Castle Peak North Cascades

Manning Park Winter Photography

Manning Park Winter Photography

Castle Peak North CascadesCastle Peak North Cascades #64796  Purchase

Last week I made a trip to Manning Provincial Park for winter photography and skiing fun. Weather forecasts were for cold temperatures and a good amount of fresh snow. Perfect conditions to make some new winter photos.

Manning Provincial Park is a large park in southern British Columbia. It encompasses the northern reaches of the North Cascades Mountains, along the U.S. Washington State border. On the U.S. side the mountains present a rugged appearance with high jagged peaks. However, in Manning Park the range mellows out into high mountains with more rounded summits. Just north of the park the North Cascades ends, and gives way to the Thompson Plateau.

Gibson Pass Ski Area, Manning Provincial ParkGibson Pass Ski Area Lifts  #64771  Purchase

Skiing Manning Park

In summer hikers in Manning Park can find some great trails offering high views and meadows of wildflowers. In winter the park offers a network of cross country ski trails in addition to the small Gibson Pass downhill ski area. Backcountry skiers and snowshoers can also find fresh snow and solitude on the Fat Dog ski route to the Brothers Mountain group.

On this trip I took advantage of both the Nordic trails and downhill ski runs. Manning Park’s Gibson Pass Ski Area offers a bit of a unique experience in the Pacific Northwest. Most ski areas in this region receive a copious amount of heavy wet snow, often referred to as Cascade Concrete. Manning Park, on the other hand, often has colder powdery snow, due to its more inland location.

A few of other things sets Manning apart. For one it has a laid back retro feel perfect for families, and avoiding adrenaline junkies. Also, while the big resorts like Whistler Blackcomb charge a staggering $180 (Canadian) for a single lift ticket, Manning charges only $59 (Canadian). Plus, there are usually no lift lines. On my recent midweek visit, I skied directly onto the chair each time! The downside to these benefits is that there are only two chair lifts, with only one operating in midweek. The vertical drop is a modest 1400′.

North Cascades Winter, Manning Provincial ParkManning Park in Winter  #64780  Purchase

Winter Photography in Manning

While the Nordic trails are fun, they usually don’t offer much in the way of landscape photography. Therefore I made a point of taking advantage of the views offered from the top of the ski lifts. From the ridge top the views south into the Washington North Cascades are very good. The two dominant peaks in that direction are Hozomeen Mountain and Castle Peak. Further off west are the jagged peaks of the Mount Spickard, Mox Peaks, and the northern Pickets, in North Cascades National Park. To the north are the rounded summits of Three Brothers and Big Buck Mountains.

To photograph the twin summit towers of Hozomeen and the Pickets you’ll want to be on the ridge top early in the morning. However, unless you hike up to the ridge before dawn you’ll be limited by the ski lift schedule. The lifts open at 9:00 so you’ll miss sunrise. Of course depending on lighting and snow conditions you can still make good photos throughout the day. If you want to get to the top only for the views, you can purchase a one trip lift ticket for $10.

Later in the afternoon both Castle and Frosty Mountains will begin to receive warmer light. Note that until late spring the north faces of Castle and Hozomeen will be mostly in shadow.

North Cascades Winter, Manning Provincial ParkManning Park in Winter  #64783  Purchase

Timing is Everything

While having great light is always imperative in photography, another important consideration for winter photography is timing the snow conditions. In winter most of the landscape will have a blanket of snow over it. However, trees and forests without snow on them will become black holes for light against all that white.

In my opinion and experience the best conditions can be had just after a storm dumps fresh snow on the trees. This sounds simple and obvious, but it can be tricky. Often in the Northwest a warmer wet snowstorm is followed by sunny conditions, which melts snow off tree branches very quickly. That pristine scene can be gone within a few hours!

Frosty Mountain North Cascades British ColumbiaFrosty Mountain Manning Park  #64791  Purchase

Colder drier locations such as the Rockies present another dilemma. The snow can be so cold and dry that very little to no snow may adhere to tree branches. Unlike the coastal Northwest where wet snow acts like glue on everything. In cold locations and conditions a slight breeze can also remove the snow as easily as warm sunshine.

In the end winter photography can be much more fickle than photographing spring wildflowers or perfect autumn color. Depending on weather patterns where you live or are able to travel to, there may be only a couple of good opportunities a season. So keep a close eye on those forecasts and be ready to go at a moments notice!

North Cascades Winter, Manning Provincial ParkManning Park in Winter  #64778  Purchase

If You Go to Manning Park

Driving time to Manning Park is about 4.5 hours north of Seattle, and two hours from Vancouver. Winter camping is available, as are RV hookups at Gibson Pass Ski Area. Manning Park Resort also offers excellent lodge and cabin facilities, along with a restaurant grocery store and gas. Cell phone signal is limited to the immediate lodge area.

Want to Learn More?

Would you like to learn more about photographing in Manning Park and or winter photography? I offer full day, half day, and multi-day photo tours and instruction. Check out my Private Instruction/Tours page for more info, or contact me directly. I would love to help you take your photography to the next level and shoot like a pro!

Alpenglow over Marriott Basin, Coast Mountains British Columbia

Marriott Basin Coast Mountains British Columbia

Marriott Basin Coast Mountains British Columbia

Alpenglow over Marriott Basin, Coast Mountains British ColumbiaMarriott Basin alpenglow, #61843    Purchase

Last month I made my third trip into Marriott Basin, in search of new landscape images. Hot on the heels of my recent trip to Whatcom Pass, I wanted to get in as many backpacking photo trips as possible before wildfire smoke returned. This season has been one of the worst in history for wildfires. Both in the western United  States and British Columbia numerous large fires are burning.

Located in the southern Coast Mountains of British Columbia, Marriott Basin is an extensive alpine area. Access to the area is from Cayoosh Pass on highway 99, about an hour’s drive east of Pemberton. Nearby is the extremely popular Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. While the lakes are popular with sightseers and day hikers, the Joffre Group of peaks is wildly popular with climbers and backcountry skiers.

Generally above 6000′ Marriott Basin contains several lakes and numerous peaks for climbing, most notably Marriott Peak. My previous trips to Marriott Basin entailed one overnight backpack to Mount Rohr, technically outside the basin. The other was a winter ski trip to the Wendy Thompson Hut, located at the head of the basin. The Wendy Thompson Hut is operated by the Alpine Club of Canada and is open year round. However, the hut sees most of its visitors during the winter and early spring ski season.

Avalanche warning sign Coast Mountains British ColumbiaTrailhead avalanche warning #61910    Purchase

Marriott Basin Trail

Getting into Marriott Basin is fairly straightforward, with summer access being slightly different from winter. In summer you can drive a couple of miles up a brushy gravel secondary road to the trailhead. Parking and turnaround space is extremely limited and you my need back down the road to find a spot. The total length into the basin from trailhead to the hut is around five miles with about 2000′ feet of elevation gain. I say around and about since I don’t carry a GPS and rely on maps and online trail guides instead. Depending on your fitness and pack weight the hike in can be from 2-4 hours.

Posted at the trailhead is a large sign warning of and explaining avalanche hazards, which generally is of no consequence in summer. Hikers accustomed to hiking on U.S. trail in the Pacific Northwest may be in for a rude awakening. Well marked and easy to follow, the trail receives very little maintenance. Climbing over logs around boulders and muddy areas the trail is pretty rough in places. After a short level spell the trail climbs a headwall very steeply, without switchbacks, trough forest. Near the top of this section is the turnoff for Rohr Lake and Mount Rohr. From here the trail levels off a bit and zigzags around muddy bogs and small meadows until a tricky log crossing of a stream. On my visit the water was low but in late spring early summer the crossing must be quite exciting!

Marriott Basin trail Coast Mountains British ColumbiaMount Rohr junction #61905    Purchase

Marriott Basin trail Coast Mountains British ColumbiaCreek crossing, Marriott Basin Trail  #61892    Purchase

The next section of the trail climbs into the subalpine zone, or the boulder zone as I call it on this trip. As soon as you start breaking out of the trees the trail is almost constantly negotiating rocks and boulders. The constant ups and downs and zigzagging can be very tiring, especially in warm weather. However the views also begin to open up now, above to the ridge tops and over to green Marriott Lake. After reaching the far end of the lake the last bit of climbing to the hut begins. Again, depending on your pack weight this section can feel short or agonizingly long. In all it’s less than a mile and 200′ higher up. A level boulder filled meadow with a meandering stream is home to the hut.

Wendy Thompson Hut British ColumbiaWendy Thompson Hut  #61793    Purchase

Wendy Thompson Hut

The upper lakes were my ultimate destination, so I only paused briefly for a rest and inspection of the hut. Wendy Thompson was a ski patroller and paramedic. She died tragically in 1995 at the age of 33 in a Medivac flight crash in the Queen Charlotte Islands. As a memorial and legacy to Wendy, her parents and the ACC worked with volunteers to build this hut.

Since my last winter visit the ACC made some substantial renovations. They extended the entire length, added solar powered lighting and USB ports. They also replaced the obnoxious smell of kerosene heaters with a wood burning stove. As is usual in backcountry huts one of the tables was covered in maps, guide books, and misc. reading material. Also present was the obligatory cribbage board and multiple decks of cards.

From the hut the work begins again. Access to the upper lakes is via more and bigger boulder fields without benefit of a trail. Some well placed rock cairns mark the way but mostly it’s a pick your own best route deal. Once at the upper lakes it wide open wandering in all directions. I set up camp in a spot suitable for easy access to photo ops of the distant peaks and valley below.

Boulders Marriott Basin Coast Mountains British ColumbiaBoulder field, cairn visible in lower right corner  #61849    Purchase

Upper Marriott Basin

The next day I did some exploring and I set my eyes on  an easy ridge within my comfort level. Hiking and easy scrambling over boulder slopes brought me to the crest with new view to the west and north. One of the reasons I picked this particular ridge was for the unobstructed views of Cayoosh Mountain. Sitting at 8200″Cayoosh  is a fairly bulky chunk of rock with the north and east aspects covered in glaciers. Looking down between me and Cayoosh was a high pass with a small green lake. To the north was a long deep valley with countless peaks on the horizon. Taking in such a view I immediately wished I had my camp set up here! Photographing in good light would be spectacular. I guess I”ll have to make another trip back sometime.

Later back at my camp I settled in to wait for evening light. Although the sky was mostly free of clouds, there was some nice alpenglow present which enabled me to make a few photos. It was nice to watch the progression of layered colors after sunset. First came yellows and oranges followed by purples and blues of the Belt of Venus.

Backcountry camp Coast Mountains British ColumbiaCamping in Marriott Basin #61795    Purchase

Cayoosh Mountain Coast Mountains British ColumbiaCayoosh Mountain #61805    Purchase

Marriott Basin Coast Mountains British ColumbiaUpper Marriott Basin #61815    Purchase

Back at the Hut

The next day I had planned to hike out to my truck but on exploring the area near the hut I decided to stay an extra night. Near the hut were small grassy meadows and a small stream among more boulders. I found a nice campsite near the small stream which held potential for some nice photographic compositions. I tried to make some evening photos but the light was bland, especially with no clouds. In the morning it was apparent that winds had shifted. Smoke once again began to creep across the sky. Although there still weren’t any clouds the light was a bit nicer, with the smoky haze giving a more pastel hue to the scene. I set up my tripod in a few predetermined places and came away with several more photos.

I had a quick breakfast and packed up my gear. Although I wasn’t as successful with photos as hoped I did have a great time. And I did manage to find a new view that was worthy of a return trip.

Backcountry camp Coast Mountains British ColumbiaMarriott Basin Camping #61863    Purchase

Marriott Basin, Coast Mountains British ColumbiaMarriott Basin #61871    Purchase

Lower Marriott Lake Coast Mountains British ColumbiaSmokey haze over Marriott Lake #61884    Purchase

Marriott Basin trail Coast Mountains British Columbia

Coast Mountains

How to tell if you’re hiking in the Coast Mountains trail of British Columbia:

  1. State of the art bridges over creek crossing
  2.  Deep mud with slippery logs and branches strategically placed for optimum ankle twisting

I actually love these types of trails, there’s a sense of  true wilderness about them, unlike some of the crowded super highway trails found in Washington and Oregon. These pics are from a few days ago during a visit to Marriott Basin in the Coast Mountains.

I have lots of new photos in the works from this and my previous trip to North Cascades National Park. Stay tuned you’re going to love them!!

Marriott Basin trail Coast Mountains British Columbia

 

Marriott Basin trail Coast Mountains British Columbia

Alaska British Columbia Yukon Photography Trip

Alaska British Columbia Yukon Photography Trip

I’m very excited to announce tentative plans for a major photography expedition to some of the wildest and most dramatic scenery in all of North America. This incredible photography adventure will begin in mid-July in the heart of the wild Coast Range of British Columbia, proceeding up to Alaska, and finishing in the Yukon Territory just before the autumn snows begin to fall. Anyone interested in joining in on the fun at any of these locations feel free to contact me, I’m always looking for extra company/models!

Photo Editors and Buyers: If any of these or nearby locations can be used in your future projects or articles please contact me to discuss your needs!

Here are the locations on the itinerary so far:
British Columbia:
Ape Lake Monarch Icefield

Alaska:
Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park / Skolai Pass; Ross Green Lake
Denali National Park (locations to be determined)

Yukon Territory:
Kluane National Park
Tombstone Territorial Park
Dempster Highway / Arctic Circle, Richardson Mountains

To give you an idea of what some of these locations look like check out the photos below. Some of the photos are not from the exact locations listed above but are very close approximations of the scenery.

Coast Range British Columbia:

Coast Range British Columbia, Alaska British Columbia Yukon Photography TripBritish Columbia Coast Range  #18242  Purchase

Coast Range British Columbia, Alaska British Columbia Yukon Photography TripCoast range British Columbia #18259  Purchase

Alaska:

Mount Sanford Alaska, Alaska British Columbia Yukon Photography TripMount Sanford Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park  #14340  Purchase

Wrangell Range Alaska, Alaska British Columbia Yukon Photography TripWrangell-Saint Elias National Park  #14340  Purchase

Denali, Alaska British Columbia Yukon Photography TripDenali #144788  Purchase

Yukon Territory:

Tombstone Territorial Park Yukon, Alaska British Columbia Yukon Photography TripTombstone Territorial Park Yukon #15502   Purchase

Ogilvie Mountains Yukon, Alaska British Columbia Yukon Photography TripOgilvie Mountains Yukon Territory #15437   Purchase

Alaska British Columbia Yukon Photography Trip

Mount Robson Canadian Rockies

Mount Robson Canadian Rockies

Mount Robson Canadian Rockies

   Mount Robson Canadian Rockies British ColumbiaMount Robson Canadian Rockies British Columbia #54613 Purchase

Here is another image from last September’s trip to Mount Robson in the Canadian Rockies, since this image has garnered an exceptionally favorable response on social media I felt that I should fill in a little background on how it was made. This was my third trip to Mount Robson Provincial Park and I had high hopes of getting some stunning images of the mountain. I had allocated five days to fulfill my goal. However, by the third day I was becoming frustrated by the lack of interesting light. The weather was spectacular, warm with blue skies. But while great for outdoor activities it didn’t possess the kind of light I had hoped for. Finally on the third morning clouds from an approaching storm arrived just as the sun was coming up. Perfect timing and conditions to illuminate the sky and mountains in a warm glow. Just what I wanted!

Mount Robson sunrise Canadian Rockies British ColumbiaMount Robson Canadian Rockies British Columbia #54615 Purchase

The images above were some of the first made as the sky warmed with a reddish magenta glow. I had thoroughly investigated this spot the day before to see where and how the best compositions lined up. I knew there were many possibilities for both horizontal and vertical images. So I mentally took note on which were the best and planned the shoot accordingly if the light cooperated. This plan paid off the next morning as I knew there would be a limited amount of time before the light began to fade.

By the time I had finished working this area the light was still going strong. About a half mile east along this basin there was another spot I planned on photographing in the evening or next morning. With the approaching weather I had a feeling there might not be another opportunity like this one. So I gathered up my equipment and ran along the basin as fast I could, and hastily set up my tripod. By this time most of the warm dawn glow had faded but the light was still intense on the clouds. The third image in this post  is one of the last from that morning. The post processing was nothing more than adjusting levels and curves with some burning and dodging. I like to keep things on that end as simple and strait forward as possible.

Mount Robson Canadian Rockies British Columbia Mount Robson Canadian Rockies British Columbia #54646   Purchase

Mount Robson Canadian Rockies British ColumbiaMount Robson Canadian Rockies British Columbia #54651r   Purchase

Icemaker Mountain Coast Mountains British Columbia

Athelney Pass Coast Range British Columbia

Athelney Pass Coast Range British Columbia

This article was originally posted back in August of 2008. Since my main summer photography trip for 2014 will be an extended visit to several very remote and seldom visited areas in British Columbia, I felt it appropriate to bring this one back to light. To date this trip to the Athelney Pass Coast Range British Columbia was one of my favorite and exciting in recent years. Despite an abundance of National Parks and Wilderness Areas in the Pacific Northwest, it is getting harder every year to find a place to visit and photograph that is relatively unknown and has a truly remote wilderness feel to it. The Athelney Pass/Salal Creek area fits the bill in all aspects, even though it has no wilderness park or protected area designation.

Begin original 2008 post:

Icemaker Mountain Coast Mountains British ColumbiaMount Ethelweard and  Icemaker Mountain #18242   Purchase

For the last six days I’ve been working on editing all the new images from my recent trip to Athelney Pass in British Columbia’s Coast Range. This trip was one of the best and most productive amongst a string of excellent photo trips in 2008. So it’s worth adding a few words and pics about it. I was vaguely aware of this area until early last month while researching nearby Coast Mountain routes and trails on the web. It only took seeing a couple of photos on Google to convince me to make a trip there.

Salal Creek Coast Range British ColumbiaSalal Creek Coast Mountains British Columbia #17884  Purchase

Researching Athelney Pass in a couple of guidebooks revealed that it wasn’t too far away. Just a 4-5 hours drive north from Bellingham. I felt four-six days would provide ample time for exploration and photography. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) there is no formal trail leading into this rugged wilderness. Meaning that while the hike to Athelney Pass is only a modest 8-10 or so miles in length and 2200 feet elevation gain. However it felt like it was about twice that much.

Athelney Pass Coast Range British ColumbiaAthelney Pass Mountains British Columbia #19083  Purchase

Mining cabin Coast Range British ColumbiaDerelict mining cabin and equipment at Athelney Pass #17979   Purchase

There are several sections requiring route-finding in the forest. Along with a couple of torturous sections of bashing through thick nearly impenetrable slide alder. The rest of the route is “easy” hiking in open country along the river bank and steep loose glacial moraines. If your definition of easy is hiking for miles on unstable ankle breaking rocks the size of baseballs and bowling balls! All of this plus a lengthy logging road access meant that I had the whole area mostly to myself. I only saw one other person in six days and that was from a distance. The only other downside to this trip was encountering the discarded items from past mining exploration.  There is a derelict cabin rusting equipment, plus discarded barrels of fuel higher up the ridge.  (By 2014 all this may have been cleaned up since my 2008 visit)

Athelney Pass Coast Mountains British ColumbiaAthelney Pass British Columbia #18127  Purchase

As an added bit of excitement I came across a very large Grizzly Bear on the road as I was driving out after the hike. I’ll never doubt the speed at which these animals can run. I was driving a gravel road when it burst out of the brush in front of my vehicle. It took off down the road at an accelerating speed before disappearing into the brush again.

So if you are looking for a new place to go hiking away from the crowds with a true feeling of raw wilderness, and don’t mind putting in the extra effort this area might be for you.

Icemaker Mountain Coast Mountains British ColumbiaIcemaker Mountain  British Columbia #18270  Purchase

Mount Ethelweard Coast Mountains British ColumbiaMount Ethelweard  British Columbia #18545   Purchase

Salal Divide, Coast Range British ColumbiaSalal Divide British Columbia #18545   Purchase

All photos are available for purchasing as prints or for commercial licensing. Just click on the desired image and then click Add to Cart to select your option.

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