Climber Trails

Climber Trails
Mount Ranier National Park, 19 August 1999
Nikomat with 20mm lens at f/5.6
One-hour exposure on E200 push-processed +2 stops

The skies continued to hold clear, the temperature dropped, and the moon set by midnight, allowing me to compose a view of Polaris directly above the summit of this ancient volcano.

There are a number of interesting light sources in this picture.  The startrail arcs are made by a one-hour sweep of the Earth beneath the North Star.  The green glow of distant Seattle shows to the northwest, the amber of closer but much smaller towns are northeast,  and the sky itself illuminates the snowfields on the mountain.  An additional light source can also be found within the snowfields.

As I started this exposure, I could sense a faint glow that seemed to come from the slope of the mountain itself.  Training a telescope on the area, I found what might be unseen hikers bearing flashlights searching through the snow.  I was impressed that a flashlight could be seen at these distances.  Camp Muir, where climbers rest on their way to the summit, was four miles away!

I learned the next day that what I had seen was not just a couple of hikers resetting their tent stakes.  They had started their ascent to the summit!  In order to reach the top and get back down before the snow gets dangerously soft, they must strike out at about 1:00 A.M.  This photo captures their first hour of progress on a beautifully clear and starlit night (click to see full size image).