I received a call a few weeks back from my ski partner Gary who was looking to do an overnight backpacking trip before winter inevitably sets in. But this was not going to be a standard backpacking trip. Gary was looking to summit his last two 13,000-foot peaks in Eagle County, Colorado. A trip like this means heavy packs and lots of off-trail travel, which is something I like to call… fun!
Packing for a trip like this can be challenging. You want to keep your pack light but also have everything you need. For me, the biggest factor would be my photo kit. Typically on photo-driven backcountry missions, I bring all the photo gear I need to make the best images possible. But this trip was going to be all about moving fast through the wilderness. So I made the decision to bring just a single lens, the SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN Art. Why? Because this fast aperture, lightweight lens delivers everything I could possibly need. It’s wide enough at 24mm to frame the whole story, yet the 70mm zoom gives me the telephoto reach I need.
To keep things even lighter, I opted to leave my tripod at home, so I would be handholding all my low-light shots. Also, the DG DN (full-frame, made for mirrorless) lenses pair perfectly with my Sony A7 III camera, so there was no need to bring a converter which kept my pack that much lighter. Of course, if I were shooting with a DSLR, the SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG HSM Art would be an equally good choice, but for this trip, I went with the smaller mirrorless camera to save space.
We got to the trailhead sometime around noon. Packs loaded, we hit the trail with the goal of finding camp seven or eight miles upriver. Immediately, the beauty of the trail hit us squarely in the senses. The entire forest was glowing in different hues of yellow and orange, while lime greens and bright reds rounded out the color palette. The canopy was peaking, the ground cover was peaking, everything was peaking… and we had not even summited yet!
Another reason I chose to bring the SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN Art is for its image quality. The color rendition is exactly what I look for in a professional lens… true to life. Also, the contrast of the lens gives images an almost three dimensional quality and it almost seems like you could walk into the picture. Additionally, the weather sealing of the lens gives me confidence in the field. I am not worried about a little dust or a bit of moisture wrecking my shoot.
How did I carry everything? Simple. On my back was my trusty Osprey Atmos AG 65 Litre pack into which all my food and camping gear would go. For my camera, I used the Think Tank pack that attaches right to my chest, which made it easy to get shots as we travelled down the trail.
Just as our backs and feet began to protest, we found a spot to camp. I peeled off my boots, unfurled my sleep kit and made some grub. Camp chores done, we nipped a bit of whisky and explored the creek nearby. Stars popped out one by one until dark clouds slowly enveloped them. As I dozed off to sleep, it sounded like the stars themselves were dropping from the sky as tiny raindrops pitter-pattered down my tent fly.
The plan was to head northwest up a drainage, catch a ridgeline and then ascend Mt. Jackson (13,675 ft.) and unnamed peak (13,433 ft.) just to the south of Jackson. As we scrambled around way up through the steeps, we began to realize we were off route. Not to worry. All we needed to do was catch the ridgeline and then we could make our way north to Mt. Jackson. We ascended Mt. Jackson in a brisk wind and opted not to linger on the summit. We descended to a col (the one we should have come up) and then looked up at point 13,433. This is Gary’s last 13-er in Eagle County, so up he goes. I, on the other hand, basked in the sun and lunched on salami, cheese and crisp, sweet-tart apples.
Since we would be climbing down a different route than we ascended, there would be plenty of route-finding for us, meaning one thing… it would be a long afternoon. The terrain was steep and strewn with cliffs. We went slow and safe. At one point Gary stopped and pointed. A massive bull elks strutted across a small opening just in front of us. Before I had time to get my camera out, he’d vanished into the forest like an apparition.
After a tough descent, we were back in camp. We packed up all our gear and began the second part of the day, the long hike back to our truck. My legs were weary, but the scenery propelled the spirit as the sounds and smells of a Colorado fall day permeated to my core. The sun set and we fished out headlamps to make our way through the dark. Eventually, we found the truck, marking an end to a memorable twelve-hour day of moving through mountains.
The SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN Art lens was a fantastic choice for this adventure. Light and fast was the name of the game for both hiking and photography, and that’s exactly what I got with this lens. Then next time you head out for an adventure, big or small, I would encourage you to bring this lens with you. You’ll appreciate the simplicity of a single lens and love the image quality it delivers. See you on the trail!