jump to navigation

Communing with ice November 19, 2014

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, hiking, photography, Smoky Mountains, Southern Appalachians, weather.
Tags: , , ,
7 comments
Up close and personal with ice.

Up close and personal with ice.

It’s been a bit cold lately. Approximately 20 degrees colder than normal temperatures for the date.

There’s a blog put out by the folks at the lodge on top of Mt. LeConte. Yesterday they had a 24-hour high of 9 degrees and, I think, a low of -1. (Actually not that wide a range—they must have been in fog or clouds.) People were talking about how cold it was. Someone chirped up with a comment along the lines of, “It’s a high mountain! It’s supposed to be chilly up there!”

This person didn’t understand the concept of the weather history of a particular spot. Yes, summits are colder than valleys (usually—except when there’s an inversion). The point is that on the date of November 18 each year, there’s an average temp. This year, it is way below average for that summit.

I took a short walk this afternoon to my favorite local destination, an unnamed waterfall on the East Fork of Fisher Creek in the Plott Balsams. You have to bushwhack a short distance to get to a good viewing point at the bottom.

I communed with ice.

Blobs of ice.

Blobs of ice.

I  liked the blobs so much, I did a closeup.

I liked the blobs so much, I did a closeup.

The flow of water is frozen in time. Wait a minute---I mean, it's actually frozen.

The flow of water is frozen in time. Wait a minute—I mean, it’s actually frozen.

Ice formed on the rhodo over the stream.

Ice formed on the rhodo over the stream.

The whole upper section of the waterfall. It has two main sections.

The upper section of the waterfall. It has two main sections. You can’t take a picture of the whole thing.

I have been to this waterfall many, many times in all seasons, but I like it best in the hard uncomfortable season of ice.

#  #  #

 

Advertisements

Sawyer Pond September 30, 2014

Posted by Jenny in grief, hiking, photography, White Mountains.
Tags: , , ,
16 comments
Looking across Sawyer Pond.

Looking across Sawyer Pond.

This past weekend I traveled to the White Mountains of New Hampshire for a memorial gathering in honor of my longtime companion Bob Parlee, who died of kidney cancer in March.  Seven of his close friends gathered near the summit of Mt. Washington, at the Great Gulf headwall, to remember Bob.

If you are interested in helping with a donation to the Kidney Cancer Association, please visit the  fundraising page for the Great Gulf Hike for Bob.

I will not post a blog about that experience, but I did want to share photos from a short hike I did the day before. I visited Sawyer Pond, a beautiful pond located in the Sawyer River valley near Mt. Carrigain.

P1030548

P1030552

P1030555

P1030557

P1030563

P1030568

P1030569

Worlds upon worlds.

Worlds upon worlds.

Sarek National Park—Day Six September 3, 2014

Posted by Jenny in bushwhacking, camping, hiking, photography, travel.
Tags: , ,
14 comments
Finally! We get up into the talus fields and gullies!

Finally! We get up into the talus fields and gullies!

This was the different day of the hike—we were not trying to march a certain distance across the park, we were climbing to the top of a mountain. Its name is Låddebakte. I should say that I had a lot of trouble with names of places on this trip. There were Swedish versions of names and Sami (Lapp) versions. I would have thought that with Swedish being a simple Germanic language it would be easy at least in that version. That was not the case.

This mountain had a relatively easy name—just four syllables, compared with eight or nine syllables for some places—but here it was the vowel sound that got me.

When we talked about our goal that day, I kept hearing what sounded something like “Lodebakkte.” Then I looked at my map, and I could not find it. I saw something that looked like it should be pronounced “Lahdebakkte.” I didn’t realize that the letter å was pronounced like a short “o”  in English. You’d think I’d realize it was the same place.

The problem was, as is the case with many problems in life, a lack of focus. The name didn’t quite make sense to me, so I let it go off in a blur and didn’t figure out the problem or ask people about it. It wasn’t until I studied the map later that I figured it out.

By the way, the Sami people have a much more colorful way of describing places than the Europeans. We were very fortunate to have a Sami woman, Inge, in our group. She was a wonderful, good-natured person (also strong and agile!) who lived in the area (in Ritsem), and she had been given the gift of participation in this group trip by one of her sons. I noticed that she and Christian had a lot of conversations about place names. Although I do not understand Swedish, I could still figure that out. At one point I asked about place names. She told us that we were going toward “Idiot Mountain” and “The Mountain Where the Woman Killed her Child.” Hah! An honest description, no political correctness.

All right, enough about names. Now we climb the mountain.

We left our campsite and crossed four or five small streams, then climbed up into a narrow pass. The “normal route” in the valley climbed up to the valley of Snavvajavvre, and continued around the east end of a chain of lakes to descend into the famous Rapadalen valley at Skåkistugan. (You aren’t having any problem with these names, by any chance?)

We would climb over that narrow pass, descend into the outlet stream of this long narrow glacial lake, cross over, and climb the mountain—not on the “normal route.”

The red "X" marks our objective. We started from the easternmost of the blue "X"s, and returned to the same point.

The red “X” marks our objective. We started from the easternmost of the blue “X”s, and returned to the same point.

We got up high enough to see a lovely view of one of these classic “braided rivers.” If you have ever touched on the subject of geomorphology, you will understand that this is a standard feature of glacial landscapes. I am a lover of landscapes, and I had read about these places, but I had never been there before. It was wonderful.

I could look at this all day.

I could look at this all day.

We reached a very nice vantage point and looked toward the mountain we planned to climb. It was shrouded in cloud.

It looked iffy as to whether it would be worth going to the top.

It looked iffy as to whether it would be worth going to the top.

The place we stopped for a rest had a nice little monolith.

Perhaps the makers of Stonehenge placed this here.

Perhaps the makers of Stonehenge placed this here.

We passed big swathes of flowers as we proceeded through the valley.

Big swathes of color.

Big swathes of color.

For a nice contrast with the color and life of the valleys, we had the silent, powerful ice of the glaciers.

Two realms next to each other.

Two realms next to each other.

The weather was very unstable. That made it fun and interesting.

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

We saw a rainbow.

You may need to click to enlarge the image and see the rainbow.

You may need to click to enlarge the image and see the rainbow.

The mountain was basically a rubble heap of broken rock. I was more comfortable with this sort of difficulty than with the stream crossings, though it ended up being pretty tough. Some of the rocks were strangely slimy, so you had to pick your way pretty carefully.

Our summit is the high point along the distant ridge, not a dramatic Matterhorn-type mountain.

Our summit is the high point along the distant ridge, not a dramatic Matterhorn-type mountain.

We stopped for lunch close to the gully you see in the top photo. I had brought my full backpack, stove, and fuel. I had known before we started that we’d have a one-day trip to the top of a mountain, so I had brought along a lightweight daypack. But on the morning of our outing, I learned that a few people would need to bring stoves, so that we could join together for our customary hot soup. For some reason I felt unable to leave the heavy carrying to others, so I brought my pack and my stove. I cursed myself for doing that as we climbed the steep talus fields.

Christian had a pattern of moving the group along fairly quickly but also stopping frequently for rest breaks. My personal preference would have been to move more slowly and stop less frequently. This is simply because I get chilled quickly when we stop, have to put on a layer, and then take it off again when we get moving. Other people don’t drop and fall so quickly in temperature as I do, so this is a personal quirk. But I was so happy to be in  this group that this slight discomfort meant very little to me.

After our lunch break of the usual hot soup, Wasa bread, and anonymous paste spread on the crackers, we proceeded indomitably again toward the summit. We would conquer this mountain!

The reason Christian thought it important for us to come here was to see down into the famous Rapadalen valley, described as one of the most beautiful valleys in Europe. In fact, I think it can’t really be compared to European valleys, only to Arctic valleys. It has little in common even with valleys of the Alps, having been shaped by the intensive, violent movements of giant glaciers.

We finally reached the western lip of the mountain, where we could see down into this incredible valley.

 

It's like a kind of fluid script that the rivers are writing in the valley.

It’s like a kind of fluid script that the rivers are writing in the valley.

We reached the summit cairn. Hurray!

We have conquered the mountain!

We have conquered the mountain!

The Rapadalen is really beyond description.

The Rapadalen is really beyond description.

I looked downriver toward a mountain that looked like a giant fortress.

Guardian of the river valley.

Guardian of the river valley.

The landscape was so complicated, so intricate, I could have gazed at it forever.

River, lake, peaks.

River, lake, peaks.  Shadows.

No fear of heights!

No fear of heights!

Our descent of the mountain turned out to be quite long and difficult. Christian had said we would go by way of the most frequently used ridge route, but some of us—about half of the group, including me—saw what looked like an easier route off to the side and went down that way. We didn’t clearly communicate with each other about what we were doing, and I don’t think it was anyone’s fault. I found myself scrambling down an endless talus field that had a lot of slippery rock, and I became very tired. Yet I think the way our part of the group went actually turned out easier than the way the other half went. I moved at a slow pace, and every now and then Ulf, who was moving at about the same pace, said, “Let’s rest for a while.” At first I continued on without stopping but after doing this for a bit I recognized his wisdom.

I had a sudden fear of getting separated from the rest of my half-group as I went down, and I called out, “We need to stay together!” I think they already understood that, and a couple of guys asked me if I would like them to help me with “my luggage.” Their command of English was nearly perfect, but I had to laugh at this slightly odd usage of the word “luggage.” To them it meant my backpack with its stove and so on, but to me it means a suitcase that you would carry through the airport. I pictured myself rolling a suitcase through this steep talus field, and the humor of that helped me to get down to the lake at the bottom.

You see the endless talus field in the foreground. There was no moment that wasn't effortful!

You see the endless talus field in the foreground. No moment wasn’t effortful!

Finally we got down to the lake, and there we finally managed to connect with the other half of our group. They had descended via a very difficult route. I don’t remember exactly, but I think it was around 8:00 in the evening before we connected. I tried to ease the experience for my companions by telling them about times I have been caught out after dark on hikes. In this place north of the Arctic Circle, the sun would dip below the horizon, but it would never get really dark.

Once the two halves of the group reconnected, we still had quite a long and challenging walk back to the campsite. I was, I would have to say, exhausted by the time we got back. I didn’t even bother trying to rockhop the small streams at the end—I just trudged my way through. But it was very much worth it.

Low angle of light where we waited for the rest of the group.

Low angle of light where we waited for the rest of the group.