Delicate Arch & Star Trails - Arches National Park, Utah
Nikon D5, 24-70mm f/2.8
This image was the ultimate goal of all the planning and shooting prior to going on this trip. If you didn’t know, Delicate Arch is likely the most well-known natural arch in the world. It’s documented in all sorts of weather conditions including snow, as you see here. I bet there are even a large number of star trail renditions out there-I haven’t seen them, however. As popular and accessible this place is, it’s the not easiest to get to.
You see, it’s at the end of a 500’, 1.5 mile long hike. While those numbers aren’t particularly imposing, the trail is rated as “moderately” difficult. Having been up and down the trail about a dozens times before this trip, I have to agree with the rating. I knew hiking the trail in the middle of a moonless night would be substantially different than hiking it in the middle of the day. The issue is about half the hike is across what’s called slick rock, which is literally what it sounds like, “slick rock”. This is an area where you’re walking across a gigantic rock with few, if any features. This would turn out to be a problem later on.
I knew climbing up to the arch was going to be a big physical exertion meaning sweat management was going to be a problem. Since I perspire more than the average person when working out, I’ve always had to work solutions managing sweat in the winter. The problem being, if you’re wet after a big exercise, that’s a problem. It’s a huge problem if the temperatures are really cold. I knew if I wore my normal winter gear up the trail, I would be soaked by the top. This meant, I needed to make the hike with minimal clothes on while carrying extra clothing in a backpack. For this hike, I climbed wearing a set of long underwear for my legs, a pair of pants, t-shirt, long-underwear top, light jacket, and my running hat. This was perfect in the 10 deg F temps. It’s probably worth noting, the winds were dead calm. My clothing would’ve been quite different if the winds were blowing at all at these temps.
When I got to the top, I put on a pair of insulated pants--over my regular pants--a Patagonia Nano-puff jacket, then finally a wind shell. This was topped off with a very warm hat and a great pair gloves--liners as well. Even with all this on, I still became slightly chilled due to being slightly damp from the climb. Eventually, about an hour later, even the chill went away.
My gear plan worked out great. Getting up to the arch, that didn’t go so well.