It is not often that one flight could so easily accomplish two completely different goals but this one did, and it was a lot of fun putting it together.
The main goal was a volunteer flight with the Alpine of the Americas project flown via LightHawk. In other words, LightHawk arranged the flight for the AAP project (Photographer Jonathan Byers) and enlisted me as the pilot. The goal would be to attempt to recreate photos taken on overflights of the high Sierra in the 60s and 70s from small planes to compare the glaciation. My T210 would be a great platform for this, with plenty of power to get us up to 16 to 17,000 feet required and a high wing allowing good downward visibility.
I also knew that legendary climber Peter Croft was working on a new version of his classic guidebook, “The Good, The Great and The Awesome“. The Sierra overflight might allow him a unique perspective on some good photos for the guidebook and he readily accepted the offer to go along.
Early morning is critical for both good photography light and calm air and both Jonathan and Peter were good to go in the morning. I flew the night before to Lee Vining to camp so I wouldn’t have to fly over the Sierras at night in order to meet at dawn the next day.
Right away climbing out of Lee Vining at around 9,000 feet we looked right across at the classic climb Third Pillar of Mt. Dana and I was seriously stoked, but then had a start when Peter said innocently from the back seat, “by the way, do you know how to focus this thing?” He had borrowed a camera for the flight and luckily Jonathan was able to get it straightened out.
We then proceeded to set up a shot of Mt. Conness from the air, with Jonathan examining an old photo and guiding me for both altitude and heading. Mt. Conness also has numerous classic climbs on it (I would go on to climb the North Ridge the very next day) so Peter was busy getting some good shots.
A popular climbing route is to do a “link-up” of two routes – in this case the north ridge of North Peak, then over to the North Ridge of Mt. Conness and I was able to get a good shot of both routes in one photo. I’ll just have to see what makes it into Peter’s new book in 2015.
We then preceded to fly over the high Sierra, getting shots of glaciers and climbing routes from Mt. Conness all the way down to Mt. Whitney. A spectacular flight all the way around.