The whale-like form of this ancient Whitebark lay recently exposed atop avalanche debris. Nancy tells a story of the beetle's cunning. Thousands descend on a tree and lay siege to it, killing it within hours.
Nancy Chimneys between enormous boles while ascending a challenging tree. Often, the claw marks of black bear scar the bark all of the way into the top of these trees, 70 feet off the ground.
Accessing the inaccessible
Tools of ascent
Simple rope systems and oval lockers
There's a lot going on up there
Nancy in the green room, where Whitebark cones form at the very end of the branch, often just out of reach.
Atop a hill
This tree in Montana stands alone on a hill blanketed in wildflowers and sage.
A nice change of pace
Giving the legs a break from marching
Up in a big one
Standing amongst the hulking branches with arms and legs wrapped around and crammed into crooks and tufts of needles. 20, 30, 40 feet up and then lean, way out, reaching for them perched at the tips of swaying limbs. Cone-lets.
Nancy and her Handywork
There's a lot of experience being demonstrated in this process
A female Bark Beetle dug out of a tree.
The view from a tree
On the edge of Yellowstone in bushy "little" trees
3 point technique
The child emerges from within as she reaches up for the first branch. The ladder extends into the sky, growing increasingly more tenuous. Minutes later, far above the ground, the wind sways the top of the tree and she pauses to view the world from a new perspective.
Searching for cones
Sometimes there's a bumper crop. Sometimes there's a drought
Nancy calls it "cheeto dust", the spores of the fruiting bodies of Blister Rust fungus. Genetic testing will occur with these samples in Coeur d'alene, Idaho within weeks.
Putting the rope up
Someone's gotta do it
Nancy at the office
Cones of the Whitebark grow at the very tips of branches, high in the tree. Cages are placed over the cones at the beginning of the season to keep Clark's Nutcrackers and Red Squirrels from collecting them.
Evaluating the intricacies of branch and bole structure as she ascends, Nancy constructs a safety system to gain the upper canopy.
Using a simple invention, the precarious position gained by climbing affords access to cones otherwise out of reach.
A moment of grace
Amidst the chaos of climbing through branches seemingly intent on annoying you, there are moments of balance and grace.
Baxtel the Nutcracker was busy on Blue Ridge
Junior was everywhere
Autumn colors below Teewinot
A beautiful commute
Stemming way off the deck
Combining rock climbing skills with tree climbing rope work, Nancy floats to the top of a challenging tree on Teewinot.
Nancy reaches out with a cage of cones from the tip of a hard to reach branch.
Happy cone gatherer
Although not all together abundant this year, the cone collection is, nevertheless, extremely satisfying.