Weathered Granites of the Alabama Hills

August 08, 2014

Alabama Hills Pano3

Photographer: Bruce Gervais
Summary Authors: Bruce Gervais; Jackie Phillips

The deeply weathered granites of the Alabama Hills are a fantastic study in jointing and weathering. Found just west of Lone Pine, California, the hills were once buried under a moist region covered with vegetation -- excellent condition for granite to weather. As joints formed in the rock, exposed surface areas were sculpted though spheroidal weathering. About 5 million years ago the Sierra fault block uplifted and the Sierra Mountains were formed. A rain shadow on the lee side of the new mountains created an increasingly arid climate that could no longer sustain the moist vegetation. As the rocks were exposed, further weathering of the joints sculpted the granite into ledges, spires and natural arches. These rocks form a countless variety of whimsical shapes and figures, giving the landscape its surreal quality.

Many Hollywood TV shows and movies have been filmed here, including scenes from the Lone Ranger series, The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) and Iron Man (2008). The eastern scarp of the Sierra Nevada and Mount Whitney are shrouded in clouds in the photo’s background. At 14,505 ft (4,421 m) Mount Whitney is the highest elevation mountain in the lower 48 states of the U.S. Photo taken on July 16, 2014.