For just a week or so each spring it’s possible to enjoy the solitary silence of the Sierra Nevada before the blood-sucking mosquitoes make their appearance, and after the majority of the snow has melted off, making the high country both accessible and enjoyable. As you might have guessed by my posting this now, that special time was last week. I took advantage of the conditions and spent 3 days enjoying the snowy and rocky landscape at 11,500+ feet in the Granite Park area of the John Muir Wilderness. Since we received a lot of snow this year, and the spring was relatively cold, the snow pack was still quite high. However, the last few weeks have been incredibly hot, melting much of that snow. Still, the last 4 miles and 1,500 feet of my 10-mile trek up to the Royce Lakes were over talus fields covered in deep and soft snow. Fortunately I had my snowshoes with me, otherwise the ‘ankle breaker’ terrain would have been impassable. After a long and arduous climb I finally reached my destination: Merriam Peak – quite possibly my favorite peak in the Sierras.

“Sierra Diamond II” ~ John Muir Wilderness, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, tripod
Exposure 1: iso 800, f/18, 2 min
Exposure 2: iso 3200, f/2.8, 20 sec
Notes: Two exposures blended for image quality, while maintaining the stationary look for the stars

Of course, the Sierras (and the rest of California) are known for their ‘good’ weather – ie. cloudless sunny summer skies and baking heat. While it can be somewhat torturous during the day, once the sun sinks and you can finally take off those glacier glasses you can lie out on the polished granite and marvel at the stars as they dance across the sky.

The following day I decided that my ambitious itinerary was probably going to be too much, what with all the off trail snowy talus I would have to cover. So I settled for a short trek from my camp over to Granite Park instead. There, under the blue-green frigid waters of a no-name lake, the dark cracks between the submerged slabs of granite appeared to be harboring mysterious alpine lake monsters. Fortunately, as the sun played peek-a-boo with some lingering clouds the following morning, they decided to remain silent – perhaps it was still too cold for them? Pictured here are Feather Peak (left), and two un-named peaks (so far as I could find).

“Granite Park” ~ John Muir Wilderness, CA
The Tech: Canon 5D2, 16-35mm mkII, tripod, polarizer
Exposure: iso 100, f/16, 1/5th
Notes: two exposure blend (rather than using a grad ND filter)

What had taken me 8 hours to ascend with my ~65lb pack two days earlier took me a grand total of 3 hours to hike back down that morning. Perhaps it was the promise of a cold beer in Bishop, but more likely it was my fear of being discovered by the first few mosquitoes of the season. One did find me, but one bite isn’t so bad for a few days in the mountains! I’m sure I’ll get a lot more when I return later this month.

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12 Comments to “Granite Paradise”

  1. Hello Floris.

    These are fantastic!
    Now I`m looking forward to go mountain hiking as the spring is slowly materializing in my favorite mountain ranges.

    Best Wishes
    Seung Kye

  2. Oh, sweet blood-sucking mosquitoes and skeeters, you have worshiped my life juice this year quite a bit already. Just a note, Floris; stay away from lupines!

    Fabulous shots once again, the first one is really awe-inspiring!

    If you have any suggestions for good insect-repellents, I’d love to hear them! 😉


  3. Thanks for sharing your beautiful images of a place that I have not personally read much about. (I spend most of my summers shooting up north in Alaska.) Don’t you wish that we could clone ourselves so that we could shoot everywhere at the same time? Best wishes.

  4. Thanks folks!

    Jon – I’ve been wanting to head out to Alaska one of these days.. maybe we can switch one summer!

    David – Whatever repellent you can find with the most Deet 🙂 Or run really fast.

  5. Laurie says:

    Both are awesome photographs but that second one is just… WOW!!! Nice work, Floris!

  6. Amazing photos of what seems to be a lovely scene. The stars reflection on the first photograph are just over the top! Really nice.

  7. I love Sierra Diamond II, Floris! But I have to take you to task: “Sierra” is already plural! Pet peeve, for sure, but “Sierra’s” (sic) has just never sounded right to me! For what it’s worth, the Sierra mosquitoes have nothing on the flying creatures of the Adirondacks or Alaska! They’re mild and well-mannered by comparison 😉

  8. Lois Elling says:

    Beautiful photographs, as always. The first one especially took my breath away!

  9. Your photographs are absolutely superb. My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde loved the John Muir Wilderness and photographed it probably more than any other photographer, as could easily be said of the him and the rest of the Sierra, bar none. Dad used to gently and kindly explain to people about Sierra and not Sierras too, Michael is right. You are too fine a mountaineer and photographer to be dismissed by the true mountain men and women who know those mountains as the Sierra or better yet the Sierra Nevada.

  10. Floris says:

    Thanks all!

    David – thanks, yes after you and Michael kindly reminding me I will be sure to use proper grammar in the future! Some new photos coming up soon!

    – Floris

  11. That first image is stunning, Floris. Makes me dream!


  12. I didn’t intend to offend you or correct your grammar, just to help. It’s not about grammar, it’s about the tradition of the Sierra that started with John Muir that my father carried on. It might not seem to matter much now, but they all made sure everyone called it the Sierra, not the Sierras. What I said about the possibility of dismissing your work certainly was overboard. Nobody is going to dismiss your work, Floris. It is excellent.