Chasing Pink, Avoiding Avalanches.

 

Looning in the background over a frozen and snow covered Hermit Lake, The snow covered headwall of Tuckermans Ravine is lit by the warm rays of the early morning sun. The foreground of this vertical image is dominated by a cedar log fence, weathered grey by its exposure the harsh winters on the slopes of Mt Washington.

Two winters ago I made my first visit to Tuckerman Ravine in hopes of capturing the bowl bathed in the beauty of alpenglow. This was also my first real winter hike, and even though I wasn’t able to capture the alpenglow as well as I had hoped, I still consider the trip a success.

The view that awaited as the sun came up was worth the sleepless night in a nearby hostel, temps in the teens, and the 3 a.m., lung and thigh burning, 2.4 mile(3.9km) hike (and that’s only to the fence shown in the image. The bowl is another .7 miles(1.1km) further). Ever since getting my first taste of “Tucks,” I’ve been dying to go back!

 

Same Fence, Different Day.

This years pilgrimage turned out better than I had hoped. My friend Tracy and I, after having left my house at 1 a.m., hit the trail at just after 4 a.m. for our long uphill slog. Only a day earlier and it would have been 3 a.m., but Daylight Savings Time kicked in during our drive and miraculously shot us ahead an hour, but trust me, my body still said it was 3 a.m.!

Anyway, as the sun rose behind us I was ready, and conflicted at the same time. The sunrise taking place behind me was going to be gorgeous! So now I had a decision to make, and it was going to be a tough one. Do I photograph the sure thing? I mean as the sun got closer and closer to making its appearance above the horizon, the sky was getting more brilliant,  and the colors more spectacular by the second. I could see it unfolding before my eyes. I was witnessing about as close to a sure thing as there is in landscape photography.

Or,

Do I gamble on the alpenglow, that beautiful, elusive pink glow that may or may not materialize? Alpenglow can be fleeting, lasting mere minutes even at the best of times. So do I go with the guaranteed performance taking place behind me, or do I wait for the pink that, if it comes, could be brilliant, brief, or blah?

Pink It Is!

My choice made, I waited. And waited. Was that a hint of pink starting to show on the otherwise blue-ish tint of the pre-dawn mountains? It was! And it was getting brighter! When it reached its peak, the alpengow was beautiful, brilliant, and lasted longer than expected, though still no more than 3-5 minutes. But what a 3-5 minutes it was!

Sometimes it pays to gamble.

Looking out over frozen, snow covered Hermit Lake, the headwall and surrounding mountains of Tuckerman Ravine glow in the pink alpenglow as the first rays of the sun hit the snow covered slopes. In the foreground is the weathered cedar fence on the shore of the small lake.

Yea, They Ski That Thing!

Tuckerman Ravine is one of the most popular ski destinations in the East. And there aren’t even any chair lifts!

Lost among the exposed rock, a skier climbing the bowl in Tuckerman Ravine is dwarfed by his surroundings.

Can you find the skier climbing the wall?

How about now?

 Lost among the exposed rock, a skier climbing the bowl in Tuckerman Ravine is dwarfed by his surroundings.

Tuck’s has a long a storied history of skiing. And the skiing here is truly for the die-hard, dedicated, and adventurous, as there is no lift service here. It is a 2.4 mile(3.9km) hike carrying pack, skis, and all your other gear on your back, just  to the AMC’s Hermit Lake Shelter, and the caretaker’s cabin, together affectionately known as “Ho-Jo’s.” The bowl is another .7 miles(1.1km) still, and you then need to climb about 1,000 ft(305m) to the top from there! Is it steep? With a slope of as much as 55° in places, yes, I’d say it’s steep!

Here’s a video that really shows the popularity of the Ravine. Judging by the crowds, you’d think it was a full lift service ski area.

Safety Matters.

As the title mentions, avoiding avalanches is a top priority when visiting Tuckerman Ravine. The Ravine has claimed many lives over the years, and while not all of them were lost due to avalanches, in the winter the smart hiker/photographer pays attention to the avalanche forecast. The forecast for last Sunday was listed as “Moderate to Low,” however just the day before it was listed as “Considerable.” If you choose to visit, don’t become a statistic, please heed the warnings!

Listing the danger from moderate to low, the avalanche information sign is a "must read" for anyone visiting Tuckerman Ravine.

If You’re Ever In The Neighborhood.

Come and join me in the bowl, you won’t regret it!

Standing dressed in my bright red winter hikng shell, in the vast bowl of Tuckerman Ravine, I'm dwarfed by the surrounding wall of snow.

(Thank you Tracy for pressing the shutter. Cause goodness knows I can’t run that fast!)

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26 thoughts on “Chasing Pink, Avoiding Avalanches.

    • Me too. It’s what I was there for in the first place, but when Mother Nature throws me a curve ball like she did Sunday, it makes it tough to hold on to the original plan. Of course I do wish all my landscape shoots were so eventful 🙂

  1. I had never heard of alpen glow until just now. You’ve captured it so beautifully and worth giving up the beautiful sunrise for. The things photographers do to capture “the” shot. Up at 3am to hike in the cold and dark snow? AMAZING!

  2. That second picture is as pretty as winter can get :). I have a snow sunset shot taken in the mountains (not as high as yours) from some weeks ago – they are still in the library though. Hey, I like your new attire…. and it is a smart move too with all your avalanche tours, they should be able to find you with these screaming red 😀

    • Thank you Paula, when do we get to see your winter sunset??? 🙂

      I have been on a bright color kick when purchasing my winter hiking gear that’s for sure. I like to refer to my new Marmot Zion shell as “I found the body” red 😛

      One funny thing about my trips to the mountains, we have a small chalk board on the wall, the messages I jokingly leave my wife are often something like the one still up there from one of my last trips. “Look for the body at Pondicherrry.” My new red jacket will make that a little easier 😀

  3. Your dedication to photography is admirable, Jeff. It would take a force of nature to get me to hike up a snowy mountain at 3 am. But seeing the photos I can understand why you did it, it must be breathtaking to witness that pink glow in person. I prefer the first shot, I like the composition and the branches in the foreground, and how the light is pink on the snow and golden on the trees.

    • Thanks Belen! I have to say, the more I do it the more addicted I become. For me it’s worth the effort to be able to make photographs that most people aren’t willing to put in the effort for.

Comments and thoughtful critiques are always welcome.

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