone. These three images were all shot through the tinted windows of the tram (and then adjusted with Photoshop). I’m very happy with the results from my Galaxy 4. In fact, since I’ve got an upgrade available, I’m quite sure that I will upgrade to the Galaxy 5 as soon as it is available. By the time we were just about to dock I had my Cannon G12 hiking camera out and got this image as we were coming into dock. I love being up on the mountain just after a storm.First image off of the tram, you can see the low cloud approaching from the west. During my time on the mountain the ambient light kept changing like it would with a three-year old playing with a dimmer switch. It got dark, it got suddenly bright and then seconds later it was dark again. Only toward the very end of the hike did the clouds dissipate and let a more constant flow of light onto the mountain.Covered in fresh snow the trail head always looks barren and daunting. Quite frankly it can be. This is why I stopped and put on my hiking spikes over my boots so that I would have good traction for whatever was underneath all that fresh snow. Six to eight inches of power was just on the edge for wishing that I had brought up my snow shoes. However, as I went along, I was actually happy that I had left them behind. I’d rather take them out into 10-12 inches of fresh powder.I think that there may have been 2 or three people on the trail prior to me. In many places the snow had already fallen into the tracks.Just after rounding one of the first turns in the trail the dimmer switch turned to full sun and I had to stop for the photos. I felt like I was hiking in forest of frosting.Looking north and then south.It didn’t take long and there went the light. I decided however to string together a series for this panorama. It took three images to cover the field of view. When you blow this one up you can get an idea of why you don’t want to slip off of the trail.These next two shots are with the Galaxy 4 – It sure handles these images well.You can see the trail bisecting the image below. From where this photo was taken there was just about another mile to go to the spot where I turned around and hiked back.
Coming into the home stretch, this image was taken from that section of the trail that was seen bisecting the image above. The south peak is well frosted.Getting close to the ride home, you can see the tram in the upper left of the image.Oh yes, the rescue squad on the mountain. It turns out that there was a group of 5 hikers who set out at 6am to climb the La Luz trail to the summit. I was told that they were repeatedly warned to turn back because they were not at all dressed for the conditions on the mountain. “Scantily dressed,” was one of the terms I heard, and another said that they were hiking in tennis shoes like Keds, some without socks.
One girl, suffering from hypothermia could not walk any more and the mountain rescue squad was called to help her get off the mountain. I did my hike from 3-5pm and this was the last shot of mine for the day. Granted, I only covered about a mile an hour, stopping for lots of photos. I heard that she finally got off the mountain sometime after dark. The TV made it out to be a “dramatic rescue,” but then you have to put drama into the story even if there is not a whole lot. Folks, does this look like stuff you do in tennis shoes without socks? And scantily dressed?
I know that when I called the tram about 1:30 in the afternoon they told me the temperature was 26 degrees at the top with a 20 mile an hour wind. That’s 26 degrees with a wind chill of about 11 degrees. I guarantee you, it’s not a walk in the park, but it is a walk in the wilderness. And for that, one should be prepared.