A lenticular cloud on Mount Shasta catches the last of the alpenglow.
The past week has seen a gradual progression of changing weather systems. The result was a slow burn of lenticular and lenticular-like formations developing over Mount Shasta over the course of several days. The change in systems finally resulted in rain and a little snow, the first significant amount we have gotten since the beginning of January. It was not much, and far too little but it was nice to know the winter hadn’t completely forgotten us and might still send something our way.
Things got off to an interesting start last Sunday, at the end of February. As the day closed out, an impressive lenticular stack developed over Mount Shasta. Other clouds moved in, obscuring it at sunset but it was still an awesome sight while it was still visible.
The following morning, I headed out, hoping the lenticular from the previous evening would still be there. Indeed it was, though it continued to be obscured by other clouds. The little lenticular that had coalesced over the summit of Mount Shasta had grown overnight and now covered much of the area above treeline.
In the evening, the clouds had grown. The formation over the summit had tightened up into an impressive series of layers. Meanwhile, the stack that had been present the previous evening was still present, though it was in the mountain’s shadow and never managed to get any light on it. It was still a marvelous spectacle.
The next morning I headed over to Lake Siskiyou for the sunrise. There was still formations right on Mount Shasta and also higher above and the northeast. Neither was a crisp in formation as I would have liked but they would still have made an interesting image reflecting in the still water. However, just as the color was getting good, it suddenly died out, the sun having passed behind clouds beyond the eastern horizon.
By the middle of the day, the large cloud to the northeast had gone but the one on the summit persisted and was in a state of constant flux. It seemed to be perpetually stretching and contracting like so much sticky taffy. I can only imagine the conditions and forces that cause something like that to manifest and yet lack any kid of stability. Whatever the cause, it is always a joy to watch.
By sunset, the cloud had become a bit more stable and looked awesome sitting right on the top of Mount Shasta. However, it was only part of the larger spectacle of the sunset. Many other clouds populated the sky and the mountain was aglow with the light of the setting sun. Below the lenticular on the summit of the mountain, puffy clouds flowed down the icy flanks, seeming to manifest from beneath the lenticular’s shroud.
The cloud had started on Sunday and had had two very different but spectacular manifestations on Monday and Tuesday. Any hopes of the three-peat were dashed the next morning. Elements of the previous performances were present but everything lacked focus and definition. With rain forecasted for Thursday, it seemed as though the storm itself was moving in and overpowering the lenticular that was its herald.
However, by midday, it seemed there may yet be hope for a climatic cloud display before the precipitation arrived. The clouds on the mountain were interesting but the real star was once again the cloud to the northeast. It had swelled to considerable size, dwarfing Mount Shasta. This was a truly tremendous lenticular and the thought of getting in a shot with the mountain all aglow had me excited for the sunset yet again.
It was not meant to be. The slow burn through the previous days had teased me into hoping something truly amazing might be in store before the rain came. It never manifested, being in the end just overcast with a few hints of the lenticulars that had persisted over the last few days. However, as in many things, the journey was the real joy, not the destination itself. Watching the mountain through all of its meteorological, perspective and illumination variations is never something to tire of. Indeed, each view is a testimony to the greatness of Creation.
The snow ultimately did come, living 3 inches or so. It wasn’t much, but everything helps. I am still hopeful (with some reason to believe this will be the case) that the spring will be unusually wet. We need it.
Saturday evening, the clouds finally cleared and Mount Shasta was once again visible, presiding over its demesnes. With the fresh snow, little as it was, I can’t wait to get up north again, to climb out to Pecos Point or Cerro Pedernal and see the peaks around the Shasta Valley covered in snow, building to a crescendo in Mount Shasta, the icy tower that rules over all around it.