Avalanche Peak – Yellowstone

As a photographer, I really don’t like your average day hike. Too many people start late in the morning and the entire hike ends up being during the harsh light of day. To be sure, you can still make a quality image or two, but for me the best hiking has got to be done at dusk or dawn. In Yellowstone this is a bit complicated due to our friend the grizzly bear. You can’t just go it alone like you would normally as you don’t want to run into a bear when you’re by yourself, and dusk or dawn just happens to be when you’re more likely to. So I had to do some convincing to get friends willing to stand atop a 10,500 ft. summit at sunset and work our way down the mountain at dark. I have some good friends.


There was one small ravine on the way up the mountain that was bursting with wildflowers


The bark beetle has killed many of the white bark pines, but I’ve always loved photographing dead trees


Once through the pine forest we began to gain views of the surrounding mountains


Standing atop the summit ridge


From this perspective we could see all the way to the Beartooths


Looking south we could see the Tetons


The Absaroka Mountains are some of the most beautiful


The sun sets on the edge of Yellowstone Lake

It was the descent that I most loved. There’s always something about hiking beyond dusk into the night that creates a sense of the epic. The white bark pines had been descimated by a bark beetle so there wasn’t much bear food around, so less to be concerned about there. As we descended slowly we watched alpine glow give way to the darkness. I made a hand held shot of the constellation Scorpio, a constellation that fills the southern sky. By waiting a little, we watched the Milky Way begin to take shape in the night. It was perfect, and I was rewarded once again by spending time in the wilderness on the edges of the day.


Douglas Firs huddle against the wind


Alpine glow settles in


A handheld shot of Scorpio, my current favorite constellation, along with Saturn and Mars


The heart of the Milky Way over the Absaroka


24 thoughts on “Avalanche Peak – Yellowstone

  1. Superb post, Russ 🙂

    I totally agree with your views on hiking and photography.

    Though I had limited opportunities to rise before sun and trek, I always enjoyed the golden light of setting sun in the hills.

    The bald hill tops looks great in this light and the last image of, starry night, is simply awesome 🙂

    Thank you so much for sharing and have a beautiful day ahead 🙂

    • Thanks Sreejith, that last one was a real treat. The days are so long in the summertime that it be tough to catch the stars. We’re just getting close enough towards Summer’s end that they’re beginning to reveal the heavens. And yes, that golden light of evening is beautiful most anywhere in the world!

  2. Russ good journalistic post of your walk and what is in your neck of the woods. I need to do the same. Bears: As you know in California, you wave your hand and they run away, not so with your big ones in Yellowstone, Alaska, and other areas your way. I miss the night for sure and several reasons I am no longer out there at this time. I had hoped for some nice night images of the Toad with the milky way on the recent FOCUS course with Summit, but alas a full moon. I need a road trip….all the best, Cheers–Tom

  3. Beautiful captures – really like the orange last light from the sun and the shadows over the mountains and hills. But not sure I would have any friends who would take the change on doing night hiking with me i Yellowstone:) We observed 3 grizzlies and one black bear when we visited last year.

    • We might have changed our plans if there was a lot of grizzly food available in the area, but there were no pine nuts in the forest and no bear scat or markings at all. You start seeing that and it changes things.

  4. I’m guessing your friends were thrilled about joining you. 😉 I hope they got some shots they could brag about…yours are always fantastic!

  5. Pingback: Avalanche Peak – Yellowstone — nomadruss in words and photos – Welcome to the World of Ekasringa Avatar!

  6. Great hike and glorious shots! I loved Yellowstone and the Tetons. We did a road trip up there two years ago, but weren’t blessed with good weather. We had snow in June 😉 Thanks for bringing back good memories!

  7. Wow, those pictures are amazing. I’m very impressed by your handheld photo of Scorpio. I’ve tried taking pictures of stars but they’ve never even been close to yours. I love the milky way, too.

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