Backcountry Off Trail Climb Photography

A Retrieval and A Sunrise

Have you ever taken a trip, a ride, a run, or walk, and found yourself trapped?

If asked the question five days ago my answer would be “hmm… I am not sure.” If asked the question today my answer would be “yes.”

On Sunday morning I decide to do some reconnaissance for sunrise and sunset shots from locations I have yet to photograph and desire to do so.

While the month of May in most of the country means green grass and flowering trees and bushes, it yields something else in the Northern Rockies and Central Mountains of Idaho. The valleys at 6,000-7,000 feet elevation are melting out to the point of being clear of snow.  Forest Service roads winding into the backcountry and higher elevations are starting to become passable up to certain points.

Sawtooth Sunrise in May ©Jeffrey H. Lubeck – MESH Art – all rights reserved.

I want to shoot the Sawtooth Mountain Range from the Nip and Tuck area north of Valley Creek, Stanley Creek and Anderson Creek.  With a cup of coffee situated securely in the console of the Jeep, I decide to check out the conditions.  To my pleasant surprise the road is mostly clear of snow.  Areas of the road on the north side of steep slopes have some snow. However, they are packed and iced over – as on most nights the temperature drops below freezing.

The challenge is the icy spots. They will turn to Snow Cone consistency by mid-day (65 degrees) with as much as two feet of snow.  The implication; the road is impassable until it refreezes. The delimma? Do I want to drive another 2 or 3 miles to my desired spot, with the requirement of beating the melt or park and hike?

I decide the Jeep is built for the challenge and I simply need to return past any trouble spot by 10:30AM (my best guess).  The upside is I get to drive right to the spot just below the perch where I will take my shot.  I hike up through the sage brush to the base of the rocks and scramble up the remainder to the perch.

Sand Cranes observe a hawk making a low fly-by

The perch yields the shot I expect.  Off in the distance I hear San Cranes honking to each other as they sift through the newly melted streams for food.  Hawks and many other birds are circling for their morning meal.

At 10:30AM I am back to the Jeep and start my return.  As I head through a relatively short patch of snow covered road (about .2 of a mile in length) I learn the 16 inches of Snow Cone will not let Jeff & the Jeep pass.  After three tries and various 4-Wheel Drive configurations.  I decide to park the Jeep.

I have at least two days supply of food and water.  I have extra clothes and stuff in which to sleep comfortably.  My choice is to stay with the Jeep, or hike out the 6+ miles back to the cabin.  I choose to hoof it.  After 1:23 of hiking I am back to the cabin.

I determine the temperature will fall to about 29 Degrees from 4AM-7AM.  I ask my buddy Doug if he can shuttle me back to the Jeep before sunrise and wait until I pass through\over the Snow-wall of Winterfell.  Ever the generous soul Doug abides.

We leave the cabin at 5:37AM, reach the Jeep at 5:54AM, and the Jeep successfully completes its crossing.  Doug and I shake hands, he heads home and I hike and climb up to the camera perch.  The sunrises with beautiful color and clouds.

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