I didn’t set out to go to the Pfeifferhorn. At home in the morning, looking towards Lone Peak and Upper Bells Canyon and seeing low clouds pushing down on the mountains, I knew I wanted to get high in the mountains. So I decided to head for Upper Red Pine Lake. I could just imagine the lake shrouded in fog, edged by ghostly tree silhouettes.
The entire way up through the forest I kept thinking, “I’m going to miss it, by the time I get there the fog is going to be gone, this whole day is going to clear up and there’s going to be nothing left but blue skies and sunshine”. When I got to Red Pine Lake I realized the image in my mind was not a reality, the clouds and fog were only occasionally reaching below the ridgeline, but the peaks were in the clouds.
After an obligatory photo session and a lunch break at Upper Red Pine Lake, I started for the ridge. Again those same thoughts swirled in my mind as I plodded towards the ridge,” I’m going to miss it”, and “the clouds, the fog, the mist are going to completely dissipate by the time I get there”. Well, this time my fears were unfounded and once I reached the ridge I was in the ethereal zone.
The rest of the day became one long photo session as I made my way to the Pfeifferhorn, spent over an hour on the summit, and began to descend the headwall back into Red Pine Canyon after the last red light of the evening danced across the top of White Baldy. It was a long hike in the dark back to the trailhead, all the way from Upper Red Pine Lake. It was worth it.
Even though my feet hurt and I was hungry, I was buoyed by thoughts of how amazing this day had been and how fortunate I was to be able to spend the day photographing an absolutely stunning location in the kind of conditions I dream about as a landscape photographer. I also couldn’t help but think that all days are not created equal.
One truism of landscape photography that I try to live by is, never judge a day by the weather, get out in the landscape anyway. Subjects abound and there’s always some way to make a meaningful photograph, no matter what the weather is doing. Still, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t trade a day like this for at least a few blue sky days.