Cone Above the Clouds, 2018 Edition

I have written about Cone Peak many times on this blog, a mountain that I call the “King of Big Sur.”  Cone Peak rises 5,155 ft above the Pacific Ocean in less than three miles as the crow flies, making it one of the steepest gradients from ocean to summit in the contiguous United States. It’s nearly a vertical mile above the glimmering ocean with a commanding view of the Big Sur Coast.   Cone Peak has been the site of some of my favorite adventures and photographs. Virtually every visit to Cone is worthwhile, but occasionally the mountain puts on a show that takes it to another level. Occasionally that special something is snow, but other times it’s clouds in the form of a stratus layer.  With the steep topography from sea to sky comes numerous ridges and deep canyons that are the perfect setting to interplay with a marine layer and create some spectacular scenes.  Marine layers frequent Cone Peak in the summer months, but ironically some of the most dramatic experiences with marine layers have been during warm spells in the winter. In fact this was the second year in a row of some awesome marine layer action in early January (2017 post here).  In 2017, the top of the layer reached above 4500 ft, but on this day the top of the layer was about 3,000 ft.  The result was a very different experience but equally rewarding. This year we positioned ourselves at the top of the grass on Stone Ridge (3800 ft) during golden hour and were treated to a spectacular show.  Ideally one wants to be about 500-1000 feet above the top of the marine layer to capture the illuminated tips on the clouds as the sun sets.  As the layer is below you, the best action is just before sunset since the clouds will below you will lose their light as the sun sets.  There’s not much else to say with this set of photos that should speak for themselves and you can see the full photo album here.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. Gene says:

    Nice photos. What camera do you use on your hikes?

    1. pantilat says:

      Currently iPhone SE

      1. gene says:

        Wow. I am so impressed with your photos – especially the recent icy yucca shots! I am a “serious amateur” photographer – I notice one of your running/hiking comrades carries what appears to be an SLR – can you tell me what he uses? I’m interested because I figure you guys would come up with a good combination of quality, weight, and “ruggedness.” Best regards, Gene.

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