My hiking partner, Glenn Rink, had climbed this section 33 years ago when he and his climbing buddy George Bain climbed Isis Temple via a new route. Glenn didn't remember a thing about the rock wall we were about to ascend, but he did remember being chased down the route by a thunderstorm after ascending Isis. The two were in a hurry and were scared. Curious about what I was about to get myself into, I asked if this red wall route was easy. His reply was, "Oh, not easy, but spectacular." I groaned, since we carried no rope and my normally light pack was loaded with five liters of water, five days of food, plus four pounds or so of camera gear. And, of course, I would have to climb this route, with that heavy pack, in running shoes. A second groan. It was at this point of the "hike" that I really slowed down and took a look around. Prior to that I was goal-focused to get to Shiva Saddle and get to work. Glenn and I worked together very carefully to piece together the route up the cliff face and we managed to top out without mishap. In this photo from Shiva Saddle, taken the morning we were to retrace our vertical route, you can see the tricky red wall as the band of lighter-colored rock that girdles the base of the alluring Isis Temple. The sunlight is illuminating the band of red rock very close to where we ascended our route. This image was taken handheld with a Nikon D800 and a Nikon AF-S VR 70-300mm at 80mm, 1⁄160 sec., ƒ/4.5, ISO 100.
I certainly had my eye on this photograph once I reached Shiva Saddle, partly because I had heard Glenn's tale of his wild ascent, as well as our own little epic of climbing up the base of the formation with heavy pack and sweating hands. But it was my experience, as well as the stories that really completed this composition, that made me slow down and see this composition for what it really was, not so much a pretty picture, but an intense landscape filled with challenges for anyone willing to explore them and return with the stories.