Stormy Summer Days Part II
So there I was, cooking dinner on my little stove, bean soup to be exact, when the answer as to whether I should backpack in to Ice Lakes Basin or head home came to me, I would do neither. I decided instead to sleep in my truck at the trailhead to Ice Lakes Basin to avoid having to camp out in the massive lightning storms that were hovering amid the peaks all around me and get up at around 2am to hike up to the basin, weather permitting of course.
So I spent the evening driving around in the rain and exploring a few places that I hadn’t been to before, looking at some old mining buildings in the area and checking out a local waterfall before retiring to the back of my truck for a few hours of sleep before my hike up the steep trail to Ice Lakes in the dark.
Two ‘o’ clock came around pretty quick and I was up and at it, I had packed my bag the night before so I was off on the trail pretty quick, guided by the light of my headlamp. There didn’t seem to be any stars out which made me think that perhaps I would be shut out for sunrise, but I figured there was only one real way to tell, and that was to be up at Ice Lakes ready for sunrise in case it did happen. I had planned for about three hours of hiking time since sunrise was going to be around 5:30am but it seems that I made pretty good time since I hit the Lower Ice Lakes Basin around 4am.
When I walked into the lower basin I noticed a headlamp moving around slowly on the far end, I figured it was either a climber or another photographer that had camped the night in the lower basin, getting an Alpine Start to the morning, not quite as Alpine as mine but early none the less. As I got to the far end of the basin the light had a face and a voice and I was greeted with, “…so are you a photographer or a climber?” Apparently he had the same thought that I had when I first saw his light. We ended up walking up from the lower basin to the upper basin together and sharing the uphill slog made it go by a bit faster. As it turned out, this was none other than Glenn Randall, a fairly renowned and well-known Colorado Landscape Photographer. I was pleased to have met him and to have shared a few stories with him on the hike up to the Upper Basin, as we approached Upper Ice Lakes Basin he said that he was heading to Fuller Lake and I was welcome to join him but I had my heart set on shooting Ice Lake so we parted ways.
Without having done any scouting to know where the wildflowers were along the lake shore it was a bit difficult to set up for the approaching dawn, but I did my best and waited in the darkness to see what the morning would bring. Soon enough the first light of day started to paint the foggy peaks surround Ice Lake and I was pleasantly surprised by the show that unfolded in front of me.
First the sky turned purple saturating the fog banks rolling in and out of the cirque surrounding Ice Lakes Basin, making the whole scene in front of me seem very surreal. It was definitely one of those unforgettable moments that I feel very fortunate to have witnessed.
After the purple tint started to disappear the sun started to slowly approach the horizon and the storm clouds took on the pink and red of a magnificent sunrise, embellished by the fog banks still rolling in and out of the distant peaks it was truly a sight to see. In the photo below you can see Vermillion Peak to the left with Golden Horn in the center and Pilot Knob to the right mostly covered in clouds.
Soon after I took this image the fog started to thicken and started to fill the whole valley. There was much more light now and I noticed that there were a lot of wildflowers near the south shore of the lake so I quickly repositioned myself over by the wildflowers in an effort to get a few wildflower images before the whole valley became engulfed in fog.
The whole scene was kind of like a dream as the fog drifted in and out of the valley and in and around the distant peaks until all of a sudden, a few seconds after I made the image above a massive cloud drifted up from the lower basin and it truly engulfed the entire basin in white. It was a rather dramatic end to a dramatic sunrise shoot, fitting I suppose.
I spent the next couple of hours hiking around the upper basin exploring here and there before making my way back down the trail to my waiting truck at the trailhead. It was a great morning and I was happy with the decisions I made about hiking in at 2am. It was the perfect end to a great wildflower trip.