Eastern Escarpment, Clearing Autumn Storm. Eastern Sierra Nevada, California. October 4, 2015. © Copyright 2015 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
An early season autumn leaves a dusting of snow atop Wheeler Ridge, Eastern Sierra Nevada
This long ridge in the Eastern Sierra just north of the town of Bishop has long fascinated me, though for the most part I’ve only looked at it from a distance. (Or from the other side, as there is access via along valley to the west, but that’s a story for another post.) At first I was mostly aware of this steep section of the eastern escarpment of the range when it served as a spectacular backdrop for views of the pastureland and cottonwood trees of Round Valley. But with increased familiarity with the area and opportunities to view if from many directions and distances, I began to note what a tremendously rugged and daunting bit of terrain it is. In many ways, if you ignore the scant vegetation on its slopes, it looks more like the mountains of the desert, even reminding me a bit of places in Death Valley, though with more granite-like rock. Unlike many other Eastern Sierra locations, there is little (no?) evidence of glaciation, but plentiful evidence of erosion from water, including the classic alluvial fan spreading from the steep valley between the low hills in the foreground.
Despite the lack of glacial evidence, the scene presents many other classic components of the eastern face of the range in Autumn. Although it is small against the tremendous landscape, there is an aspen grove and a bit of summer-brown grass near the lower left. The main rocks seem to be the granite that we expect to see in the Sierra. The rocks are lit by filtered sunlight from the southeast. And the cloud drifting in front of the rugged face is the remnant of a passing storm that has dusted the highest peaks with a bit of early season snow, promising that winter cannot be far off.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist. His book, “California’s Fall Color: A Photographer’s Guide to Autumn in the Sierra” is available from Heyday Books and Amazon.
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