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Thread: Photographing the Southwest

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jun 2006

    Photographing the Southwest

    I've seen a number of recommendations on this site for Laurent Martres series of books: Photographing the Southwest, two of which I've recently bought in anticipation of a trip to the USA. However, never having used these guidebooks I have no idea how accurate the desciptions are for the difficulty of the trails to the various locations. Here in the UK I find most guidebooks typically overstate the difficulty of a scramble or walk, presumably to put off the unprepared/inexperienced. Is this also the case with Mr Martres or are his descriptions more accurate?

    David Whistance

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Orange, CA

    Re: Photographing the Southwest

    My experience has been that Mr. Martres' trail characterizations have been pretty accurate, although one can always quibble about some of them. Delicate Arch (Arches National Park, Utah), Lower Calf Creek Falls (Along Hwy 12, Utah) and the White House Ruin (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona) trails were all given level 2 ratings (moderate difficulty), which is about right (although I consider Delicate Arch and Calf Creek Falls more difficult than White House Ruin). Mesa Arch (Canyonlands Island in the Sky, Utah) was given a level 1 rating (easy), which makes sense, as it is an easy stroll (even when hauling the 8x10).

    If there are hikes that are particularly critical for you, then I would suggest contacting the appropriate agency office (National Park Service visitor center, Bureau of Land Management station, etc.) for elaboration on the trail conditions and difficulties involved. I'd also suggest contacting Mr. Martres directly with any specific questions and concerns you have; I spoke to him on the telephone once and he seemed like a good guy, very courteous and helpful.

  3. #3

    Re: Photographing the Southwest

    Another option would be to ask the members here and elsewhere about your interest.

    Many times, especially as I get older and especially coming from a sea level state, I find certain higher elevations out west strenous. Of course someone who works out in a gym, hikes consistently or who actually lives in the area might have another idea as to how hard a hike is, I usually find it a little more taxing breath-wise, but it doesn't stop me, it just slows me down. I know that many of the guys around here are middle age and above so read the old threads and ask about your preferences. And while your at it, don't forget the small stuff. Hats, sunblock, water containers, dealing with snakes and wildlife etc; Some tho you may already be aware of, but the SW is a little different to say the least.

  4. #4
    Confidently Agnostic!
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Victoria BC

    Re: Photographing the Southwest

    I used that book when I visited Utah last February and it was an excellent resource.

    I found his descriptions pretty good for all the places I visited in the book. The hike to delicate arch is described as moderately difficult, which is true, though I guess our standards of strenousness differ from person to person. It's a fairly steep walk up barren sandstone, which would be pretty brutal in hot weather I'd guess. I was there in the early spring (february) so it wasn't too hot - I'm not in great shape, but I'm not crippled either, and it was a somewhat strenuous walk but not really a climb or scramble by any means, just a steep path. I was winded at the top of the steep part, but I think you'd have to be morbidly obese or a 90 year old with osteoporosis to really be hindered by it. There's no climbing or brutal endurance required; little kids and old people can do it just fine. Just make sure you have at least 1 liter of water if it's hot out, probably more would be better. I think it was about 45mins to 1hour up though I might not be remembering it quite right.

    The part about the difficulty of finding your way back after sunset is particularly accurate - make sure you're paying close attention to how you got up there so that you can make it back. There are cairns, but they are small, and easy to miss after dark, especially with all the other stones and shrubs and stuff around. I didn't have too much trouble, and it would be hard to become hopelessly lost, but you would want to be careful to avoid unnecessary trips down to deadends and needless backtracking. It might be harder if you walk up without paying much attention and then have to find your way back down through territory that you weren't making any effort to remember. Once you make it out to the bare sandstone descent it's easy, as the cairns stick right out and the footpath is very well worn into the rock.

    A bright flashlight would make it easier - I was using a 2-AA mini maglight which is my favorite flashlight as it's pocket sized, but it's not very bright.
    Last edited by walter23; 8-Oct-2006 at 14:30.

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