Tuesday, November 9, 2010

We busted on Huron Peak!

As described in my previous blog, the Mount Harvard climb went well. The next morning we awoke before dawn to gale winds but decided to go for Mt. Columbia anyway. Wind was better than lightning any day. Steve and Ed were tired and decided to relax in camp while three of us did the climb. Rick, Jen, and I headed out at dawn. I, of course, took photos as we went.

Within a quarter mile, the "trail" headed straight up the mountain in loose scree above timberline.

Foot by foot, we scrambled higher, puffing in the thin air. Mt. Harvard loomed above us to the north. Just because the air was thin, however, didn't mean that the wind didn't flail away at us.

We finally reached the crest of the south summit ridge at roughly 13,500 feet. The trail improved and the grade lessened as we headed north toward the summit. Soon we were there, at the top of 14,073-foot Mt. Columbia.

As always, the view was spectacular, making the hard climb worthwhile. We took pictures and huddled up behind some rocks out of the wind to wolf down some snacks and water. We quickly got chilled, so down we went, slipping and sliding our way back to base camp.

Once at camp, we tore down our tents, packed up our gear, and hiked out to the trailhead, all downhill blessedly. In Buena Vista we rewarded ourselves with beer and pizza. Jen, Rick, and Ed headed back to Colorado Springs, while Steve and I drove partway up to the Huron Peak trailhead to camp for the night along Clear Creek. We'd had two successful ascents in two days. What could go wrong with a third?

That evening Steve and I photographed the ghost town of Winfield in beautiful golden light. During the night it rained off and on, raising questions about the next morning's climb. We slept in a bit later than normal because of the rain. We ate breakfast as golden light burned through the clouds, raising our spirits. Soon enough we drove the short way up the bad 4WD road to the trailhead and started hiking. Dark clouds were already starting to form again, putting a damper on our enthusiasm. Regardless, onward we went, trudging up the trail as it switchbacked higher and higher through the spruce and fir trees. The sun tried to come out once, but slowly faded in the steel-gray skies.

The wind started to rise as the clouds darkened to the west. At about 12,500 feet, well above timberline, Steve and I huddled up behind a boulder to try to get out of the wind. The sky was rapidly becoming gloomier and the temperature was falling, so Steve decided to bail out and head down. I, being the crazy one, continued higher, hiking with a couple that had caught up with us. Soon the first bits of sleet began to pelt down, bouncing off our jackets. Surely it wouldn't last long and at least there wasn't any lightning, we told each other.

We were completely exposed to the gale on the steep tundra slopes. Soon the sleet turned into a full-fledged snow storm. "Should we keep going?" we kept asking each other. Even with Gore-tex, we were getting pretty wet and cold from the windblown snow. Visibility was down to a few hundred yards. We were lost in a gray world of tundra and snow. Finally we decided to turn around, although the decision was frustrating so close to the summit. But it was the right one. Minutes later the first lightning bolt hit. Lightning in a blizzard in August. How fun. Our already rapid pace accelerated. We were hunched over, unable to even look in the direction we were walking. The wind-driven snow and sleet stung our faces, making it painful to look up.

Finally we reached timberline and relaxed a little, with a little more protection from the lightning. As we descended, the air warmed enough that the falling snow turned to rain. We sloshed our way down the mountain, getting to the bottom just as the sun burned through. The clouds lifted off the snow-covered peaks above and a beautiful day began.

And we were back at the bottom of the mountain. Well, the mountain would be there next year. Steve and I packed up and headed back to northern New Mexico for the night and then home the next day. The score? Steve and Laurence: 2, Mountains: 1.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mt. Harvard or bust!

I just got home a few days ago from a long trip to West Texas and Colorado. My ultimate goal was to climb Mt. Harvard, Mt. Columbia, and Huron Peak, all 14,000-foot peaks, with some friends. However, to justify my little climbing adventure I had to take a few photos along the way. I started in the Davis Mountains of West Texas by shooting a large ranch up in the mountains and another smaller ranch with an incredible house down in the Marfa grasslands. The area has had a wet summer, so the mountains looked more like Ireland than West Texas. Shooting the two ranches was a pleasure, even if I hadn't been getting paid for it. I had beautiful country, dramatic skies, and great light, key ingredients for any good photo.

On the second morning at the ranch in the mountains, I got up well before dawn and stepped out of the guest house expecting clear skies, typical on summer mornings. I was greeted with a flash of lightning and rumble of thunder. Could be interesting, I thought. I head out in the predawn gloom on the dirt ranch road that I had scouted the day before with the foreman. I parked at the base of a ridge and started scrambling up onto the ridge top, hoping I wouldn't step on a rattlesnake. I'd already seen two the previous two days. The grass was so tall that I couldn't see where I was putting my feet. However, I made it to the top unscathed as a little pink light was hitting the storm to my west. The storm was moving my way, but fortunately was losing strength. I didn't want to be chased off by lightning. I quickly started shooting. With 360-degree views, the view was tremendous. The clouds were lighting up and soon the first rays of golden light struck my ridge and the tall grass. I couldn't move around fast enough, shooting in every direction. The summit was covered with boulders and tall grass, so I had to be careful as I ran around. Breaking an ankle would not have been a good thing. As with many places I photograph, cell service was nonexistent.

Eventually the sun climbed up into some clouds and the light faded, so I packed everything up, picked my way down the treacherous slope back to my truck, and called it a morning. I loaded my gear at the guest house and headed back into Fort Davis. That evening and the next morning I photographed an incredible house lost on a lonely hilltop in the grasslands surrounding Marfa. It was incredible enough that two people were there scouting the house for a party scene for a movie. Unfortunately the light and weather weren't as cooperative this time, with clouds and rain. I did get some good interior shots, however, and some dramatic shots at sunset and with the house lights on at dusk.

The next morning, I tried to shoot the house again at sunrise, but clouds blocked me out again. The photo biz is like farming. The weather makes or breaks you. I headed back to Fort Davis to my friend Steve Kennedy's house, tossed my stuff into Steve's truck, and off we went to Colorado. We made it as far as the mountains above Taos that night, stopping along the way for lunch in my old hometown, Carlsbad, with some friends there. That evening we stopped and shot an old adobe church in La Cueva just before sunset. The sky was a little bland for photos, but the light was good, and the handsome church, isolated all by itself in a meadow, made a good subject.

The next day we headed up to Great Sand Dunes National Park. We snagged a campsite and then relaxed a bit as we waited to see if there would be sunset light. It wasn't looking hopeful, with storms to the west over the San Juans. We weren't itching to drag our heavy camera packs all the way up to the top of the 700-foot dunes if we weren't going to have any light. Finally, about an hour and a half before sunset, it looked like we might get a few breaks in the clouds to the west, so we gritted our teeth, donned our packs, and headed across Medano Creek and up the dunes. One step up, 3/4 step back. What a slog, especially at close to 9000 feet elevation with heavy packs. Puffing and panting, we made it to the top of one of the highest dunes right as the light started breaking through. I started shooting, dripping sweat all over my camera and breathing hard. Storms hovered over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains above while golden light slanted across the dunes, highlighting every ripple. Then a thunderstorm started to build overhead. The wind start blowing hard, pelting me and my camera with sand. Now I really had some grit in my teeth. When the rain piled on, I stuffed my camera in the pack, and stood there squinting into the blowing sand and rain, hoping that lightning wouldn't be following. Here I was, on top of one of the highest dunes with a nice electrically conductive tripod.

Eventually the wind calmed a bit and I started shooting again. We went until the last color faded from the sky. We hustled back down, hoping we could find our truck in the dark. We managed, emptying sand out of our boots several times along the way.

The next morning was boring for photos--blank blue sky--so we packed up and headed for Buena Vista. We drove to the N. Cottonwood Trailhead, loaded our backpacks, and hit the trail into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness. Up we went into the thin air, camping gear, food, clothes, and cameras strapped to our backs. Three and a half sweaty miles later, we reached our 11,300-foot campsite in the Horn Fork Basin at the base of Mt. Harvard and Mt. Columbia. Later that evening, just as it was getting dark, three of our friends from Colorado Springs arrived at camp, tired from hustling up the trail as it was getting dark.

None of us slept well that night and the chilly morning came early. We dragged out of our tents before dawn, forced some food down, and headed up the trail to Mt. Harvard, at 14,420', the third highest peak in Colorado. We puffed and panted our way upwards as the rising sun tipped the peaks around with color. I took photos as we went, driving my hiking buddies crazy. I was reminded once again that living in Texas at low elevation is not conducive to climbing high peaks.

The last part of the climb involved some scrambling up ledges and low cliffs, but by a little after 10AM we were there. There was nowhere higher to climb. I took photos, we ate some snacks huddled up out of the cold wind, and observed the building clouds.

It was time to leave. We headed down, breathing a little less hard than we had on the way up. Rain that afternoon and evening trapped us in our tents quite a bit, but we all slept a little better that night in preparation for climbing Mt. Columbia the next morning.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Don't forget about the GIVEAWAY!

Just a reminder...

You still have a couple weeks to post your review of Laurence Parent's book Death in Big Bend and be entered in to win a $20 gift card. Post your review online someplace, such as bn.com or amazon.com; add a link to your online review on our Linky Tool here; and send us your email address so we have a way to contact you.

For more details and instructions, click here.

Thanks for your reviews!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Texas Parks & Wildlife: Big Bend Ranch State Park

Texas Parks & Wildlife decided to do an interview with my good friend Joe Nick Patoski and I concerning Big Bend Ranch State Park. You can click on the picture of Big Bend Ranch to see the full video interview. Enjoy!

Friday, September 10, 2010

THINK interview with Krys Boyd KERA Dallas Public Radio

If you missed yesterday's talk with THINK host Krys Boyd on KERA Dallas Public Radio, you can listen to the full interview down below, or check out KERA's website. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Upcoming Dallas Events

Laurence will be traveling to Dallas this week for a few exciting events. If you live in the Dallas area, please tune in and come out to support Laurence!

September 9, 2010
Starting at 1 p.m. Laurence will discuss his new book, Death in Big Bend, on the radio program Think with host Krys Boyd of KERA 90.1 FM Dallas. You can listen to the on-air show or stream the interview on the station's website, kera.org.

September 10, 2010
Starting at 7 p.m., Laurence will be signing copies of Death in Big Bend at the new Whole Earth Provision Co. store in Dallas. The store is located at 11700 Preston Road, near the intersection of Preston Road and Forest Lane.

September 11, 2010
Starting at 10 a.m., Laurence will be signing copies of Death in Big Bend at the Barnes & Noble across from NorthPark Mall in Dallas. The store is located at 7700 West Northwest Highway, near the intersection of Northwest Highway and US-75 Central Expressway.

And don't forget - you can still post a link to your online review of Death in Big Bend for a chance to win our GIVEAWAY! Read about the giveaway in the post below or by clicking here.

Friday, September 3, 2010

KUT Austin Public Radio

This morning on KUT, Austin's Public Radio, Laurence discussed his newest book with Jennifer Stayton host of "Morning Edition". Click on the play button below to hear the complete interview.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

KRTS Interview

Laurence discussed his book Death in Big Bend with host Rachel Osier Lindley of KRTS Marfa Public Radio on July 26, 2010. Listen to the complete interview by clicking the play button below.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

GIVEAWAY for Book Reviews!

Big news! We at Behind the Lens are extremely excited about Laurence's new book, Death in Big Bend. In order to get more folks interested in this amazing book, we are having a GIVEAWAY! The prize will be a $20 gift card to either Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com - your choice.

Here's how you enter the giveaway:
  1. Read Laurence's new book, Death in Big Bend.
  2. Write a review of the book, between 100 and 300 words in length. Click here for an example of a review. Click here for Amazon review guidelines.
  3. Post your review with the listing for Death in Big Bend at either Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com.
  4. After your review has been posted, please enter the link to your individual review in the Linky Tool (where it says, "Click here to enter") at the bottom of this page.
  5. Send us your name and email address so we can contact you if you're the winner!
  1. One review = one entry to win the gift card.
  2. You can post your review at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble...and get TWO chances to win. Remember to add each link to the Linky Tool.
  3. If, after you post your review with the book listing, you post a review on your blog with a link to the online listing for Death in Big Bend, you will get ANOTHER chance to win. (Remember to add your blog review to the Linky Tool.)
  4. Your review and your link on the Linky Tool must be posted by midnight Friday, October 1, 2010.
We will also have a special prize (TBA) for a stand-out review. And we would love it if you would become a follower of Behind of the Lens.

Tell your friends! THANKS!


And if you're a giveaway lover, check out giveawayscout.com. They've got a thorough listing of blog giveaways and other online freebies.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Book Review on Amazon.com

Check out this Amazon.com review of Laurence's new book, Death in Big Bend.

If you've read Death in Big Bend, we'd love to hear your comments and thoughts about the book. Better yet, post a review of the book on Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Caverns of Sonora

Check out Laurence's photos of the Caverns of Sonora in the September 2010 issue of Texas Highways. The article, written by Rae Nadler-Olenick, appears on pages 46-53.

Laurence grew up spelunking in Carlsbad Caverns National Park in Carlsbad, New Mexico, where his father was a park ranger.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Book presentation in Alpine, Texas

My presentation on my new book, Death in Big Bend, in Alpine at the Way Out West Book Festival went very well. Big Bend National Park's chief ranger, Alan Etheridge, introduced me and talked a little about his experiences with rescues at Big Bend and other parks where he has worked. Then I talked about how the book came to be, the difficulties in writing the book, and about specific incidents in the book. In particular I talked about two heat stroke deaths at the park, a horrible double murder, a climbing death, and an assisted suicide/second-degree murder. Mr. Etheridge talked about two recent incidents at the park where the people were saved, but just barely. The room where I was speaking was full. I guess everyone has a little bit of a morbid interest in tragedies and rescues, including myself. Afterward I signed a lot of books and answered questions. With the book only having come out 2-3 weeks ago, it was a great debut along with the radio programs.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Death in Big Bend - Now Available Online!

Laurence Parent's most recent book, Death in Big Bend, is now available on Amazon.com and FSBooks.com. The book chronicles 17 real-life stories of death and rescue in Big Bend National Park that have occurred since the 1980s.

Monday, July 26, Laurence spoke about Death in Big Bend in a live radio interview on Talk at Ten with Marfa Public Radio host Rachel Osier Lindley. This past Saturday, Laurence gave a talk about the book at the Way Out West Texas Book Festival in Alpine, Texas. Laurence's next radio interview about the book is scheduled to air on KUT 90.5 in Austin later this month.

Death in Big Bend is getting great reviews on Big Bend Chatter. Laurence has posted some background information about the book in response to comments made on that thread. Join the conversation by clicking here.

Death in Big Bend can be ordered through Front Street Books and Amazon.com at this time. The book will soon be available in Whole Earth Provision Co. stores and Barnes & Noble bookstores. If you read the book, please add your review to the book's listing on Amazon.com or BarnesAndNoble.com.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Utah Travel Guide

Looking for adventure? Check out Utah.

Laurence contributed to the 2011 Utah State Travel Guide. The online version of the travel guide is beautiful and fun to flip through. Laurence's image of the Flaming Gorge Bridge appears on page 66.