Sierra Pack Trip 2013: Lake Ediza

Last week was one of the best times I’ve had in a really long while. At the last-minute, I was able to get a spot with this group that included Paul Kratter, Pixar artists Bill Cone and Ernesto Nemesio, Julia Lundman, Eric Merrell, Jeff Horn, and Michele De Branganca. Every year, this group makes a mid-August trip to the High Sierras for camping, painting, and lots of laughing. I have always jealously looked on the sidelines at the blog/Facebook posts about these trips, so when I was asked to join this year, I was so happy to have the opportunity to go. Never knowing what my money sitch is going to be from month-to-month however, I couldn’t pony up the money in time to get a spot… until last-minute circumstances opened up a slot for me, and a ratchet-up in sales/commissions afforded me the chance to join. Paul let me borrow some camping gear, and we were off to Mammoth Lakes on August 10th, 2013.

Nighttime at Mammoth Lakes. Get a good night’s sleep before the big hike!


We celebrated Bill Cone’s birthday at Nevado’s with some strong margaritas (or was it just the altitude?) because what better way to aclimate to the 7000ft. elevation than with lots of alcohol?

The Hike Up

Ernesto and Eric waiting for our gear to be packed on the mules.
We were going to hike 7 miles into the wilderness and stay there for 5 days. Imagine lugging all of your painting supplies, tent, sleeping bag, and food up for a 2000ft. hike? Better yet, don’t. Hire a pack station to load 10 mules and a cook instead. Makes things sooo much better!
To find Lake Ediza, head through Shadow Lake.

A view of Mammoth Mountain from a tough switchback part of the trail.
Paul and Michele surveying the scene.
A pretty outlet of Shadow Lake about a third of the way up. Catch your breath, and maybe check your email for the last time…
Traversing the stream to get to the last leg of the trail.
We made it! There is no way to convey the difficulty of this hike in words, but there are some rough spots. Especially for those who aren’t regular avid hikers, but I will make sure next time to do some more hiking beforehand to warm up. The scenery is spectacular! I really didn’t do much for the rest of the day than rest and get used to being that high up on this Earth.

Getting Adjusted

The next morning was spent exploring this beautiful area in the morning. I wasn’t quite ready to paint yet, but I was feeling better about walking around and assessing just what we had to work with up here.
An incredible sunrise.
Paul getting ready to paint the morning light on the Minarets.


Mountain penstamons.


Beautiful trees in the morning.


Some of the interesting flowers of the area.
A waterfall in front of Mt. Ritter.


An alternate view of Ediza.



Figuring Out How To Paint These Things

Much of what I dedicated my brain power to as I painted up there was to figuring out just what sort of color I was really looking at on these rocks. Although from a distance they look like a uniform bleached gray, you can imagine how incomplete the depictions would be if you painted them so simply. There is a wealth of subtle color in these rocks, mainly because of a little principle called reflected light. A lot of warm color gets bounced into the ground-facing planes because of the warm green/yellow grass and sunlight-facing rocks. I found that I was using a lot more cobalt blue than usual as well. That primary blue color turned out to be very useful in the shadows.
Oil #1. 6×8″
Oil#2, 8×10″.
One of the neat things about going up there with so many other artists was watching everyone else’s approaches to painting this exotic scenery. Take Eric Merrell here for instance. He had a very deliberate methodical approach to painting outdoors. I don’t know if he always does this, but he staked a place that had a variety of subjects to paint, and did multiple studies from the same area, rotating his easel for every new painting. He found some very interesting designs and colors out there.
Oil #3, 11×14″.
Later on in the day I returned to a meadow I found higher up along the river which I believe is the San Joaquin. I had warmed up from the day’s painting and went a bit more ambitious on this one. This was one of my favorite paintings of the trip. I think I captured some of the early evening light in it and got a decent sense of scale and distance in it.

Continued at my blog………………..

About Sergio Lopez

North Bay Area based Fine Artist Sergio Lopez. Oil paintings, gouache paintings, plein air paintings, and charcoal drawings.

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  1. Jeremy says:

    Wow what a treat. Those spots in the pics look too good to be true, perfect for painting.

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