Alpine Angles in the Adirondacks: Photos by Chris Lang

Carin on Giant Mountain with the high peaks in the background

Carin on Giant Mountain with the high peaks in the background

New York State’s Adirondack Mountains are home to 46 mountains that are over 4000 feet in elevation. People who frequent the area know these mountains as the 46 or the High Peaks and a person who has climbed all of them and registered with the ADK 46er organization is known as a 46er. I grew up just outside of Albany, NY and spent my summers in Schroon Lake inside the Adirondack Park.

Early morning sun on Mt. Colden as seen from Marcy Dam

Early morning sun on Mt. Colden as seen from Marcy Dam

My hiking career started when I was about 10 years old, I hiked and backpacked with my parents in the Adirondacks. I have a few fond memories of the High Peaks from climbing Algonquin while being eaten alive by blackflies, seeing a black bear and climbing Mt. Marcy on “spring break” in several feet of snow without snowshoes and grossly unprepared for the cold weather. For one reason or another I took a 15-year hiatus from hiking. About 3 1/2 years ago I rediscovered the beauty of the area while on a backpacking trip at my younger brother’s suggestion. We didn’t climb any mountains on that trip the day after Thanksgiving but I did relearn just how beautiful it is being in the mountains and I was hooked from there.

Winter school 4-day backpack group crossing Avalanche Lake in front of the iconic Trap Dyke

Winter school 4-day backpack group crossing Avalanche Lake in front of the iconic Trap Dyke

After that trip I decided I wanted to be a 46er and dove in headfirst. I needed to get educated on how to be prepared in the backcountry since most of my knowledge was fuzzy and incomplete from my childhood experiences. I searched the Internet for gear recommendations and general backcountry knowledge. I came across two great resources, the www.sectionhiker.com blog and the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Winter Mountaineering School (WMS). I read just about every posting on Section Hiker as well as all of the information in the WMS handbook. I signed up for WMS and attended the weekend backpacking section. I’m now a WMS instructor and highly recommend anyone looking to get into winter hiking or backpacking attend the school.

WMS was a great experience. In late January 2011 our group climbed Wright and Algonquin. Once we broke out above the tree line on Wright peak, my first winter exposure in 20 years, I was 100% hooked on mountaineering and haven’t turned back since. The views were amazing and I was in awe. I snapped a few quick photos with my small point and shoot camera that I’d never really used much before this trip. The photos from Wright’s summit didn’t turn out very well but they still make me smile remembering the experience.

Hiker on the windy summit of Mt. Marcy

Hiker on the windy summit of Mt. Marcy

That night while setting up our campsite my brother and I decided we were going to climb Mt. Washington the next weekend (which we did successfully) and then after that my next goal was to climb Denali (Mt. McKinley) the tallest mountain in North America.

In order to climb Denali I needed to be in great shape and what better way to do that than climbing mountains. So began my real obsession. I started training on weekdays for climbing and spent every single weekend in the mountains from there on out. I became a stronger and more efficient hiker and was able to do increasingly difficult hikes and climbs. I successfully summited Denali in 2012 and from there I began to plan hikes to keep me challenged, entertained and to get a few good pictures at the same time.

Sunrays bursting though the clouds in the valley as seen from the Brothers on Big Slide Mountain

Sunrays bursting though the clouds in the valley as seen from the Brothers on Big Slide Mountain

Along the way I realized I was pretty good at capturing images of the beauty of the Adirondacks. I took hundreds of photos each week and posted them on Facebook for my friends to see and there were always a few good shots sprinkled in there that people seemed to really enjoy. As I continued to climb and snap pictures I decided that I should see where my ability could take me and began to learn about photography to see if I could improve.

Misty morning on the foot bride crossing Lake Jimmy on the way to Allen Mountain

Misty morning on the foot bride crossing Lake Jimmy on the way to Allen Mountain

Just like when I started my obsession with mountain climbing I dove in headfirst. I did research on cameras and software and determined what would work best for me. I have a technical background in my day job as an IT consultant so I was able to pick up the technical nature of photography quickly without any formal education. As I progressed, I bought bigger and better cameras, learned the ins and outs of Adobe Lightroom, and started to only post what I considered my best work for others to enjoy. The response from my friends was exceedingly positive. Each week, I posted new pictures and people continue to enjoy them, share them with their friends and ask me all sorts of questions about how I was able to get such great photos. My answer is usually to be in the right place at the right time.

Summit of Giant Mountain on a windy fall day.

Summit of Giant Mountain on a windy fall day.

There are many amazing photographers that take pictures in the Adirondacks and I enjoy their work immensely. As I looked at some of the amazing pictures of the Adirondacks out there, I found I was one of the few Adirondack photographers that combined photography with the more remote hiking and climbing. Because of all of the training I have done and continue to do, I can get to very remote locations in difficult conditions, and capture some great images at the same time.

Near whiteout conditions on Whiteface Mountain, the wind was so strong we could barely stand.

Near whiteout conditions on Whiteface Mountain, the wind was so strong we could barely stand.

I steer the goal of many of my hikes towards getting better pictures. Over the summer, I decided to do a solo Great Range Traverse as a training hike. A Great Range Traverse is an undertaking in itself, crossing 8 mountains and close to 10,000 feet in elevation gain. In order to get some good pictures, I started from the trailhead at 2AM to get to the summit of Mt. Marcy at sunrise. The hike to Mt. Marcy was close to 10 miles on the route I took and I had to run the last bit to get to the tree line before sunrise.

Sunrise on Mt. Marcy

Sunrise on Mt. Marcy

The results were worth it and I ended up getting so many good pictures it was difficult to choose my favorites.

Golden hour sunlight from Mt. Marcy

Golden hour sunlight from Mt. Marcy

Slide climbing has given me many additional opportunities to capture some great photographs. It is a much more dangerous and difficult activity than hiking. A slide is a term used to describe an area where a landslide occurred and stripped the mountain clear of vegetation. Slides usually occur during periods of intense rain.

For example, the slide on Cascade Mountain was recently cleaned out of debris and vegetation during Hurricane Irene. What is there now, is a technical roped climb up the mountain with a bushwhack at the end to the summit. On a recent trip, a group of friends and I climbed that slide.

Roped up climbers on the first pitch of the Cascade slide waterfall

Roped up climbers on the first pitch of the Cascade slide waterfall

Once to the upper portion of the slide, we were able to see an amazing sunset on our way to the summit.

Sunset from the Cascade Mountain slide

Sunset from the Cascade Mountain slide

In order to prepare people for slide climbing, a friend of mine who runs the New York Mountaineering Meetup group ran a slide-climbing workshop this winter. We taught and practiced some experienced hikers the skills necessary to ascend a slide safely on the low angle slide on Macomb Mountain in the Dix Range of the Adirondacks.

Climbers ascend the slide on Macomb Mountain

Climbers ascend the slide on Macomb Mountain

During my time hiking in the Adirondacks, I’ve joined the ranks of the 46er organization and completed all of the 46 in the winter as well. I’ve also had the pleasure of hiking alongside many other fellow hikers when they achieved their 46er status. There is usually some form of celebration on the summit. On a recent trip up Mt. Marshall, a friend of mine completed his Winter 46 and we planned a St. Patrick’s Day theme for him as a surprise on the summit where we all donned green mustaches.

Winter 46er finish on Mt. Marshall summit, St. Patrick’s Day style!

Winter 46er finish on Mt. Marshall summit, St. Patrick’s Day style!

From reaching outlying areas in the backcountry, to making technical climbs, to just enjoying an amazing memorable day with great friends, climbing in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks and other exciting and challenging destinations has given me an opportunity to take some great photographs and memorialize incredible accomplishments.

Chris Lang on the summit of Allen Mountain after finishing his Winter46

Chris Lang on the summit of Allen Mountain after finishing his Winter46

About Chris Lang

Chris Lang is an avid hiker, climber and photographer living in the Capitol District of New York State. He has a full time job in the IT field and spends the majority of his free time in the Adirondack Park climbing the 46 High Peaks with occasional trips to New Hampshire’s White Mountains and Maine. He has also climbed in the Alaska Range, summited Mt. McKinley (Denali), Mt. Rainier in the Washington Cascades and Mt. Hood in Oregon.

A collection of Chris’s work will be part of the Melrose Arts Festival April 26-27, 2014 in Melrose, MA.

To see more of Chris’ work you can visit his website at: www.alpineangles.com

Follow his weekly Facebook pictures at: http://www.facebook.com/alpineangles

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22 Responses to Alpine Angles in the Adirondacks: Photos by Chris Lang

  1. Otto Maddox March 25, 2014 at 7:27 am #

    Interesting shots for sure, but the HDR takes away from the natural beauty of the area, in my opinion.

    • Cliff March 25, 2014 at 9:26 am #

      Maybe it’s just me but I don’t think any of these photos look like HDR images.

      A number of them seem to have been processed a little differently than I would have done though.

      • Chris Lang March 25, 2014 at 9:54 am #

        Hi Otto and Cliff two of the shots are HDR, the very first one of the Carin on Giant Mountain and the summit shot from Giant Mountain. All of the others are not and developed in Lightroom. The colors appear to be changed a bit due to the compression on the site here, if you want to see the originals take a look at my website at http://www.alpineangles.com Enjoy!

        • Philip Werner March 25, 2014 at 9:59 am #

          Chris- what kind of camera do you carry? I’ve always balked at carrying a big camera, but I wonder now if it would be worth it to take pictures like these.

          • Chris Lang March 25, 2014 at 11:10 am #

            Philip, I carry an Olympus OMD-EM1 camera with a 12-40MM lens. It’s a mirrorless micro 4/3 camera that is smaller than a traditional DSLR and also weather resistant. The lenses are also much smaller than the equivalent lens of the larger DSLR cameras. I carry it on the hip belt of my backpack so it’s always available to me. I use a “digital holster” from a company called Think Tank. http://www.thinktankphoto.com/products/digital-holster-10-v2.aspx it works really well and it even has survived ice climbing and breaking trail through chest deep snow.

        • Cliff March 26, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

          Thanks for the reply.

  2. Kevin O March 25, 2014 at 8:18 am #

    Great post and beautiful photos!! Congrads on summitting McKinley, that must have been a tremendous experience!

    • Chris Lang March 25, 2014 at 9:55 am #

      Thank you Kevin! McKinley was an amazing experience and I fell in love with Alaska when I was there, it was beautiful.

  3. eddie s. March 25, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    Thank you for the great pictures and bringing back so many memories of my youth and trips with the Boy Scouts and family! I “learned” to hike in the Adirondacks (which means tree eaters) and made my first camping trip there when I was 2 years old. My family enjoyed tent camping every year at Floodwood Pond for 17 of my years until DEC ruined it and paved over a dirt logging road and allowing a Canoe Outfitter to open up Shop. As a family we did St.Regis Mtn, Mount Matumbia, Long Tom, and Seward and with the Boy Scouts, Catamount and Cat and little Moose. Though never in winter the troop Insurance would not allow it…We were going to do Mt.Marcy next and used the others as training hikes when the Troop broke up. Again thank you for sharing!!

    • Chris Lang March 25, 2014 at 9:58 am #

      Sounds like you have some great memories of the area Eddie, glad I could help bring them back. The Adirondacks are an amazing place and I count myself lucky to have grown up here.

  4. Philip Werner March 25, 2014 at 9:04 am #

    Great photos.I must say that the Dacks in winter look tougher than the Whites,or maybe it’s just the routes you take on your climbs. Whatever,they look like a beautiful place to hike and your photos really highlight their grandeur.

    • Chris Lang March 25, 2014 at 11:17 am #

      Thanks Philip! I’ve hiked in the Whites as well and the Adirondacks are a bit more rugged and wild. The approaches are much longer and you can really get into the interior of the High Peaks and be in some very remote places cut off from everything else.

  5. Hiker Dude March 25, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    These are surely some amazing photos. The 3D definitely complements it. Equal fun times.

  6. Grandpa March 25, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    I love the photos. Some day, I’ll get to the ‘Daks.

  7. Jacqueline Savage March 25, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    Wonderful photos Chris. I’m looking forward to seeing you at the Art Show. Aunt
    Jackie

  8. akexntn March 25, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    Minor technical correction to the narrative: four of the peaks on the 46 list (Blake, Cliff, Nye, Couchsachraga) are actually less than 4,000 feet tall. Another ADK peak, MacNaughton, not on the official list, was recently found by the USGS to actually be 4,000 feet tall.

  9. louisfbrooks March 25, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

    Great pictures, thanks for sharing them with us.

  10. H.D.Lynn March 25, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

    I’ve seen Chris’s photos with his trip reports. They’re really gorgeous, and I’m glad you featured the Daks on your blog.

  11. Sarah March 26, 2014 at 9:37 am #

    Beautiful photos and a unique perspective. Nice work Chris!

  12. Lori March 26, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    Dad and I have really enjoyed your beautiful photos. I can no longer endure the mountain hikes, but I can enjoy them vicariously through your photos. Thank you for sharing these amazing alpine views.
    Mom and Dad

  13. tpm March 28, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    Your photography is phenomenal, to say the least. No wonder you love climbing mountains. Thanks for bringing them closer, especially to those who will never get to do what you do, be it from acrophobia, the cold, or just plain scaredy-cats!
    Kudos to you and good luck with the exhibit.

    Tina ( long-time family friend from Eliz.)

  14. John Coyle March 29, 2014 at 1:42 am #

    Thank you so much for this article Chris. I was born in Auburn New York and grew up in little Sherrill N.Y which is called the smallest city in New York State with a population of about 3000. I live in Sacramento CA now, but when I was a kid my father used to take me and my siblings on camping trips in the Adirondacks. I believe this is where my love for the outdoors was born and it is wonderful to see this area again captured so skillfully in your photographs.

    BTW we have the OGUL list out here in Northern California which is a list of 63 peaks in the Lake Tahoe area, many of them over 10,000 feet. It is a great honor to climb them all, but I am not as much of a mountaineer as you, having climbed only about 25 of them. You should consider coming out here and putting that list under your belt also.

    Hang in there dude, cheers!!

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