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Incredible Snow Level in Eastern Sierra

Below, this is mid-August looking like early June. If you know this or any similar area as I do (over many years), the sight is pretty incredible.

At 10K feet on up, snowbanks abound on every north and semi-north exposure where things drifted in. At 11K on up, the snow is extensive and many feet deep, packed so hard and icy that feet make minimal impression—no “post holing” issues. Western/southern exposures have of course melted off (mostly), but other orientations will soon slow their melting and become next year’s snowpack.

Water runs everywhere, overflowing in places I have not seen it overflow in decades, vernal creeks in August. Flowers abound, insects buzz incessantly, grass is ultra green—or brown where the snow just melted off—those plants will have 2-3 weeks before the first frost hits! The whole place is alive and vibrant and full of life.

All is not well: fish kill in one of my favorite lakes, a very high mortality rate for marmots and pikas from what I observed in the White Mountains. Another winter like this, and more animals and plants will die, and large areas will become snowfields and thus relatively inaccessible. But nature does what it does and right now the mountains are as alive as they have ever been, joyfully vibrant with life.

For the first time in many years, Saddlebag Lake is nearly full, 3-4 feet below the spillway.

Mt Conness basin just to the left of North Peak (at right) shows a heavy snow load. That is repeated everywhere in the range, and even heavier down towards Mt Whitney.

Dark clouds and big raindrops forced us back to the van for half an hour, and then when we started out again I forgot my tripod, so I shot this 3-frame panorama handheld. Mosquitoes and rain marked this beautiful day.

For medium format subscribers, a 150 megapixel full-res version of this image (19732 wide) can be viewed on my examples page.

Twenty Lakes Basin, View to Mt Conness and North Peak
f8 @ 1/80 sec handheld IBIS=on electronic shutter panorama 3 frames, ISO 100; 2023-08-14 16:18:15
Fujifilm GFX100S + Fujifilm GF 35-70mm f/4.5-5.6 WR @ 28.8mm equiv (35mm)
ENV: Twenty Lakes Basin, altitude 10200 ft / 3109 m, 60°F / 15°C
RAW: Enhance Details, LACA corrected, distortion corrected, vignetting corrected, WB 5100°K tint 21, +38 Shadows, +10 Whites, saturation -5, +10 Clarity

[low-res image for bot]
Hiker at Greenstone Lake, View to North Peak
f8 @ 1/180 sec handheld IBIS=on electronic shutter panorama 3 frames, ISO 100; 2023-08-14 15:12:05
Fujifilm GFX100S + Fujifilm GF 35-70mm f/4.5-5.6 WR @ 55.6mm equiv (67.6mm)
ENV: Greenstone Lake, altitude 10200 ft / 3109 m, 70°F / 21°C
RAW: LACA corrected, vignetting corrected, WB 5100°K tint 21, push 0.1 stops, +30 Shadows, +20 Whites, saturation -10, +10 Clarity, diffraction mitigating sharpening

[low-res image for bot]

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