Friend and fellow adventurer Nappy Neaman and I have long discussed conducting a photo-shoot of the Mountain Goats in our region. Mountain Goats are an extraordinary animal that thrives in an environment that is extremely demanding – the high peaks of the ranges surrounding our home.
The photo-shoot is to be a full on multi-day multi-week effort including the period of time when the animals are taking care of their newborns. This means early June. Over the past few weeks and the remainder of June Nappy, Crist Cook, and I will venture into domain of the Mountain Goat. Our goal is to present our experience with a personal narrative at the July 6th, 2018 Gallery Walk at the MESH Gallery at Heritage Hall.
Nappy moved to the Wood River Valley in 1978 as an outdoor enthusiast after a 10-year run in the ski industry (Head, World Pro Skiing and U.S. Ski Team). He knew nothing about Mountain Goats. However, Nappy’s fascination began. Today, the exceptionally inquisitive and outgoing Neaman is virtually unchallenged in man’s understanding of the Mountain Goat, its history and how it lives. Nappy is also superb guide and back-country specialist, who is completely at home in the crags and rock towers. Coupled with a layer of impish looks and smiles covering a warm heart, Nappy is a great collaborator for a photo-shoot. For example, in the midst of a Class 3 rock scramble Nappy looks over to me and says “I belong here.”
The trips into the back-country take us to highly secret spots with names such as The Rock Garden, The Secret Garden, The Deck, and Black Rock Promontory . Some trips involve eight hours of hiking, scrambling, sitting, scouting, and waiting for Mountain Goats to present themselves and include 2,300 – 2,750 vertical gain at high elevation. Others are a 10 minute walk from the trail-head. Yes, as close as 10 minutes on a trail 99.99% of the hikers are completely unaware they are in a Prime Mountain Goat viewing area.
For some trips I bring an enhanced version (v2) of the Kyle Lubeck signature MESH Art Photography bag. This bag has three layers with heavy-duty protective encasement for my 4 by 5 camera (Phase XF), digital back (Phase IQ3 100), six lens (Schneider Blue Ring 35mm, 55mm, 80mm, 110mm, 150mm and 240mm), mono-pod, tri-pod, mini-studio and food and water. The first time Nappy looks at my bag, picks it up, shakes his head and provides an official measurement; “sixty pounds plus.” For others I bring the v1 bag as Crist takes some of my equipment so we can move quickly to and from multiple vantage points. On others we only bring one camera (Nikon D810) and two lens’ (Nikkor) – a 70-200MM Zoom and 600MM monster tele-photo or the 1000MM Gigantor tele-photo..
While sitting in some of these locations Nappy says to me “I think I have taken less than four people to this spot.” Nappy and I map out and hike/scramble/climb to areas neither of us have previously attempted to reach.
A successful back-country photo-shoot and a trip for a first-person sighting of Mountain Goats in the wilderness via Fair Means require similar characteristics; passion, stamina, focus, tenacity, patience, trial and error, and blind luck. On this front Nappy and I are brothers from different mothers.
One of the principles of these type of endeavors is to always be on the lookout and be willing to stop and take in what is being presented before you. Can I say always again?
Non-verbal queues are a critical component of a successful search for a viewing of Mountain Goats expedition.
Another aspect of the photo-shoot begins as well. Nappy is focused on finding Mountain Goats – particularly ones’s with their babies. I on the other hand am focused on capturing images that will reveal the back-story leading up to the winning shot. So I stop, and capture images of flowers, bones of animals and a guy on a mission (i.e., Nappy). There is an implicit non-verbal agreement among the collaborators; one finds goats and the other gets all the shots important to one specific goal and the overall story. By our 3rd trip I have back-story photos and Nappy has trained me and Crist on how to find Mountain Goats. Now all of us are using Nappy’s techniques to find Mountain Goats in the cracks and crevices of the high mountains.
Throughout every trip, Nappy repeatedly sets up his scope and looks for signs or a sighting. Nappy and Crist are great to have as teammates. With each new trip we get better, and better with our ability to work together.
We will continue for the next week or two looking for Mountain Goats in the wild. Hopefully you can joins at the July 6th, 2018 Gallery Walk at the MESH Gallery at Heritage Hall.