Sunrise from Castle Peak
Sunrise from Castle Peak, Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, Colorado
With the experience of Mt. Elbert, my first sunrise Fourteener shoot, sharpening my understanding of how to shoot sunrise at 14,000 feet, I began studying my maps, looking for a suitable second objective. I had already spent 30 or 40 days backpacking through the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness near Aspen looking for summer wildflower shots, so I knew its peaks were beautiful when viewed from the valley below. As I continued my map work, I realized that when you look northwest from the summit of Castle Peak, you can see five of Colorado's most rugged Fourteeners: Maroon Peak, North Maroon, Snowmass Mountain, Capitol Peak and Pyramid Peak, all lined up in close formation.
In early June, I hauled a back-breaking load of 4x5 camera gear, camping gear and snow-climbing gear from snow closure on the Pearl Pass Road to the snowy basin at 13,000 feet just north of Castle Peak's summit. My pack must have weighed 80 pounds; I'm only 5'8" and 138 pounds. That same afternoon, I climbed the peak, shot sunset, then descended in the dark to my high camp. The next morning I climbed the peak in the dark, shot sunrise, descended, rested, climbed the peak again and shot sunset for the second time. The following morning, I shot sunrise from the summit for the last time and descended all the way to my truck, arriving utterly exhausted. When I examined the film from my Castle Peak shoot on the lightbox, this sunrise image is the one that most strongly evoked the experience of sunrise on the roof of the Rockies. I did not know it then, but the grossly excessive load I foolishly carried on that shoot had probably started the deterioration of a disc in my lumbar spine that eventually led to a multi-year battle with sciatica.