An epic lenticular sunrise on Mount Shasta.
I have commented repeatedly for nearly a month that this year’s lenticular season has been something of a bust. Like an early Christmas gift, the mountain finally offered up a truly excellent spectacle. This did not consist of just one event but in the past three days we have witnessed significant lenticular activity. None of the formations would rank among the best I have seen but I have never seen sustained activity for this duration. It has been a remarkable development, and one that will rank, if not among the greatest formations, at least among the most memorable. Three days is a long time for these notoriously fleeting formations to sustain itself on Mount Shasta.
I have already recounted the lenticular from Friday in my last post. Of the three days, it was the least cohesive and well formed. However, it was obvious the mountain was trying to brew something up. The cloud was a large disk that floated just to the southeast of Mount Shasta. The day started off with just a small wispy cloud on the summit but around noon it began to grow and continued to gather strength throughout the day. However, it never seemed to quite pull itself together and take a form with more defined edges. Then, just before sunset, the clouds collapsed, and seemed to dissipate completely. I figured that was the end and considered it a near miss.
The next day began cloudless but around noon that began to change, just as it had on Friday. Though there had been no wispy formation on the summit, a large disk quickly formed in the same position it had been located the day before. It certainly seemed as though they were connected. This time, the cloud seemed to have more strength and looked to be forming more defined layers and edges. I was thinking that this would be the one. However, two things overruled that idea. First, the rest of the sky grew very overcast and appeared to negate the possibility of good light for an epic sunset. This proved to be the case until the very last minute, when the sun finally broke through and gave the mountain a little color. More unfortunate, however, was the seeming collapse, once again, of the lenticular just before sunset.
While I was dismayed about the loss of a really nice lenticular, I stayed by my camera, hoping the cloud might muster one last bit of strength before the light finally disappeared. To my surprise, this is what happened, though it never regained the great shape it had had before the sunset.
Once the sun was gone and the alpenglow had faded, I headed home. The entire way, in the fading light, I could see the cloud building back up again. I have enough experience with these clouds to know that if they gather strength after sunset, they will sustain through the night and I need to prepare for something special in the morning. That is just what I aimed to do.
I was up pretty early on Sunday and, joined by my oldest son (11) I headed out well before dawn. After getting just the barest amount of light to allow me to take stock of the cloud on Mount Shasta, I decided to head up to the vantage point on Castle Lake Road. From there we could get good light on the clouds and some sunrise light on Mount Shasta as well. That turned out to be a wise decision.
After watching the sunrise, I decided to take my son to the Sacramento River and see what vantages were accessible. I have always wanted to shoot a lenticular over Mount Shasta from one of my favorite vistas. This proved to be a great morning for it. The river has much more water in it than it did a month ago and, with patches of snow and ice, made a beautifully, wintry scene from which to observe the mountain and clouds.
On the way home, we kept our eyes on the cloud, which continued to fluctuate and change shape. It almost seemed as though the stack wanted to reform. Clouds, if not with a disk shape but at least with unusually linear shapes kept forming in the same space once occupied by the disk stack. Naturally I had to stop and capture one more image.
Finally sated, I headed home. Throughout the day I kept my eye on the mountain and the lenticular above it. In the afternoon it began a contraction that lasted throughout the rest of the day. By sunset it was back to a small, poorly defined wisp over the summit of Mount Shasta. It seemed things had finally returned to where they had started Friday morning.
Thus ended an epic three days of the lenticular. It was at times frustrating that conditions never quite aligned the way I wanted them for much of the time. Sunday morning, however, more than made up for it and it was a grand spectacle to observe. As always, gratitude is something I stay focused on. I am grateful to be here in Mount Shasta, at the foot of the mountain. I am grateful to witness these awesome displays of power. I am grateful to be alive and to see this revelation.